Over the last few days we have seen Microsoft grab a lot of headlines with the announcements of SQL Server and Linux and their membership of the Eclipse Foundation. We have all seen a number of, predictable, reactions to the news, from the extremely positive to the incredibly negative.
Given this wide range of views, and the history and visceral reactions that Microsoft brings, it is important that we start out with one key point, which is vital for people to understand, the days of Microsoft being in fundamental opposition to opensource are long behind us. From their contributions to Docker, to opensourcing toolkits such as CNTK to work on TypeScript and so forth Microsoft are both engaged and contributing.
I spent yesterday hosting a track about containers in production at QCon London. One of the trade offs of hosting a track is that you don’t get to go to other talks, and high among my, rather long, list of videos to watch is a talk from Charles Lamanna on how Microsoft has built the overall management api for Azure. This is Microsoft sharing their architectural learnings at a truly open practitioner conference, the kind of technical talks people associate with companies like Netflix.
As with many prejudices it will take time for the industry to adapt to this change, and for their part Microsoft still do have a lot of work to do with participants in various communities to build trust. But there is no doubt that they are actively working on both being open and gaining trust.
Workloads and the Next Operating System
In the world of the future there are arguably two distinct operating systems, cloud and mobile. And if cloud is the new OS, and what will define your success in the cloud is the workloads that customers shift there and the data they generate. While compute workloads can move easily, once you encounter data gravity it becomes a lot harder to want, or need, to move to another provider.
All of the moves that Microsoft are making are focused around getting compute workloads onto Azure or Azure Stack, and ultimately these workloads involve data. And data is the key to all things. But in order to get the workloads onto your cloud platform in the first place you need to support many technologies. For a large number of organizations the ability to run Linux was absolutely essential for them to even begin to evaluate Azure, and not only have Microsoft created Linux offerings over the last few years, they are creating very substantive partnerships with Linux vendors such as RedHat and CoreOS.
Culture and the Developer Memo
The cultural shift and change at Microsoft has had a long gestation, starting with board level changes in 2013. The appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO was a further step in the journey, and he is now well through the process of transforming the internal culture at Microsoft and leading a chance in product thinking that has moved away from walled gardens.
The infamous “developers, developers, developers” clip of Steve Ballmer is replaying at Microsoft, but this time it has more than a windows focus. Nadella didn’t just get the memo, he has taken it, rewrote it and repackaged it for the era of The New Kingmakers.
Disclosures: Docker, RedHat and CoreOS are RedMonk clients