La svolta open source di Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft dal 2014, non era stata prevista da molti. Dalla celebre dichiarazione “Microsoft loves Linux” sono passati solo due anni eppure le novità da ricordare sono diverse: l’adesione all’OPC (Open Compute Project), la partnership con Linux Foundation per la certificazione ufficiale di Linux sulla piattaforma Azure, il contributo al progetto FreeBSD, l’arrivo di SQL Server 2016 su Linux, l’implementazione della shell Bash in Windows… tutti eventi inattesi che hanno sollevato tra i più diffidenti, ma anche tra gli addetti ai lavori, più di un interrogativo: Microsoft è forse destinata a divenire una compagnia open source?
In occasione dell’imminente LinuxCon North America (22-24 Agosto 2016), il portale Linux.com ha colto l’occasione per porre alcune domande in merito a Wim Coekaerts, attuale vice presidente per la divisione open source enterprise Microsoft con alle spalle un’esperienza ventennale in Oracle (numero uno della divisione Linux and virtualization engineering). Insomma chi altri se non “Mr.Linux” per eccellenza potrebbe rivelare interessanti informazioni sulla strategia open source di Redmond?
L’intervista in sintesi
Le prime due domande riguardano il curriculum di Wim Coekaerts: cosa ha spinto un dirigente di lungo corso Oracle a passare in casa Microsoft? L’intervistato risponde di essere stato convinto da Scott Guthrie e Mike Neil che, durante una semplice discussione da Sturbucks, gli avrebbero parlato di una serie di progetti di notevole interesse e dei quali non aveva mai sentito parlare (“I was totally blown away“) nè presso la stampa specializzata nè dagli addetti ai lavori: VS Code, OMI, Project Malmo etc.
Per quanto riguarda l’attuale strategia open source, Coekaerts afferma di essere ancora in una fase di organizzazione generale: i progetti open source da monitorare sono tanti ed i primi mesi sono stati dedicati alla stesura di una roadmap al fine di coordinare al meglio l’attività della divisione (“so we’ll have better insights on where we are and where we want to go from here“). Tra gli altri interessi anche quelli di garantire un’esperienza di utilizzo di alto livello per gli utilizzatori di servizi Microsoft in ambienti Linux ed il supporto a progetti open sprovvisti degli strumenti di sviluppo necessari (“We’re not just following the herd with products of our own, we’re actively leading and sharing within the community”).
La penultima domanda è forse quella che si aspettavano un pò tutti, dallo stesso Coekaerts fino al lettore di turno: Microsoft sta ponendo le basi per divenire una compagnia completamente open source? Nella migliore delle tradizioni, la risposta del vice presidente è evasiva ma lascia presagire l’arrivo di importanti novità all’orizzonte (“Stay tuned, we have some more very exciting open source news coming up“). E lo speech che terrà alla LinuxCon (ultima domanda dell’intervista) potrebbe essere il momento giusto per svelarne qualcuna.
Linux.com: You were at Oracle for 21 years, heading its open source initiatives. What was happening at Microsoft that interested you so much that you would join the company?
Wim Coekaerts: Yes, I was at Oracle for 21 years. It was an exciting environment and I was involved in most of the initial open source efforts there. But it was also time for a change.
In mid-January, I had a chat with Scott Guthrie and Mike Neil at Starbucks and they started telling me about all the things Microsoft was doing with open source. Now, I knew about some of those things like everyone else who keeps a close eye on open source, but I was totally blown away by how much more there was.
I hadn’t seen or heard anything about those open source projects in the news or anywhere, and they were really interesting projects. I was totally blown away.
Linux.com: What were some of those projects that you hadn’t heard about before that “blew you away?”
Coekaerts: Oh, there were many. But certainly VS Code, which combines a code editor with developer tools for the core edit-build-debug cycle. It’s a new type of tool with editing capabilities, light integration with other tools, debugging support, and other features. Other interesting projects included the documentation generator for dotnet; OMI which is an open source CIM server; and, Project Malmo which is an AI experimentation platform built on top of Minecraft. Oh, and the Azure documentation on github developed in the open under a CC3 license.
Linux.com: Ok, so you were excited about Microsoft open source projects and joined the company. What are the ideas at Microsoft for open source now, under your lead especially?
Coekaerts: Well, I’ve only been here for four months so there’s not a huge roadmap yet. But there are so many open source projects going on already that my first step was to create a map of those so we’ll have better insights on where we are and where we want to go from here.
I’m also making sure what we offer now is consistent with rules and projects in Linux distributions. The customer experience really matters, and we want to ensure we keep customer trust because we’ve truly earned it, so we’re taking the time to make sure everything installs right, that the right version is running, and that everything really runs correctly and smoothly across the board.
But our focus is on much more than just our open source products. For example, we’ve found a lot of open source projects that don’t have enough developer tools so we’re helping with that and with QA too. We’re not just following the herd with products of our own, we’re actively leading and sharing within the community.
Linux.com: And that brings us to the big question. Is Microsoft setting its sights on becoming a full-fledged open source company?
Coekaerts: We’re building products that are critical for us to offer to make our customers happy. Certainly open source is part of that, for developers and customers alike. We are in the business of providing what our customers want and need and that includes open source. Our customers want choices, so we give them choices.
We are very committed to open source internally. It’s a really exciting time to be at Microsoft.
Open source is growing internally and externally and the opportunities that brings to everyone is almost limitless. Stay tuned, we have some more very exciting open source news coming up.
Linux.com: Which brings us to your keynote at LinuxCon. Can you give us a preview of what you’ll be speaking about, or at least a few hints?
Coekaerts: Why of course. I’ll be giving a detailed overview of what Microsoft is doing now with open source and how we can be of help. We are committed to helping everyone, not just ourselves, and so I’ll cover some of the ways we can contribute and assist. We’re also releasing a number of things in the next several weeks so I’ll be speaking about those, too.
I hope to see everyone reading this there. I like to share what we know and have to offer. But I also like to hear thoughts and concerns from people working with this everyday so that I stay informed and focused on what else is needed in the community.