Microsoft gives Apache cash to promote open source

As part of its move toward greater openness, Microsoft is becoming a platinum sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation

Microsoft expanded its support for the open-source community on Friday by giving money to the Apache Software Foundation, the first time it has given money to the long-standing open-source project.

Microsoft also said it is contributing code to support a PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) project and committing to offer royalty-free specifications for Windows Server and .Net Framework protocols as part of its expanded support for the open-source community. The company announced its plans at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) now being held in Portland, Oregon.

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Under increased global pressure from technology regulators and open-source competitors, Microsoft has moved toward a more open development policy for some time. In February, it made its boldest move yet to support open source by promising greater transparency in both its software development and business practices, and opening up previously proprietary APIs to some of its major products, such as Windows and Office, for third-party use.

On Friday, Microsoft strengthened those efforts by becoming a platinum sponsor of Apache, a sponsorship that includes a $100,000 donation to the organization. According to Microsoft, it has communicated with Apache in the past but has never contributed to the foundation in this way.

Microsoft also is providing code to a project called ADOdb, which is a database abstraction library that allows PHP-based applications to communicate with a range of databases. PHP is an open-source, freely available scripting language developers widely use for Web development.

Through Microsoft's contribution, ADOdb can now communicate natively with SQL Server's database driver, the company said.

Microsoft is adding to the list of protocols covered under its Open Specification Promise (OSP) as well, including protocols for technologies built into Windows Server and the .Net Framework.

The company launched OSP in September 2006 as a pledge that it would not take any patent-enforcement action against those who use certain technology APIs. Protocols released as part of OSP can be freely used by third-party developers.

In addition to its increased open-source investments, Microsoft released updates to IronRuby, an implementation of the Ruby programming language for Microsoft's .Net programming framework. The company said it plans to ship all standard Ruby libraries implemented in the Ruby programming language as part of its IronRuby distribution.

It's also participating in the RubySpec project, which aims to write a publishable specification for the Ruby programming language, and has created a separate open-source project under the Microsoft Public License called IronRuby-Contrib. That project aims to promote collaborative development of code for IronRuby.

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