Microsoft funds effort for open source dialogue

CodePlex Foundation will enable the exchange of code and work to increase participation in open source community projects; the board is dominated by Microsoft

Microsoft is donating $1 million in initial funding for a non-profit foundation launched Thursday with the goal of enabling exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities.

Called the CodePlex Foundation, the organization is intended to provide a forum where open source communities and the software development community can unite for the shared goal of increasing participation in open source community projects, according to a statement on the foundation's formation.

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Serving as an extension to Microsoft's CodePlex Web site for open source projects, the foundation will complement existing open source foundations and help establish best practices.  The foundation also provides a framework to "facilitate the participation of commercial software developers in open source projects," the statement said.  IP from the foundation will be released under an open source license.

"We see a convergence of maturing technology and evolving business models -- an inflection point -- underway where more commercial companies are willing to participate in open source projects. We saw a great opportunity to drive change and Microsoft was willing to fund a nonprofit foundation to make the change happen," the foundation said on its Web site.

A foundation charter, now in development, will determine the types of projects that the foundation works with and the types of relationships projects may have to the foundation. The endeavor will address software projects with the licensing and intellectual property needs of commercial software companies in mind, according to the foundation.

"We believe that commercial software companies and the developers that work for them under-participate in open source projects," the foundation said. "Some of the reasons are cultural, some have to do with differing software development methodologies, and some have to do with differing views about intellectual property. In general, we are going to work to close these gaps. Specifically we aim to work with particular projects that can serve as best practice exemplars of how commercial software companies and open source communities can effectively collaborate."

The foundation looks like it will feature an open source community around Microsoft-centric technologies, said analyst Michael Cote of RedMonk.

"Thus far, that world hasn't benefited as greatly from the open source world as say, Java has, but there have been several notable tie-ins over the past years," Cote said. "Setting up a separate entity along with getting all of the IP and patent hoopla ironed out should start to fill that vacuum, namely, where do I go if I want to do open source in the Microsoft world?"

Microsoft's Sam Ramji, senior director of platform strategy, will serve as interim president of the foundation, supported by an interim board of directors that includes Microsoft's Stephanie Boesch, who is a program director in the Microsoft developer division; Microsoft's Bill Staples, general manager of the Web platform and tools engineering teams at the company; and Miguel de Icaza, vice president of the Novell developer platform.

Other interim board members include D. Britton Johnston, who is product unit manager for the Microsoft data and modeling group, and Shaun Bruce Walker, who is co-founder and chief architect at DotNetNuke

Microsoft is involved with the effort, the foundation said, because of an "evolving engagement" with open source that includes relationships with the Apache Software Foundation and the PHP community as well as participation in open source community events such as EclipseCon.

Ramji, meanwhile, plans to leave Microsoft on September 25 to join a cloud infrastructure startup company in Sililcon Valley, a representative of the foundation said. Ramji will serve as foundation interim president for 100 days.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.