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Q&A with Microsoft Azure Lead Architect John Gossman Regarding Joining the Linux Foundation

| by Rags Srinivas on Jan 10, 2017. Estimated reading time: 6 minutes |

Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member continuing its foray into open source.

InfoQ caught up with John Gossman, Lead Architect, Microsoft Azure team who also serves as a board member at the Linux Foundation.

InfoQ: Let's start at the very beginning. We’ve all seen the big turn Microsoft has taken when it comes to open source over the last few years. One significant milestone was Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation as a platinum sponsor and board member. What's the primary objective in joining the Linux Foundation?

John Gossman: A core part of our strategy is providing customers the flexibility to work on the tools and platforms they know and love. Joining the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member is a natural next step in our open source journey, which traces back to 2004.

We believe Microsoft’s membership in the Linux Foundation will benefit our customers through increased collaboration and innovation in a diverse developer ecosystem. In addition to Microsoft Azure's strong support for open source technologies, we’re bringing many of our flagship technologies to Linux, including; .NET, Visual Studio, and SQL Server.

InfoQ: It’s interesting to see the role Linux has played in Microsoft’s open source journey. What are your investment plans in this area, and how are those contributions changing with the cloud? What role does Linux play in your strategy today?

Gossman: Microsoft has contributed to the Linux kernel since 2009, and continues doing so today. Nearly 60 percent of third-party IaaS offers in the Azure Marketplace are open source software (OSS), and nearly one in three Virtual Machines in Azure today are running Linux. To continue to extend choice to our customers, we have forged strong industry partnerships with Intel, Canonical, SUSE, Red Hat and more. We have announced SQL Server on Linux and open sourced .NET. We’ve added Bash to Windows 10 to make it a great platform for developing OSS. We’re active contributors and participants to numerous open source projects, such as OpenSSH, FreeBSD, Mesos, Docker, Linux and many more. We’re also a top contributor on GitHub where we participate in over 2,000 projects.

InfoQ: Running Bash shell scripts on Windows 10 has been generally received favorably by developers. However, you cannot run the server software or native Linux programs. Does the roadmap for Windows include expanding beyond the Bash shell to the Linux kernel?

Gossman: We are excited about the community’s reception and will continue listening to the community and investing in adding functionality to address evolving needs. We don’t have roadmap specifics for Windows Subsystem for Linux to share at this time.

Supporting Bash on Windows enables developers to use the Windows platform for both Windows and Linux development in a natural way, allowing them to leverage great utilities, frameworks and experiences across platforms. While Bash shell scripts are a common use case for WSL, users can also execute ELF64 binaries natively on unmodified Ubuntu userspace. This means, for example, users have the ability to use the APT package manager to install unmodified versions of software available for Ubuntu. Technical documentation is available describing how the subsystem works, including deep dives on the new pico processes and how syscalls are translated for the Windows NT kernel.

InfoQ: One of the key focus areas in Microsoft is the cloud? It's primarily about Linux VMs, Containers based around lxc and so on in the cloud? Does the focus on cloud have any influence on joining the Linux Foundation?

Gossman: We have been involved in open source for a long time, prior to Azure in fact. But cloud is a key piece of how we bring agility to organizations, and it is certainly a factor in how we build our open source strategy. We have a comprehensive approach to open source in the cloud, from enabling customers to do more, integrating open source in our services, and releasing and contributing to the ecosystem.

Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform that is all about customer choice. We offer an extensive open source portfolio that goes from core infrastructure to application, data or container platforms. Strong partnerships with companies like Red Hat, Canonical, Docker, Mesosphere, Datastax and others help us deliver on the cloud promise of agility and flexibility. In an era where open source and cloud are playing an important role for many organizations, we’re proud to be deeply involved as a cloud vendor in the Linux Foundation board, and have been working with the Linux Foundation for many years, including the Open Container Initiative, TODO Group or the joint LFCS/MCSA certification.

InfoQ: In a cloud native world, polyglot applications seem to be gaining traction. How does Microsoft see this trend? What is your role with initiatives like Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Open Container Initiative (OCI), Cloud Foundry Foundation and commercial partners?

Gossman: We’re seeing increased interest in polyglot applications as part of organizations that are taking cloud native approaches to support their digital transformation. Open source plays an important role there.

Developers are looking at multiple approaches when it comes to polyglot and cloud native, and we offer a wide array of options in Azure to address the needs of our customers. For example, customers looking to deploy container based applications have Azure Container Service, those looking for a microservice platform might look at Azure Service Fabric, while those focusing on 12-factor Java apps might go with a partner solution, like Pivotal Cloud Foundry in Azure, and yet others might choose a fully managed solution with Azure App Service and Azure Functions for their web or serverless applications. Our bet is on an open and flexible cloud platform that is all about customer choice, and all of these examples support open source technologies that developers use today. Flexibility plays an important role here.

We’ve been part of the Open Container Initiative since its inception. We also partner with a number of open source vendors in the container space, and collaborate with the broader ecosystem, including other open source foundations.

InfoQ: Tell us about other open source initiatives that Microsoft is participating in and that developers should be aware of? Finally, how do you monetize this investment in many of these open source initiatives?

Gossman: In addition to Microsoft Azure's strong support for open source technologies, Microsoft is bringing many of its flagship technologies to Linux, including .NET, Visual Studio, and SQL Server. We’re open sourcing more of our own technology as well, including .NET Core, Visual Studio Code, the Xamarin SDK, Powershell and the Microsoft Edge Chakra JavaScript engine.

Our business model has allowed us to do a great deal for our customers, both helping connect the world and spread innovation, and making it possible for individuals and businesses to operate the way they do today. We firmly believes that openness is good for our customers, good for the community and good for our business. Further, it promotes the partner-centric approach that has been with Microsoft since the beginning.

The Microsoft open source and the Microsoft Azure open source sites provide more information on several other open source initiatives.

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