Microsoft hires more open-source DNA, will integrate MPL code into its MVC product

The software giant is going to be shipping MPL code with its MVC platform. This is progress.

Microsoft has hired Rob Conery, founder and lead on the SubSonic project, reports eWeek. SubSonic is a DAL (Data Access Layer) that helps a Web site build itself. Got that? Neither did I, but it sounds cool, if too technically complex for a layman like me.

This is all mildly interesting. After all, Conery has apparently been on contract with Microsoft for the past eight months and is an "MVP" (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, which is a bit like being a community lead in the open-source world--it means you know your Microsoft stuff).

What is very interesting is that Microsoft will likely be including SubSonic with its products, and that SubSonic will remain under MPL 1.1:

So that's the deal: I'm going to work for Microsoft, and my job will be to build out SubSonic as the "sweetness" on top of ASP.NET and (more notably) the new MVC platform. SubSonic will be the convention-driven toolset for Microsoft's new MVC framework...

I think it's worth pointing out that SubSonic hasn't been "bought." Some might smell a conspiracy here, but I'll leave that to the X-Files and Cap'n Crunch crowd to drum up all the evil reasons why the mothership has "beamed me up." SubSonic will remain under the same MPL 1.1 license it always has, and will remain as completely Open Source as it always has--nothing will change at all. I'm just getting paid, essentially, to work on it.

Leaving aside the slight naivete here (No one goes to work for a company without it affecting their judgment, whether that company is Microsoft or Red Hat, Oracle or MySQL), it's very important that whatever happens to Conery, the code remain MPL. Microsoft is apparently committed to that. Think about that one for a minute...

If this were Apache/BSD-licensed code, it wouldn't mean much. Microsoft already ships many of its proprietary products with Apache-licensed code inside. (MSN Messenger, for one.) But this is MPL, a kinder, gentler form of the GPL. Much more forgiving (else Microsoft would never be able to embed it in MVC), but still it contains some reciprocity bite.

I believe Microsoft is experimenting here. I don't think that it called an all-hands meeting to work out the strategy behind this, but I can't imagine that it would make a decision to include MPL code with one of its projects without Bill Hilf and a range of other people high on the food chain involved. All of which is good. It means Microsoft knows that it has a problem, and wants to experiment with open source in order to fix that problem.

This is a relatively safe experiment. It doesn't sound like SubSonic will be embedded into its MVC project, but rather will be an accompanying toolchain. Still, it's a decent step for Microsoft to take, one that it will let it see that the world won't end when it ships open-source software.

I wish both Conery and Microsoft luck in working through it.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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