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Open Source's 2014: MS 'cancer' embrace, NASDAQ listings and a quiet dog

Shame and coming late can be good things ... right?

Better late than never, Microsoft

As MongoDB’s Adam Comerford points out, Heartbleed forced the industry to realize that “you need to contribute to open source projects critical to your business".

Contributors ride first class in the open source world. While it’s unrealistic to expect enterprises to contribute to every open source project they use, enterprises in 2014 got a security bug wake-up call that they need to at least contribute to those projects that are strategically important to their businesses.

That’s a net positive, albeit inspired by seriously negative security issues.

But it’s still not the biggest open source news of 2014.

Embracing the “cancer”

No, that distinction goes to Microsoft’s open sourcing of .Net. While many (rightly) complain that the move comes 10 years too late, as does Python expert Matt Harrison, it’s also the case that the move constitutes “a paradigm shift for a goliath of a company and its perception in [the] industry,” as Twitter open-source chief Chris Aniszczyk insists.

This is, after all, the company that declared open source a “cancer” and its poster-child, Linux, “un-American” just over a decade ago. It’s the same company that has studiously avoided tainting itself with open source, creating a separate subsidiary, Microsoft Open Technologies, to handle the ebb and flow of open source into and out of the software behemoth.

We’re against it, for sure, although

Microsoft now seems happy to embrace

the “cancer” of open source technology

That, apparently, was then. This is now.

First, Microsoft started working with open source vendors such as SugarCRM. In tandem, its product groups started embracing open source complements to Microsoft’s always-proprietary bits. Over time, even this policy started to change, with Microsoft releasing important aspects of its platforms to generate developer interest.

But nothing matches the scale and ambition of open sourcing .Net.

Not its decision to open source the “cloudy back-end” to the popular Halo gaming franchise, Orleans. Not its release of Microsoft Office for Linux. (Oh, wait. It hasn’t.) Not any of its now numerous open source contributions (and the fact they sit on GitHub, not its homegrown CodePlex, though it has plenty there, too).

No, .Net represents a tectonic about-face for Microsoft, and while late, it’s a welcome shift.

It’s also just the beginning. I’m sure many in Redmond would like to think they’ve arrived. They haven’t. As Aniszczyk points out, “to attract developers, [Microsoft] will have to build a quality open source culture that is pervasive throughout all levels of the company.” Microsoft still has a long ways to go to reach this state of technological nirvana.

But the biggest news of 2014 is that Microsoft actually wants to.

Spurred no doubt by executives like Scott Guthrie, corporate veep running the server and tools and cloud business, who is by nature and background a developer, Microsoft has a chance to be relevant to developers, developers, developers again.

That’s big news for Microsoft and, given its long-standing impact on IT, its even bigger news for the technology industry, generally. ®

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