27 February 2008

What Windows Server 2008 Learned from OSS

Fascinating stuff from Microsoft's Sam Ramji:

When I think about what works really well in open source development and technology, the following things stand out:

* Modular architectures
You can find these wherever you see participation at scale – and often a rearchitecture to a more modular system precedes expanded participation. Great examples of this are Firefox, OpenOffice, and X11 – from both the historical rearchitecture and the increased participation that resulted. The Apache HTTP server and APR are good examples that have been modular for as long as I can recall.

* Programming language agnostic
A given project uses a consistent language, but there are no rules on what languages are in scope or out of scope. Being open to more languages means opportunity to attract more developers – the diversity of PHP/Perl/Python/Java has been a core driver in the success of a number of projects including Linux.

* Feedback-driven development
The “power user” as product manager is a powerful shift in how to build and tune software – and this class of users includes developers who are not committing code back, but instead submitting CRs and defects – resulting in a product that better fits its end users.

* Built-for-purpose systems
Most frequently seen in applications of Linux, the ability to build a system that has just what is needed to fulfill its role and nothing else (think of highly customizable distributions like Gentoo or BusyBox, as well as fully custom deployments).

* Sysadmins who write code
The ability of a skilled system administrator to write the “last mile” code means that they can make a technology work in their particular environment efficiently and often provide good feedback to developers. This is so fundamental to Unix and Linux environments that most sysadmins are competent programmers.

* Standards-based communication
Whether the standard is something from the IETF or W3C, or simply the implementation code itself, where these are used projects are more successful (think of Asterisk and IAX2) and attract a larger ecosystem of software around them.

What's interesting about this is not that it's astute analysis - which it is - but that Ramji doesn't mind making it public while admitting that Windows is learning from open source. Of course, it would be stupid not to, but it's nonetheless an important sign of how things are finally changing at Microsoft that it's prepared to trumpet the fact - and of the irreistible rise of the open source way.


ezani said...

I think Microsoft is beginning to copy OSS and Java technology more and more. I mean, if you look at C# and then take a look at Java, they've basically taken a lot of Java's features. But taking an earlier technology always allows one the opportunity of improving on it. Just about the only thing that Microsoft software really cannot run away from is that it will always be proprietary, paid-for software.

Glyn Moody said...

Indeed; an interesing kind of opening-up from the inside.