Microsoft Software and Open Source – not mutually exclusive

Since the launch of BizSpark, I’ve heard a lot of comments about how Microsoft is targeting "Open Source" with BizSpark.

From OStatic’s post "Microsoft’s Biz Spark is Another Direct Shot at Open Source":

"[Microsoft’s] new BizSpark initiative is being rolled out in 82 countries, and offers many types of incentives to developers and startups. It also steers people toward Microsoft’s products, though, and challenges open source in several ways"

From Matt Asay’s post "What Microsoft giveth, Jive taketh away"

"The Web has been aflutter with the news that through its new BizSpark program, Microsoft is seeding startups with its software to entice them to steer clear of open source. That’s the view from OStatic and others that I’ve read, and it’s probably true, at least in part."

From "Microsoft v/s Open Source. The Startups Win"

"Their latest release of the BizSpark program is a great long term vision to ally with the startups and at the same time take on the Open Source onslaught in their own home ground."

There is no doubt that many startups choose to use Open Source solutions to jumpstart their startups. However, Microsoft’s product offerings and open source offerings are not entirely mutually exclusive. In fact, (depending on which layer of the stack you are looking at) a lot of the open source products out there run perfectly fine on Windows. We have been and will continue do a lot of work to ensure other applications run fine on Windows. A classic example is the work we’ve been doing to ensure that PHP runs well on Windows. Have a go at this slide deck by Garrett Serack for more information:

A very rudimentary web application stack looks something like this:

  • Operating System
  • Web Server and Database Server
  • Web Application Platform

The Operating System layer aside, you can run Free and/or Open Source solutions on top of the Microsoft platform just the same. Given that for startups all products are essentially available at no up-front cost via BizSpark here are some permutations with some popular Open Source technologies (the Open Source technologies, not necessarily free, are in bold) if you’re looking to build a web product:

  • Windows + Apache/Lighttpd/Mongrel + MySQL/Postgress + PHP/PERL/Python/Ruby
  • Windows + IIS + MySQL/Postgress + PHP/PERL/Python/Ruby
  • Windows + IIS+ SQL Server + PHP/PERL/Python/Ruby
  • Windows + Apache/Lighttpd/Mongrel + SQL Server + PHP/PERL/Python/Ruby
  • Windows + IIS + MySQL + ASP.NET (C#/VB.NET/IronPython/IronRuby etc.)
  • Windows + IIS + SQL Server + ASP.NET (C#/VB.NET/IronPython/IronRuby etc.)

I understand some of these permutations may not make the best amount of sense due to a variety of reasons (not tested, no performance/scalability data exists etc.) But the hypothesis that these are invalid permutations is just wrong.

Now I understand that it is one thing to advocate the use of 3rd party open source applications on one’s own platform, it’s a totally different thing to build open source applications. But we are taking small steps in being better citizens of the open source world. Here are a few examples:

You can also find find a list of other open source projects over on CodePlex.

If the BizSpark program had to be positioned as a competitor to something, I’d say it’s somewhat of a competitor to products that are free, and not necessarily open source products.


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