Microsoft extends open-sourcing spree with Project Orleans

Hot on the heels of open-sourcing .Net Core, Microsoft does the same with its Orleans cloud computing framework

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Microsoft is open-sourcing its Project Orleans cloud computing framework, but an analyst sees limits in how far the software giant will go with its open licensing efforts.

Orleans, which is used to build production services on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud, was offered as a preview in April. Following requests from the community at large, Microsoft Research said in a recent blog post that the open source move was the "next logical step" for the project. Orleans code is expected to be released early in 2015 under an MIT license and published on GitHub.

The move follows last month's plans announced by Microsoft to open-source its .Net Core technology. But analyst Rob Sanfilippo, of Directions on Microsoft, sees a cap on Microsoft's efforts in this vein. "At a high level, I believe Microsoft is looking for internal technologies that can be open-sourced to gain community input while aiding developers and researchers," Sanfilippo said in an email.

"The company is likely aiming to demonstrate its commitment to the ‘modern' attitude of open sourcing code. However, I expect that intellectual property that is critical to Microsoft's revenue streams, such as Windows, Office, and enterprise applications, are not candidates for open sourcing. Instead, we'll continue to see Microsoft publish infrastructure code like the .Net Framework, and academic and research-based projects like Orleans, as open source."

The Orleans programming model and runtime raise the level of abstraction, according to Microsoft Research. "Orleans targets developers who are not distributed system experts, although our expert customers have found it attractive too." Orleans, Microsoft said, is actor-based but is different from existing actor-based platforms because it treats actors as virtual entities rather than as physical ones.

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