Microsoft Big Brains: Patrick Dussud

I'm slowly but surely working my way through my series of profiles of Microsoft's Technical Fellows. Number 8, Patrick Dussud, is one of the lower profile folks on the list, but is working on new developments key to the future of Windows and .Net.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Just before retiring from day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft, Chairman Bill Gates said that he expected Microsoft's 22 Technical Fellows to get a lot more publicly visible -- now that they wouldn't be living in his shadow. While some of the Microsoft fellows already have been active on the public-speaking circuit, many of them are not widely known outside the company.

Last year I launched this series -- "Microsoft Big Brains" -- to help remedy that shortcoming. In the coming weeks, I am hoping to profile as many of the company's tech fellows as to whom I can get access.

Microsoft's Technical Fellows came to the company via a variety of different routes. Some of them run divisions inside the company; some focus on particularly thorny technical issues that may span a variety of product units. Regardless of where they sit in the organization, the fellows all have been charged with helping Microsoft craft its next-gen products and strategies, much the way that Gates used his regular "Think Weeks" to prioritize what Microsoft needed to do next.

This Week's 'Big Brain': Patrick Dussud Claim to Fame: Instrumental in developing language runtime architectures for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), VBscript, Jscript, Microsoft Java and the .Net CLR. He also has designed all of the garbage collectors Microsoft has shipped as part of its dev tools. How Long You've Been With Microsoft: 15 years More About You: Started out working on Lisp runtimes at Schlumberger and Texas Instrumentsand on programming environments at Lucid Software Your Biggest Accomplishment (So Far) at Microsoft: Chief architect for Microsoft's .Net Common Language Runtime (CLR) and .Net Framework, which "has the most influence on the dev community at large and a great impact on people" in general Team(s) You Also Work With: Developer division, Windows Core Architecture group Why Stay at Microsoft? "The excitement of new projects and the challenges of new things dovetail neatly."

Microsoft Technical Fellow Patrick Dussud is working on the next big thing involving the Common Language Runtime (CLR), the core runtime engine at the heart of Microsoft's .Net Framework. Unfortunately, he isn't at liberty to say exactly what the next big thing is.

(My sources claim Dussud is the head of the still-under-wraps Microsoft "RedHawk" project that is in the incubation phase. RedHawk is expected to be less ambitious but also a lot less bulky than the current CLR. Sources say the RedHawk team is building tools and plumbing that are likely to be the foundation of Midori, Microsoft's next-gen distributed multicore operating system that also is an incubation project at this point.)

Dussud declined to comment on RedHawk. Instead, he talked in vague terms about what he's working on now.

Unsurprisingly, Dussud is focused on the future of the CLR and .Net. He said he's also "deeply involved" in the Windows Core Architecture Group, which is dedicated to Windows futures.

"My next project involves riding the wave of the new trends, form factors, multicore" and the like, he said. Dussud said he's quite interested in the cloud and Web-computing paradigms, as well as how Microsoft can better address the designer-developer split. In the parallel and multiprocessing space, specifically, the CLR and the operating system need to be tuned internally for scalability, "a focus area of mine for a while now."

Dussud said he prefers working as part of multiple teams, rather than managing people.

"I am happy to keep a low profile" while working on runtime futures, Dussud said.

Dussud recalled he was nervous when he first moved to Redmond from the Bay Area. He noticed the cultural differences between individual Microsoft teams with their different perspectives on how best to solve various problems. But he discovered Microsoft was "like the Bay Area, in terms of richness in what you can learn every day."

Dussud is keeping so busy that he still hasn't had the time to take the sabbatical for which he became eligible six years ago, he said. "I've never been 'in between' projects," he said. And that's the way he likes it.

For all of the "Microsoft Big Brains" profiles, check out the Big Brains page.

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