November 12, 2014

Microsoft Appeals to Developers, Developers, Developers

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer became infamous in 2006 after leading a Microsoft Windows meeting in a chant, “developers, developers, developers.” While the images of him clapping his hands and screaming became the target of the early social media and YouTube culture, he was right with his intention. Developers are the masters of the universe (at least in the world of software), and Microsoft gets it.

Today the company is making a rather big announcement: It is open sourcing the server side .NET stack and expanding it to run on Linux and Mac OS platforms. All developers will now be able to build .NET cloud applications on Linux and Mac. These are huge moves for the company and follow its recent acknowledgement that at least 20 percent of Azure VMs are running Linux. This struck a chord in the Twittersphere but wasn’t all that surprising when you consider how pervasive Linux is in the cloud.

These changes make us keenly aware of how much the software business has transformed over the last decade. Microsoft is redefining itself in response to a world driven by open source software and collaborative development and is demonstrating its commitment to the developer in a variety of ways that include today’s .NET news. A few years ago it was among the top 20 corporate contributors to the Linux kernel. It participates in the open SDN project, OpenDaylight, and the open IoT effort the AllSeen Alliance. And this year Microsoft joined the Core Infrastructure Initiative focused on funding critical open source projects running the world’s infrastructure. We do not agree with everything Microsoft does and certainly many open source projects compete directly with Microsoft products. However, the new Microsoft we are seeing today is certainly a different organizationwhen it comes to open source.

The company's participation in these efforts underscores the fact that nothing has changed more in the last couple of decades than how software is fundamentally built. Today most software is built collaboratively. The very nature of open source development is to accelerate technology, which is why competition today is so fierce and things move faster than ever before.

I think we're seeing the "Pareto principle" in software. In business there is a common rule that 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your clients. Similarly in software we are seeing that 80 percent of a stack is comprised of open source software and 20 percent is being made up of custom or proprietary software. As a result, companies and individuals are hustling to understand how to harness collaborative development to advance new technologies and transform markets.

Microsoft understands that today's computing markets have changed and companies cannot go it alone the way they once did. Open source has fundamentally altered the software industry and that puts developers, developers, developers in charge.