Microsoft search to be powered by open source

The software giant's long-held and deeply rooted enmity toward open-source software appears to be crumbling, if its new Kumo search technology is any indication.

Microsoft for years has been warning the world not to use open-source software. Apparently, its Kumo search team didn't get the memo.

Kumo will weigh heavily on open source. Screenshot by Ina Fried/CNET

As The Register reports, Microsoft's new Kumo search technology is filled with open source and, in fact, the Kumo search team, formerly Powerset , "tr(ies) to use open-source software, if it is available."

In other words, open-source software appears to be the default choice for the Kumo team, not proprietary software. It looks like Microsoft's anti-open-source bubble really has burst.

Indeed, reading through the Powerset-turned-Microsoft-Kumo team's description of its approach reads like it was written by an open source-friendly IBM:

Instead of creating a proprietary copy of these pieces of infrastructure, Powerset decided instead to turn to Hadoop, a Lucene subproject that is a framework for running data-intensive applications on large clusters of commodity hardware...Unfortunately, there was no Hadoop equivalent to Google's BigTable storage engine .

Because we have benefited greatly by leveraging the available Hadoop technology, Powerset decided to give back to the community by developing an open-source analog to BigTable that is built on top of HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System). After all, we need to develop it, anyway, it isn't part of the Powerset "secret sauce," and we, in turn, could benefit from contributions from other members of the community.

Is this the future of Microsoft?

At least in the short term, the answer seems to be yes. Microsoft has been demonstrating that while it remains skittish about licensing its important software under an open-source license, it is very keen on consuming open-source software and embedding it into its proprietary products. JQuery's admission to the Visual Studio code base is just one example.

CIO.com wrote recently that Microsoft has lost its focus, with serious consequences. I think that this is true.

I also believe that Microsoft's fear-mongering around open source cost it years of productivity and quality gains that it could have been delivering to customers through open source. I hope that reign of ignorance is over.

Microsoft CEO Ballmer argues that Microsoft needs to be more disruptive in search , and open source is a way to start moving in that direction; prime rival Google embraces open source unreservedly.

For Microsoft's Kumo search, it certainly is moving in that direction. But when will we see Microsoft embrace open source for its core products? I'm not holding my breath.


Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

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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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