Feeds

Microsoft ready for an open-source skoolin'

FAT patents pie

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Sam Ramji wants more input from the open-source community, hoping to make Microsoft more responsive to their needs.

The director of the open-source development lab at Microsoft has told a Linux Foundation event he's trying to educate Microsoft and slowly change its ways. The only way he can do that, Ramji said, is to hear from those in the community, to channel and understand their ideas.

Ramji called himself the community's "unelected representative" within Microsoft.

"Now, you might not have said you wanted one [an unelected representative]," he said during a Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit panel this week. "But for those who can see this as useful, then you can help me by making me smarter about what the problems are, so I can then educate the company and make it smarter.

"The more you can help me understand what the problems are, the more I can help make Microsoft behave in the way you would like it," Ramji said.

With the recent TomTom spat in the air, software patents quickly surfaced as a major area of disagreement. The panel was hosted by Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin and Sun Microsystems' developer and OpenSolaris chief turned vice president of cloud-computing strategy Ian Murdock. Zemlin recently called for FAT - the source of the TomTom spat and the pie that Microsoft's lawyers have their patent fingers in - to be ripped from systems.

Ramji was put on the spot by audience member and Samba co-lead Jeremy Allison over what he called a lack of clarity inside Microsoft about which of its patents open-source is allowed to inter-operate with.

"If I were asking Microsoft for anything, I'd ask for clarity," Alison said.

Microsoft has placed about 200 of its patented protocols in its Open Specification Promise, which Ramji flagged up as evidence of Microsoft's commitment and visibility. However, the community is wary of OSP. The Software Freedom Law Center last year warned OSP is unclear and cannot be relied upon - especially by developers using GPL.

You can read the fill SFLC critique here.

Alison drew attention to the fact open-source couldn't sign the OSP. "Everywhere, you have a licensing program, you are saying: 'Open-source keep out,' because we can't sign those licensing programs that you have because the license doesn't allow it."

Ahead of that, Ramji had admitted that despite being two years into his current position at Microsoft, he's only a year into engaging with Microsoft's lawyers when it comes to open source.

Ramji, meanwhile, pointed to past areas where conversations with open source had lead to collaboration and positive outcomes for all concerned. That's included putting Linux on Microsoft's HyperV hypervisor, tuning PHP of Windows, and making Samba inter-operate with Windows. On the latter, Ramji said his team in Redmond, Washington is finding and fixing bi-directional bugs in Samba and in Microsoft's implementation on Windows that he said the company is fixing.

Feedback is not always what the internal product groups inside Microsoft want to hear, though, and the need to change can be as much cultural as technical - even if the end result helps Microsoft's overall goal of shifting more copies of Windows.

However, Microsoft's customers want interoperability with open source.

According to Ramji, customers have said in the past they'd buy more copies of Windows if PHP ran better on it. "That was a shocker to talk about internally two or three years ago," Ramji said.

"PHP? We've got ASP.NET. We put millions and millions of dollars and hundreds of developers into this. But you hear that from enough customers and you think: 'Gosh, that's a good idea'."

Murdock, meanwhile, attested to the difficulty faced by large companies in changing such thinking when told by customers or developers they want interoperability with technologies that are not their own.

"Same with us. With Java, it used to be: 'It's the answer. Now what's the question?' Now, we support just about anything. Developers come to us and say: 'This is what we care about,' and if we don't listen, shame on us," said Murdock.

He also pointed to the inertia that exists in large companies like Sun. The trick is to turn the big-company inertia into momentum that supports you. " Frankly, at the beginning, I was little big naive," said Murdock, the Debian father who joined Sun in 2007 to lead the company's operating systems platform strategy and OpenSolaris project.

"To me, what Sun needs to do with OpenSolaris was obvious. And from some conversations with some people at Sun on an individual basis, it was obvious to the individuals. But collectively, large organizations tend to have a lot of inertia. And getting beyond that inertia was much more challenging than I thought it would be based on those initial conversations." ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
HTML5 vs native: Harry Coder and the mudblood mobile app princes
Developers just want their ideas to generate money
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.