Microsoft was founded in 1975—that’s 43 years ago and a ton of
history. Up until the last decade, the company led a campaign against
the Open Source and Free Software movements, and although it may have slowed
the opposition, it did not bring it to an end. In fact, it emboldened
its supporters to push the open-source agenda even harder. Fast-forward to the present, and open-source technologies run nearly
everything—mobile devices, cloud services, televisions and
It wasn’t until Satya Nadella took the helm (2014) that the
large ship was steered around. Almost overnight, Microsoft embraced
everything Linux and open source. It eventually joined The Linux
Foundation and, more recently, the Open Initiative Network. At first,
it seemed too good to be true, but here we are, a few years after
these events, and Microsoft continues to support the Open Source
community and adopt many of its philosophies. But why?
I wanted to
find out and ended up reaching out to Microsoft. John Gossman, a
lead architect working on Azure, spent a bit of time with me to
share both his thoughts and experiences as they relate to open source.
Petros Koutoupis: Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
John Gossman: I’m a long-time developer with 30
years of industry experience. I have been with Microsoft for 18 of
those years. At Microsoft, I have had the opportunity to touch a
little bit of everything—from Windows to other graphical applications,
and more recently, that is, for the last 6 years, I have worked on
Azure. My primary focus is on developer experience. I know this
area very well and much of it comes from the Open Source world. I
spend a lot of time looking at Linux workloads while also working
very closely with Linux vendors. More recently (at least two years
now), I stepped into a very interesting role as a member on the
board of The Linux Foundation.
PK: Microsoft hasn’t always had the best of
relationships with anything open-source software (OSS)-related&mddash;that is, until Satya Nadella stepped to his current role as CEO.
Why the change? Why has Microsoft changed its position?
JG: I have spent a lot of time thinking about this
very question. Now, I cannot speak for the entire company, but I
believe it all goes back to the fact that Microsoft was and still
is a company focused on software developers. Remember, when Microsoft
first started, it built and sold a BASIC interpreter. Later on,
the company delivered Visual Studio and many more products. The core mission
in the Microsoft culture always has been to enable software developers.
For a while, Windows and Office overshadowed the developer frameworks,
losing touch with those core developers, but with the introduction
of Azure, the focus has since been reverted back to software
developers, and those same developers love open source.
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