by Peter Galli on October 13, 2008 12:18pm


When I began reporting on Microsoft for eWeek (part of the Ziff Davis Enterprise stable of publications) in 2000, I never imagined that I would one day end up working for the software giant. And, to be quite honest, for the longest time I really did not want to, as the Microsoft that was then is not the same company that exists today.

So, fast forward to 2008 and my decision to work here as the Open Source Community Manager. Lots of people have asked me if this was a difficult decision to make, but it really wasn't, and there's one primary reason for that: I truly believe I can be an agent of change at this point in Microsoft's history.

The Microsoft of 2008 is nothing like the Microsoft of 2000, and will most likely look incredibly different by 2015. Driving the current wave of change is its focus on openness, interoperability, collaboration - with open source communities and others - cloud computing, and software plus services.

The first chapters of Microsoft's open source playbook are also only just being written, and the way in which the company works and does business with the Linux and open source communities will look very different in five to 10 years and, hopefully, I will have played a role in helping drive and shape that change.

I look forward to building off the momentum that has already been established: as a result of the technical collaboration and customer patent indemnity deal with Novell, enterprise customers can now run SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in a virtualized environment on top of Windows Server 2007, and visa-versa, which is no small accomplishment.

Also, under the terms of that agreement, Microsoft agreed to distribute coupons for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server maintenance and support. Who ever thought they'd see that day?

This year alone, Microsoft became a platinum-level sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation; it started contributing code not only to ADOdb, a popular data access layer for PHP used by many applications, but also  to OpenPegasus, an important part of System Center's new cross-platform approach.

These moves follow the establishment of Codeplex, the Interoperability Customer Executive Council, the Interoperability Vendor Alliance, the alliances with Sun and Novell, as well as the patent cross-licensing deals with Xandros, TurboLinux and others.

We have also created community, as there are currently more than 6,000 projects on CodePlex, Microsoft's open source project hosting web site; and we have just crossed the 100,000 registered user mark. What's even more significant is that some 400 of these are Microsoft projects; the rest are community owned.

Do we have more to do? Absolutely.  But this is only the start of that journey, and I take heart from how far Microsoft has come in a relatively short time with regard to its willingness to reach out to, and work with, open source players across the spectrum.

At the same time, I realize that we still have a long way to go with regard to building more bridges, relationships, community, and interoperability with others. I do not say any of this lightly, having observed the good, the bad and the ugly while following Microsoft's every move for the past eight years.

I documented Microsoft's transition from being incredibly hostile - and fearful - of the competitive threat posed by Linux, particularly on the server side, to the awareness that, again, this was a space in which it could co-operate and aggressively compete.

There were a few staffers who pioneered this internal change in thinking and perception: Martin Taylor, who launched the controversial Get The Facts campaign; Bill Hilf, who was given a space on the Redmond campus with nothing but a pipe coming through the wall and tasked with building Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab - and who is now the General Manager of Windows Server marketing and platform strategy - and Bob Muglia, Microsoft's Senior Vice President for Server and Tools, who was behind the company's decision to start building bridges with the open source community.

I look forward to working with folk like Bill Hilf, Bob Muglia, my immediate manager Robert Duffner, and Sam Ramji, the senior director of platform strategy, all of whom I have known and respected - well, mostly - for many years, to help shape the Microsoft of the future.