Microsoft’s relationship with open source software has been complex. While he spent a lot of energy in the past to hit open source and its uses in modern business, some evidence suggests that he is backing it up again, because what he describes as “Remote First” cultures have emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Microsoft and Open Source
The most recent manifestation of her changing relationship with open source comes from Sarah Novotny, head of open source in the CTO’s Azure office. In a blog post on open source, she seems to suggest that open source can offer a lot for digital workplaces trying to deal with COVID-19 change.
“2020 fundamentally changed the number of companies and teams that work – seemingly overnight, remote cultures became the new normal and people had to change the way they communicate and collaborate,” she writes. “However, for those of us who are deeply committed to open source, remote working has been our norm for many years as open source communities are large, spread across the globe and require effective collaboration from the top. from developers around the world.
While it’s not clear how far this ethos carries at Microsoft, what is clear is that open source has become more popular since the pandemic caused remote working to really take off. In GitHub’s 2020 State of the Octoverse report, released in December, the popular codeshare site noted that over 60 million repositories and over 1.9 billion contributions were added last year. The report notes that much of the growth is occurring outside of the United States, with 66% of active users now based outside of North America.
According to the report, these widely distributed developers had already implemented remote working practices before the wider shift to remote working. Even here, however, 2020 has challenged businesses of all sizes to integrate their open source software experiences and development models in new ways, bringing new learnings.
Open Source Methodology
Justin Rod is CTO of Perforce, based in Minneapolis. He believes the Novotny blog not only indicates a price change in Microsoft’s stance on open source, but represents a major shift in the direction of the Redmond, Washington-based company.
“Seeing Microsoft pivot on open source – and pivot is an understatement, let’s not forget the ‘Linux is cancer’ era – is a testament to both their agility as a business and the strength of the open source movement. as a whole, ”he told me.
From a broader perspective, open source as a methodology has proven to be a greater force than any single company or entity. Even the Linux Foundation needs to segment and limit the amount of open source projects it will put its weight behind, because the galaxy of software available to promote is so overwhelming.
Remote working, and moreover the conditions under which the whole world has had to quickly embrace remote working, has certainly been easier to navigate for companies that have figured out how to collaborate using the same methods open source communities have. have been based on for decades. These innovations, driven by the necessities derived by distributed teams of passionate contributors working towards a common goal, can be reused in a viable way for businesses.
In fact, he said, the industry has produced the term “internal source” to describe business actions that resemble the practices of open source communities in support of their internal and often proprietary goals. “I think you’ll find that many companies have learned that they can cut costs without sacrificing productivity, but I don’t think it will be a universal lesson. Software engineers have the luxury of building and using materials that are fully digital, and therefore easy to distribute digitally, ”he said.
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Why Open Source, why now?
While there has been constant monitoring of open source over the years, the sudden and recent growth in interest and even business acceptance of open source can be attributed to the lockdowns that have been imposed over the past year in response to COVID-19. According to Rhys Davies, product manager at UK-based Canonical, publisher of Ubuntu, remote working has made people more interested in tinkering with code, which has led to more socialization online.
More and more people are signing up for forums or researching communities around their hobbies and interests and getting involved in those communities, he said. For DIY enthusiasts, this led to increased traffic and greater visibility of their pages and discussions. The increase in traffic led to more contributors, more registrations and more tutorials.
The size of the open source community has grown because of this and consequently the involvement and development in open source tools. Remote working has always been the norm for people working on open source projects.
“Until recently, the idea of working on open source from an office, or for a business, was extremely rare,” he said. “Remote working is leading this wave of the future as more and more people will find a home in an open source community that matches their new remote working life.
A key aspect of this is the ability of people to solve problems through open source software and online communities. These communities allow the sharing of support, advice, ideas and general encouragement. He added that this simplifies the flow of ideas and means people can share their experiences faster, as more people working on open source code or ideas will result in faster turnaround times and better solutions.
The more large companies turn to open source and invest in these tools and platforms, the easier and better the quality of digital creation becomes. For this reason, it is easier for people to create their own projects and products, and to form communities that carry innovative weight.
The future of open source
However, if Microsoft were really serious about open source, the company would open up the Windows kernel, Serge Huber, CTO and co-founder of Geneva-based Jahia, said they already provide access to the code. source to specific clients (i.e. governments). , but it would be really fantastic if they even opened parts of the Windows kernel.
But Microsoft is not involved here, he added. Open source is indeed the wave of the future, but maybe in a way a little different than most people think. As computer systems age, open source software becomes the only guarantee that systems can be sustained for the long term, long after businesses have taken hold.
Looking back, he says, there are huge problems with software written in the 1980s. All proprietary software is a huge problem when it comes to maintenance issues, and the only systems that are truly maintainable and maintainable. Scalable (eg Linux) are those that have either significant financial backing (Microsoft Windows) or open source software. Even SunOS, at the time, was used in many critical solutions; now it only exists because it was open source.
Open source is essential for infrastructure software. What has changed and still needs to change is how to run a profitable business while writing or participating in open source projects. Usually the open kernel model is resilient, although cloud providers can sometimes make this a bit tricky.
He cites Elastic as an example. At first it had an open kernel model, but due to business issues it lost some of its competitive edge when Amazon started to redevelop the proprietary parts of Elasticsearch. It is very important that companies leveraging open source have proven and constantly evolving business models.