Microsoft's ​Mark Russinovich to Linux faithful: Send us your resumes

Mark Russinovich went into the lion's den of All Things Open, a major SouthEast open-source technology conference, to explain to the Linux faithful how Microsoft is now embracing Linux and open-source software.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

RALEIGH, NC -- Once upon a time, the idea of a major Microsoft technical executive coming to an open-source and Linux-centric conference such as All Things Open seemed as silly as Nixon going to China. Oh wait. That happened.

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure's CTO, comes in peace to the Linux and open-source software world.
-- sjvn
And so Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft's cloud program, bravely came to All Things Open. Microsoft has been trying to make friends with Linux, and it's certainly been using Linux and open-source technology more than ever. Many old-time Linux users, however, trust Microsoft about as much as the NSA trusts China.

Russinovich opened his keynote speech by saying that Microsoft's approach to open today is: Enable, integrate, release, and contribute. Linux cynics will add that he forgot the last one: Extinguish. In an interview afterwards Russinovich replied, "Extinguish is not what we're all about."

Why this change of heart from Microsoft? It's simple.

Open source and Linux make both financial and technical sense. In Azure's case, Russinovich said, "It's obvious, if we don't support Linux, we'll be Windows only and that's not practical."

That noise you might have heard from Redmond would be Ballmer grinding his teeth. But this Microsoft isn't Ballmer's Microsoft.

Russinovich continued that for Azure "to be a viable cloud platform, we needed to support Linux. We started with Linux on the day we launched Azure." Indeed, in the interview Russinovich said "last fall one in five instances on Azure were Linux. Today, about a year later, one in four instances are Linux." Need more be said?

Microsoft is going open with far more than just hypervisors and the cloud. Russinovich mentioned that Microsoft is now supporting dozens of open-source projects. This is all being done because it's a "practical business decision."

For example, "instead of 'inventing our own interfaces, we lean on Yarn and HDFS in HDInsight,' Microsoft's big data Hadoop-on-Azure service for Ubuntu Linux on its Azure cloud," said Russinovich. Microsoft is now long past the point where the company turns its nose up at software that was wasn't invented in Redmond. As another example, Russinovich cited Microsoft adopting OpenSSH for secure, remote logins because "We didn't want to waste time building our own in Powershell."

Yes, that's a Microsoft CTO talking.

By truly adopting open source, and not just using it -- which Russinovich thinks is foolish -- Microsoft has gained the following advantages:

  • Consistency with other open-source based offerings.
  • Collaboration with the broader community
  • Improved agility and time to market.

Don't believe him? Looking at the numbers. If you search on "Linux" at http://careers.microsoft.com, you'll find 498 open jobs. "Open source?" There are 330 jobs outside the US alone.

Or check out the code. On GitHub, you'll find over 120 @Azure projects, 160+ @OfficeDev projects, and well over 240 @Microsoft projects.

Does Microsoft have open source down cold yet? No. Russinovich said, "We're still learning. With your help, we can be a great member of the open-source community."

Russinovich concluded his speech by asking the 1,700 attendees to "Pass your resumes up." That was sort of a joke, but it's not really a joke. If you're a Linux or open-source developer, Microsoft -- yes Microsoft -- wants you to work with them.

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