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Microsoft’s Azure: A Cloud any open source person would be proud of?

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Just looking at Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud and I must say it’s a broad portfolio of open and Microsoft technologies. By offering:

  • Linux servers
  • PHP
  • Python
  • node.js
  • Java
  • Hadoop

to name a few, Microsoft has bet big on open source for its Cloud service. So Microsoft seems to be quite happy to offer open technologies for services, but the open source code seems to be “hidden” inside its product offerings. For years Microsoft has developed products containing open source (most notably BSD code) but it held back from offering a full Linux distribution, for example. This ostensibly has all changed with the advent of cloud computing.

Years ago I interviewed a senior Microsoft strategist and asked him why Microsoft did not develop more commercial applications on top of open source platforms. His response was “we choose not to” because it was inconsistent with licensing terms of some free software distributions. Microsoft’s choice is now clear in the Cloud.

I believe Microsoft has lost a big opportunity in the Cloud space by being too protective of its enterprise business. Microsoft also dropped the ball in the mobile space, but that’s the topic of another blog.

For now, Microsoft’s new-found love of open technologies – Azure even flaunts the word “open” as part of its marketing – raises questions for user and developers of open source software. Is Microsoft a company that is likely to commit to open source or will it use it as a beach head to help drive customers to its own technologies?

Only this week Microsoft announced a vague patent “licensing” deal with Amdocs involving its use of Linux servers in its Cloud. Perhaps that too is the topic of another blog…

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