Microsoft hails open-source outreach

Microsoft continued to make its case on Tuesday that it is a friend to open source, listing a number of efforts it has undertaken in spaces ranging from Linux to virtualization and rich Internet application technology.

Traditionally, Microsoft has been viewed as the commercial counterpoint to the open-source movement. But the company’s presentation on Tuesday at the ZendCon 2008 conference in Santa, Clara, Calif. reiterated accommodations for open source

“We are trying to drive interoperability and integration with open source into the Windows platform by design,” said Tom Hanrahan, director of the Microsoft Open Source Technology Center.

This centre, he said, is composed of engineers from Linux and the open-source world hired by Microsoft to better understand how to cooperate and collaborate with the open-source community. The centre features both an open-source software lab, to research how open-source software can run on Microsoft products, as well as a Microsoft-Novell interoperability lab.

Microsoft works closely with Novell on identity management and on translators for the OpenOffice and Microsoft Office office suites, he said. Also, Microsoft has assisted with a Novell-backed effort to produce a Linux implementation of Microsoft’s Silverlight rich Internet application technology, dubbed Moonlight, Hanrahan said.

Other Microsoft open-source efforts have included testing between Windows and Samba open-source file and print services technology. Collaboration with the PHP community also has taken place, Hanrahan said. Future projects under discussion with the PHP community could include more database and application support

Microsoft’s business strategy involves supporting open-source software on Windows. Interoperability between Windows and open source is being done at a product level and through use of networking standards that allow for interoperability. Data interoperability also is offered.

Work with open-source communities also was cited. The company recently became a Platinum-level sponsor of the Apache community and made available a C# plugin for Eclipse, Hanrahan noted.

Microsoft also has made protocols available to the open-source community, such as its VHD format for virtualization, Hanrahan said. Anyone can access and share the data without licensing requirements, he said. The company also wants to make sure that Linux performs well as a guest on Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization platform, said Hanrahan.

There also is a MySQL database plugin to the Microsoft Visual Studio development platform.

A conference attendee held out hope for Microsoft’s commitment to open source. “I’m hoping that they get more serious about open source so that way, it’s easier for me to use PHP in the enterprise environment that we already have,” said Michael Kierstad, database administrator at forwarding and logistics services provider Panalpina. The company uses PHP on Windows with Microsoft’s SQL Server database, Kierstad said.

Hanrahan also cited other developments, such as provision of a downloadable plugin for Windows Media content to run on the Firefox browser and work with the Java, PHP, and Ruby communities to provide APIs for Microsoft CardSpace authentication capabilities.

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