Microsoft, Joomla, Hadoop – why are they even together?

Some might say hell has definitely frozen over. Microsoft has signed the Joomla contributor agreement, making them developers of one of the most popular open source CMS products. Oh, and it’s their most relevant GPLv2 contribution so far, too.

Check out the post on the Joomla Leadership blog. It’s a fairly levelheaded and balanced discussion of the matter. Then go on the look at the comments. Half a dozen will give you the optimal dose of enjoyment, but the first one already summarizes much of it:

“I don't care what they have to give, add or supply. There are gifts you can turn down without even looking into the horses mouth. This. Must. Be. One. Of. Them!”

This shows so much cluelessness that it’s worth addressing. But before I get to it, what about Hadoop then? In case you didn’t know, it’s a Java-based framework for distributed data storage and management. And according to the latest rumors, Microsoft is putting it up for Windows Azure.

The world rulership is, like, over

Much of the OS zealot commentary posted in the Joomla blog reflects the attitude prevalent ten years ago. Back then, Microsoft ruled such a big segment of the software world that it could reasonably consider stifling competition on all fronts. In 2010, no matter how many billions the Redmond war chest may contain, that’s downright hopeless.

In this sense, Microsoft has lost much of its power. The ubiquity of computing has exploded, and nothing is stopping the trend in the next decade. No single company – not Intel, not Microsoft, not Apple – can harness all the power and creativity in the field. Much of what is seen as Microsoft’s decline is in fact normalization from the very exceptional monopolistic situation we saw at the turn of the century.

This behooves Microsoft to form more horizontal partnerships and coexist with competing technologies. SharePoint may be a great commercial success, but it’s ridiculous to expect it to dominate the CMS market. Making tools like Joomla and Hadoop work on the Windows stack – be it on-premises or in the cloud – allows Microsoft to take a share of the money involved in these projects (without resorting to patent trickery).

Act of despair?

Well then, is it desperate to contribute the open source projects in hopes of making your own platform stronger? I’d say it’s realistic, it’s clever and it’s good business practice. It may be satisfying to some as it shows some sort of humility from Microsoft, but it’s still clever.

As for the people fearing Microsoft’s commitment in Joomla: This is an excellent acid test for the solidity of an open source project. Your license terms are binding, so that should take care of legal matters. You must be afraid of marketing or the new forces driving your project. If you’re afraid of marketing, you should do something differently.

Microsoft isn’t the only entity that could contribute to your project with their own interests in mind. Large contribution from a single source can derail a project, but only if not properly managed. So it’s a management test. Even if Microsoft happened to hijack Joomla’s trunk development, it’s another great test to the project: can you survive through forks?

I’d say any serious project needs to make it. Linux has been a great example of success here. These are the modern times. Live along.

May 4, 2010 · Jouni Heikniemi · 8 Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: General

8 Responses

  1. Arttu - May 4, 2010

    Regarding the hostile attitude towards Microsoft, I can only say "You reap what you saw". For MS it will take many years and several gestures of supporting open standards to slowly transform the negative image caused by past behaviour.

  2. Jouni - May 4, 2010

    I agree, and I don't expect anyone to _trust_ Microsoft per se. But a hostile reaction is totally futile from somebody claiming to defend the concept of "open".

    A contribution from Microsoft – certainly made to further their own goals – is exactly the kind of contribution practically any company makes. Microsoft makes absolutely zero difference there, except that their contribution actually has a material chance of affecting a considerable amount of user base, given the widespread adoption of Microsoft products.

    That said, I look forward to actually seeing the quality and breadth of Microsoft's contribution.

  3. Joni - May 4, 2010

    Very interesting news from the user's point of view (and a good post about this case). Thanks Jouni!

  4. Jaba - May 5, 2010

    This is also a very good test for Microsoft itself, too –how long do they stick around with Joomla/Hadoop developers?

    About year ago some people loudly praised how Microsoft had turned its boat and the hell had frozen over, since Microsoft suddenly contributed a Hyper-V driver to Linux kernel.

    Yes, that was significant. But very soon after the publicity stunt something odd happened: there wasn't no new code coming from MS. Nobody from Microsoft maintained the code for the upcoming kernel releases. That might be ok for the kernel developers if they would have a contact available for technical questions at Microsoft , but those contacts were suddenly gone, too.

    The result is that the Hyper-V driver is destined to be removed from the kernel during the release of 2.6.35 version.

    To be fair, the same destiny waits for Google's Android support. Google seems to maintain their own fork of kernel 2.6.28 (or whatever) and has not been sending any updates for the recent kernels.

    Of course, if both companies suddenly reappear, the driver support might stay in.

  5. Jouni Heikniemi - May 5, 2010

    Jaba, I think you bring up an excellent point. The interests of commercial software vendors are usually to create a single working configuration as it tends to be sufficient; i.e. "Joomla is supported on Windows if you run version 38.5b, and that version only". Committing to a more persistent maintenance requires far more investment, which might not provide equivalent PR or financial benefits.

    That said, this is perhaps more of a problem with Hyper-V than it is with Joomla; the modifications submitted by Microsoft are likely to be far more maintainable in a CMS project than they are for a reasonably hardcore element such as a hypervisor driver.

    Even with all that, I think contributions from commercial vendors are good for the projects. The risks of the contributor abandoning the project are of the same magnitude as with any individual contributor, but in general, the project has more to gain in terms of visibility and commercial interest.

  6. Jaba - May 5, 2010

    Jouni: I haven't been paying attention to Joomla development cycle or did not even RTFA you linked. But I've been following Drupal more closely and I guess Joomla's development model might be similar to it.

    At the moment Drupal 6.x is the stable version, with the older Drupal 5.x still being popular for many people. Those versions are still maintained for bug/security fixes and occasional enhancements, but all the fancy development happens on upcoming Drupal 7.x codebase. Of course the branches are mostly incompatible between each other.

    So my question is: will Microsoft contribute to the current tried-and-tested Joomla code, or will they be part of Joomla's next generation? Or possibly both? If they choose to contribute to development version of Joomla, will they stick around this time for a longer period of time (contributing security/bug fixes), or will this be another hit-and-run contribution?

    But yes, a CMS is probably far more easier to understand codewise compared to a kernel driver, so even if Microsoft chooses to disappear from Joomla developer ring, someone is able to continue from where they left.

  7. Jaba - May 5, 2010

    OK, I took a look at the blog post. It seems Microsoft is contributing code to upcoming Joomla 1.6 version. Let's wait and see how the thing is rolling around Christmas time or so.

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