Microsoft's changing attitude towards open source software has been reinforced after the software giant announced it was, for the first time, contributing code to an Apache open-source project.
In a blog post this week, Microsoft said it is contributing code to Project Stonehenge, which is aimed at building a set of sample applications for implementing a SOA (service-oriented architecture) based on approved W3C and OASIS standard protocols.
The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) are two groups that oversee the standardisation of technologies used to build SOAs.
SOA refers to an IT architecture approach and related products that separate application functionality into interoperable "services," giving developers more flexibility and the ability to reuse chunks of code in multiple programs. Standards are key to making SOAs work because they allow for the creation of these services by letting applications running on different systems exchange information via standard protocols.
According to the Apache website, Stonehenge is aimed at demonstrating best practices for developers to create interoperable applications that communicate via disparate protocols and software infrastructure, to demonstrate interoperability between the different platforms and to help identify roadblocks to interoperability.
WSO2, a company that builds middleware specifically for SOAs, proposed Stonehenge to Apache and was its first code contributor.
Microsoft has over the last couple of years grown more friendly toward open-source software and the community that supports it, an effort driven mainly by the Platform Strategy Group led by Microsoft Senior Director Sam Ramji. The group is behind the Apache sponsorship and code contribution, and also has been instrumental in promoting various interoperability efforts to make sure Microsoft's software works well with competing technologies.
Still, while Microsoft certainly has increased efforts to be more transparent about how it builds software and to support the open-source community, even members of Ramji's team have acknowledged that the process is an evolutionary one and will take time for the entire company to embrace.
Microsoft first said it would support Apache as a platinum sponsor last July, a move that also gave Apache a $100,000 (£72,000) donation to support its open-source projects. Later that year at ApacheCon 2008 Microsoft also expressed its support for Stonehenge, but did not commit code at that point.