Posted by Mark Gayler
Open Software Lead

This week I had the privilege to join some of the world’s top open source researchers in Tunisia at OSS 2012 to discuss how Microsoft is collaborating with open source projects and initiatives worldwide and investing in support for open source solutions on Microsoft’s platforms. Many attendees were interested to learn how they could have the best of both worlds – taking advantage of the Microsoft technology stack, particularly the benefits of the Windows Azure cloud platform, while leveraging existing investments in open source solutions and skills.

During my Microsoft, Open Source and the Cloud keynote, discussions focused on how interoperability and openness are built right into our cloud platform. Developers can build applications using any language, tool or framework – including open source languages like Node.js. The audience was particularly interested that Windows Azure SDKs for PHP, Java and Eclipse are available as open source projects on github. Linux on Windows Azure Virtual Machines also piqued interest. One question focused on the data privacy and security considerations for the cloud and I pointed out that governments and enterprises can choose public cloud offerings or build their own private cloud infrastructures, depending upon the application scenario.

For the many academic thought leaders in the room, we discussed how Microsoft is partnering with academic communities to spark innovation and support open science. We discussed the breadth of Microsoft Research’s investment in open source projects, ranging from scientific computing and research management to publishing tools. Within the realm of scientific computing, I demo’d ChronoZoom, an open source community project released earlier this year, that has the ambitious goal of presenting the history of everything and is proving to be a vital tool in the evolving field of Big History, which examines historical data from the beginning of time, some 13.7 billion years ago. 

There was also talk of how open government initiatives are emerging around the world. More and more data is publicly available, promoting transparency and engagement with citizens, as well as creating opportunities for new apps using government data. I walked through the Open Government Data Initiative (ODGI) DataLab (also available as an open source project on github), which is a cloud-based collection of software assets that enables publically available government data to be easily accessible and incorporated into new applications and services. OGDI helps governments achieve their openness goals while also creating more opportunities for developers, educators, and students to innovate with open and interoperable technologies. Many government entities, including several in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Health in Italy, and the Government of Colombia, are benefiting from these resources today. 

These events are great opportunities for me to listen to customers, partners, students, and community members about how we can continue to evolve our technologies to be more open. Any additional suggestions? Please let us know in the comments.