by Brian Gorbett on February 19, 2009 01:12pm

Hi, this is Brian Gorbett and I am an Architect in Microsoft's Developer & Platform Evangelism group. This week I had the privilege to speak on a panel at the Saper Law Open Source Symposium in Chicago.

At first, one might be tempted to call this a major contradiction and wonder how Microsoft can be credible at an event like this. But, the fact is, if you are reading this on Port 25, then you already have an idea of just how relevant this discussion is.

I was joined on the panel by Harper Reed, the CTO at Skinnycorp/Threadless Inc.; Sumit Nijhawan, the Group Leader of Product Development at Infogix; Scott VanDenPlas, an Engineer at SkinnyCorp/Threadless. The panel was moderated by Phil Gomes, the Senior Vice President with Edelman Digital.

It was a diverse panel of talent and perspectives to be sure. The audience was a great mix of business owners, startups, partners, academic professors, and computer scientists, and one of the most interesting people I met was another panel guest who is a Computer Scientist building software for giant lasers at the National Laboratory... very cool).

The talk started with introductions, and I felt obligated to explain why Microsoft had a seat at this table since, in discussions before we started, it was clear that many attendees were not aware of all the contributions Microsoft makes to the Open Source community.

There were many people genuinely interested in what we are doing in this space and I had many conversations prior to the talk about the many online resources available to them, such as Port25, Microsoft on Open Source, the Microsoft Shared Source Initiative, Interoperability, etc... basically everything that Port25 is great at educating about.

The panel discussion was very dynamic and very interactive. In particular, Harper Reed and I always have great conversations. While we are on very different ends of the software spectrum (if you watch the video, Skinnycorp/Threadless is almost 100 percent built on Open Source software - the web stack is 100 percent,) Harper and I agree on the most fundamental topic in technology decisions: solve the business problem with whatever technology works.

During the panel discussion you will hear Harper, Scott (a distinguished engineer at SkinnyCorp/Threadless), and myself say this a few times. You will also hear Harper talk about how they are interoperating with Azure in a project they are working on. Again, using the right technology for the business problem at hand. I admire Harper and his team for the work they do and the tremendous community that they serve.

I am delighted that I got the opportunity to have great conversations with incredibly smart people about a topic many people don't associate Microsoft with. I hope that I will have the opportunity to have more of these discussions, and learn as much as I did at this event, from other people at different venues.

If you want to listen to the full panel discussion, the video is posted on my blog (there is a bit of audio interference at the beginning but, don't worry, it doesn't last).