Why Microsoft is LinkedIn to Open Source

Why Microsoft is Linked(In) to Open Source 1st July 2016

It can’t have escaped your attention that Microsoft recently acquired LinkedIn. A lot of ink and pixels have already been spent on the price, 26 billion dollars, paid in cash by Microsoft so I won’t spend any time discussing whether this is a bit too much or not.

Data and Network Platform

The acquisition is primarily about Microsoft getting hands on a well-functioning platform (well, don’t mention the often changing UI) for professional networking and, of course, the much-treasured data. Data are apparently more valuable than the products and services you provide. But Microsoft is getting more out of the deal.

Microsoft Loves Open Source

Quite a few of you have probably also noticed that Microsoft in the last year or so has made some astonishing announcements:

• SQL Server on Linux
• .Net for Linux
• Bash on Windows as part of the Windows Linux Subsystem

Microsoft, LinkedIn and Open Source; it’s a love affair.

Microsoft loves Linux

Not Communist Cancer Anymore

These announcements and that picture would have been unthinkable a few years ago (even though Bill Hilff and Sam Ramji many years ago, entrenched in a then generally open source-hostile Microsoft-environment, did a lot of work in building bridges between the open source community and Microsoft in their now almost mythological Open Source Software Lab).

It is a bit difficult to envisage the former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on the picture above considering his comments about Linux being cancer and like communism.

Developers, developers, developers

Steve Ballmer was right – it is all about developers and Microsoft is embracing open source because there are a lot of developers using open source technologies, often in combination with Microsoft technologies (and Microsoft technologies today are often open source).

This development has been accelerated by the importance of the cloud. Before Satya Nadella became CEO in 2014, he was managing Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group and here he realised that Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure should be able to run Linux and other open source software as there was a demand for that. Or as the current CTO for Azure, Mark Russinovich, put it last year: “If they’re using Linux technologies that we can’t play with, they can’t be a customer of ours.”

Today, nearly one in three Azure images are Linux images. So, if developers want to run their programs on Linux and use open source tools, Microsoft want to make sure Microsoft technology can play with those technologies.

Open Source Frameworks for Big Data

What most observers and commentators have failed to notice is the link between Microsoft’s love of open source and the acquisition of LinkedIn.

The thing is; LinkedIn is big on open source.

LinkedIn is for instance behind the interesting machine learning library Photon ML. Photon ML is running on top of the open source large scale data processing framework Apache Spark. Microsoft recently announced its strong commitment to Apache Spark and have Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight.

Merging of infrastructure and People

We have to see how much of LinkedIn’s current infrastructure will survive when it inevitably merges with Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure. But the most promising of LinkedIn’s open source components will undoubtedly be integrated into the Azure platform, making Azure an even more interesting cloud platform.

Besides acquiring the platform for professional networking and a big bucketload of data, Microsoft is also acquiring people with open source knowledge. These people (together with the many newly hired engineers with open source skills) will make sure Microsoft technology can play with open source technology.

It is very exciting times for developers! To ensure you don’t miss future blog articles and knowledge documents or reports please sign-up to the Curo Bulletin below.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Microsoft Corporation

Dan Mygind

Author: Dan Mygind

Dan Mygind is a Journalist and Computer Scientist with a strong interest in technology, technology-related businesses, and the transforming effect source code can have on society.
He has worked for startups, SMEs and global IT-organisations such as IBM as a developer, consultant, and IT-architect. With a solid technology background, he has written extensively for a wide variety of publications such as Computerworld as well as writing technical white papers for Microsoft and other companies.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view and opinion of Curo Talent.
Contact Dan Mygind: mygind{at}writeit{dot}dk

2 Responses to “Why Microsoft is LinkedIn to Open Source”

  1. Jens Jensen

    One machine learning library does not make LinkedIn “big on open source”. Are there any other examples?


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