The division between proprietary software vendors and open-source providers is not as clear as some industry players perceive it to be. As more enterprises consider adopting open source technologies, even traditional software vendors such as Microsoft have taken steps in responding to such customer needs.
"Open source is not a product but an approach to software development," said Matthew Hardman, platform strategy manager at Microsoft Singapore. "Microsoft does not compete with open source, just as Nike does not compete with running."
Hardman said the software giant seeks to provide the 'best possible platform' for open source applications to run. "We believe that enterprises and vendors should have a choice of software development methodology, and open source is one such choice."
The platform strategy manager noted however, that Microsoft will compete with open source-based providers, just as it also competes with other proprietary vendors.
According to Hardman, Microsoft has contributed to technologies that are deemed open source. "PHP, a technology used to build web pages, ran into multiple issues around performance and scalability on Windows Server 2003," he said. "With the introduction of Windows Server 2008 and host technology such as Fast CGI, we are now able to run PHP up to 200 per cent faster than Linux."
Hardman said the company has contributed code to PHP libraries for database support, making it easier for PHP developers to connect to Microsoft databases.
"Linux is open source, but open source is not Linux," Hardman noted. "PHP was designed to make it easy for people to build web pages, not specifically to run only on Linux."
As part of its open-source strategy, the company hosts a website called CodePlex, where Microsoft employees and the developer community work on some 6,000 open-source projects. "Examples of such projects include the AJAX Control Toolkit, SugarCRM, .Net, and code that can interact with the 'World of Warcraft'," Hardman said.
CodePlex includes more than just projects that Microsoft has released, according to Hardman. "It's a hosting platform where people can create and share projects, and we have also used it to share some of our technology to encourage further innovation."
Some five million developers worldwide have created various applications using Microsoft platform technologies such as Windows, .Net, Windows Server and Microsoft Xbox, according to the software giant.