The Future is in Internet-Based Cloud Computing

Microsoft used to think of the open source software community as a cancer, but now maybe it’s a lifeline. Although the bulk of Microsoft’s profits come from its Windows and Office franchises, the software company now says that the future is in internet-based cloud computing, and the folks who write cloud software are pretty gung-ho on open source.

This is leading Microsoft to do some things that would have been unimaginable until recently. Last year, Microsoft introduced a new Linux service on its Azure cloud platform. And lately, it’s been cozying up to GitHub, a direct competitor to its CodePlex website.

Nearly seven years ago, Microsoft introduced a CodePlex, hoping to build a community where programmers could download and share code — “an online collaborative software development portal,” in Microsoft-speak. It was a great idea, really. Unfortunately for Microsoft, a San Francisco company called GitHub did it better. In fact, GitHub ended up building the hottest developer portal on the internet.

Initially, Microsoft pressured its developers to do its open source projects on CodePlex, but today, Microsoft likes GitHub. “We do a lot of work on GitHub,” says Gianugo Rabellino, a community director with Microsoft Open Technologies, the independent subsidiary set up last year to channel Microsoft’s open-source efforts. “It’s a testament of how we have changed our approach.”

The way Rabellino breaks it down, CodePlex is the home of Microsoft’s traditional .Net developer community — these are the folks who write software that runs on Windows. But the Azure tools are designed for the cloud developers, and an awful lot of those folks are on GitHub.

Microsoft has released key Azure software development tools on GitHub, not CodePlex. And if you look at the Microsoft Open Technologies pages on GitHub and CodePlex, the latter seems slightly cobwebbed.

There’s even an up-and-coming .Net web tool called SignalR that lives on GitHub.

GitHub represents the new world for Microsoft, says Phil Haack, an ex-Microsoftie who last year took an engineering job at GitHub. “GitHub is about reaching all of these other communities,” he says. “And if they want to build interoperability with these other communities, they need to be where their developers live.”

CodePlex isn’t exactly a shining star in Microsoft’s firmament — Microsoft hasn’t let us speak With anyone at CodePlex for more than a year now — but Rabellino says it’s been helped by Microsoft’s recent decision to support the the same Git software (created by Linus Torvalds) that underlies GitHub. “We’ve seen a big uptick on projects,” he says. “CodePlex is really really making strides.”
Author: Robert McMillan
Photo: Lou Gold-Flickr

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