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July 25, 2008

Microsoft contributes $100K per year to Apache

Posted by David Hunter at 6:45 PM ET.

Hell freezes over Ryan Paul at Ars Technica reports a shocker – Microsoft has signed up as a $100,000 per year sponsor of the Apache Foundation which produces their number one Web server competitor.

Today at the OSCON open source software convention, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) got an unexpected new sponsor: Microsoft. The Redmond software giant, which will contribute $100,000 annually to the ASF, joins Google and Yahoo as a platinum sponsor of Apache development.

The ASF is a nonprofit group that exerts loose organizational guidance role over a sprawling ecosystem of autonomously managed software projects, including the Apache web server and a host of libraries, frameworks, toolkits, and programs. The culture of the ASF is built upon what they call the "Apache Way," a philosophy of consensus-based collaborative stewardship and volunteerism.

I spoke with Apache Software Foundation (ASF) president Justin Erenkrantz, who views Microsoft’s sponsorship of Apache as a step forward for interoperability. He believes that this move is based on a legitimate desire by Microsoft to foster collaborative development of Apache technologies that implement Microsoft standards. In particular, he points out an ASF project called Apache POI which offers native Java libraries for reading and writing Microsoft Office file formats.

Erenkrantz told me that Microsoft has been moving in this direction for quite some time. The company recently invited several Apache contributors to visit its Redmond headquarters for informal interoperability talks. Microsoft’s recognition of the role that open source software will play in enterprise infrastructure comes directly from the top, he says, and isn’t just confined to rogue elements within the company.

Microsoft’s Sam Ramji offers this elaboration:

It’s critical to understand two things about our sponsorship of the ASF: what it is, and what it is not.

It is not a move away from 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 under way with development of IIS 8.

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.

I’m sure there will still be a certain amount of suspicion of Microsoft’s motives but customer demand for interoperability makes strange bedfellows and the lack thereof in Microsoft server products is always a prime competitor talking point.

Filed under Apache, IIS, Microsoft, Open Source, Technologies

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