Microsoft’s Linux Lab

This is a really interesting piece to me — Inside Microsoft’s Linux lab. I’m most interested in articles like this because I’m fascinated by The Innovator’s Dilemma — how people on the edge create innovations that disrupt those in the center and how the disrupted respond.

So, Microsoft’s Bill Hilf is running systems from all over the place up there looking for ways to compete and interoperate with Linux and other types of open source software. Ok. Nothing wrong with that. It’s nice to see Solaris is included in the list, but I don’t see OpenSolaris listed. Yet, anyway. From the article:

[Hilf] started with the ambitious goal of creating a server room with dozens of flavors of Linux, along with commercial Unix software from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer. The goal, he said, was to have something “more mixed then any real, sane customer would have.”

“No customer runs 40 different versions of Linux on 200 servers,” he said. “It’s silly.”

200 servers? Wow. Now that’s resources, eh? And I admire Hilf’s honesty with the quote that ends the article here:

As a lifetime Unix guy, Hilf believes he is helping Microsoft to help make Windows a better option for companies than either Windows or Linux are today.

“At the end of the day, we’re in it for business reasons,” he said. “I exist for business reasons. I do not exist as a PR stunt or as sort of an olive branch.”

Couldn’t agree more, actually.

But earlier in the article I found this little gem as Hilf was working in his lab on all of this stuff:

More than once, Hilf was thwarted by bugs — glitches in Microsoft software, glitches in open-source products and even in third-party software designed to help the two technologies talk to each other.

One example, Hilf said, was on the instant-messaging side. There was an IM client called Gaim that allowed connectivity to MSN instant messaging, but the program was not able to use the HTTP protocol, the only technology means available to Hilf. So he set his team of open-source software experts to write the needed patch. He submitted it to the open-source group that oversees Gaim’s development and the changes were accepted.

“Now we can use it, and so can everyone else who uses Gaim,” Hilf said.

How very community-like of you, Bill. I wonder if there are any Microsoft customers and developers out there who’d like to see the Windows source, fix something, and submit the code back to the Windows community so everyone else can use it. Now, I’m not equating Gaim with Windows on size and complexity, of course, but that open process just seemed to work well in this instance, didn’t it? Ok, a bit if a cheap shot on my part because our house is far from wide open, but we’re making substantial progress on multiple projects. And we sure as heck know how complex it is to open already large code bases for co-development. Our developers want this opportunity, and we are providing it. Albeit slowly, but we’re getting there. 🙂