​Microsoft: The open-source company

Microsoft loves Linux, is adopting Docker for its servers, and just bought Revolution Analytics, the biggest open-source R statistical language company. This is not your dad's Microsoft.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft has long used open-source software, like the BSD code behind its original TCP/IP network stack, they just didn't admit it. That was in Bill Gates' day. It's a different story today. Recently , Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft loves Linux and Microsoft just acquired Revolution Analytics, which is the major open-source player for the R statistical analysis language.

This is Not today's Microsoft. Now, Microsoft embraces open-source software.
What's going on here?

Let me start by saying what's not happening. First, there is zero, zilch, chance of Microsoft open-sourcing Windows or Microsoft Office. On the desktop, Microsoft will remain as proprietary as ever for the foreseeable future.

However, Microsoft continues to transform itself from a software sales company to a software service rental business with Windows as a Service. To power that, Office 365, and its other service offerings such as its Cosmos big-data service, Microsoft is relying on the cloud and it's in that hidden engine behind its services that Microsoft is embracing open-source software.

This isn't new. Microsoft has been moving towards working Linux and open-source for years now. Almost ten-years ago Microsoft partnered with Novell, now SUSE, to bring Windows Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. At the time, this was more of a move to integrate Windows and Linux servers, but it became Microsoft's first steps to bring Linux into what would become Azure and its other cloud programs.

Don't believe me? Look at what Microsoft has been doing with open-source software and the cloud. That early work with SUSE made it possible for Linux to run seamlessly on Azure. Today, 20 percent of Azure's operating systems instances are Linux. True, Azure doesn't support the top business Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), but it does support CoreOS Linux, CentOS, Oracle Linux, SUSE, and Ubuntu.

Microsoft isn't even putting all its cloud eggs into its proprietary Azure cloud. Microsoft is working with Canonical, Ubuntu Linux's parent company, to bring Windows Server to OpenStack.

Keep looking: Rather than come up with its own container technology, Microsoft is backing two open-source programs. The first is Google's Kubernetes and the other is the wildly popular Docker container technology.

At the same time, Microsoft is giving to open source as well as taking. Orleans, the .NET distributed cloud-programming model behind the Halo game, is going open-source. Microsoft is also open-sourcing the full server-side .NET core stack and porting it to Linux and Mac OS X. Microsoft has already open-sourced a tool for moving virtual machines from one Azure data center to another, plus other .NET code and tools, and many developer tools.

What all these have in common is that while they don't have much to do with the public, end-user face of Microsoft's offerings, they are all vital to increasingly more important Microsoft server and cloud infrastructure. In short, most people won't see it, but Microsoft -- yes Microsoft -- has become an open-source company.

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