Microsoft Feathers Apache’s Nest

In a somewhat surprising move from a company that rattled sabers with what seemed like the entire open source software (OSS) world last year, Microsoft has become a sponsor of the open source Apache Software Foundation (ASF) and has opened up some of its protocols for use by OSS developers.

Microsoft’s Sam Ramji, director of the company’s Open Source Software Lab, made the announcement at OSCON.

$100,000 a Year

While neither Microsoft nor Apache revealed the actual amount of Microsoft’s sponsorship, the Redmond-based software giant’s contribution will be at least US$100,000 per year, which will help the ASF pay administrators and support staff so that ASF developers “can focus on writing great software,” noted Ramji.

Perhaps even more important than the added revenue for the ASF is the new Open Specification Promise (OSP) from Microsoft. The company is putting a wide range of protocols that were formerly in the Communications Protocol Program under OSP.

“This guarantees their freedom from any patent claims from Microsoft now or in the future, and includes both Microsoft-developed and industry-developed protocols,” Ramji said.

“We have established a clarification to the OSP that guarantees developer rights to build software of any kind and for any purpose using these specifications, including commercial use,” he added.

What About IIS?

Microsoft, Ramji was quick to point out, is not moving away from Internet Information Services (IIS) as Microsoft’s strategic Web server technology.

“We have invested significantly in refactoring and adding new, state-of-the-art features to IIS, including support for PHP. We will continue to invest in IIS for the long term and are currently underway with development of IIS 8,” he noted.

“It is a strong endorsement of the Apache Way and opens a new chapter in our relationship with the ASF. We have worked with Apache POI, Apache Axis2, Jakarta and other projects in the last year, and we will continue our technical support and interoperability testing work for this open source software,” he explained.

Big Leap or Baby Step?

The open source licensing models supported by ASF allow for commercial use of code in closed source solutions.

“It’s a good step for Microsoft, and positive news for Apache — though some members disagree,” Stephen O’Grady, industry analyst for Redmonk, told LinuxInsider.

“Some feel that this is the continuation of the ASF as a more corporate organization, rather than an agile open source enabler,” he explained.

If that’s the case, who really benefits with Microsoft’s new Apache efforts?

“Both organizations stand to gain: Microsoft, because of the potential for good will and a better interoperability story, and Apache because of both the money and the explicit endorsement,” O’Grady said.

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