Microsoft Offers Peek at Linux Labs

At the LinuxWorld Conference in Boston on Thursday, Microsoft announced the opening of a new Web site that will provide a glimpse into the company's once-secretive Open Source Lab. The idea of the site, dubbed Port 25, is to create a community for customers running mixed operating system environments.

Microsoft may outwardly attack the value of UNIX and Linux, but the company recognizes the significance of the open source moment and the danger to its core business. In turn, the company established a 300-server Linux installation on its Redmond campus, which it uses to do analysis and see how Linux software interoperates with Windows.

UNIX based services such as network file system (NFS) and network information system (NIS) are included in Windows Server 2003 R2 for customers that run Microsoft's operating system alongside other platforms. Microsoft utilized the Open Source Lab to make sure its software would be compatible.

Port 25 will extend this effort by reaching out to the community. According to Microsoft's general manager of platform technology strategy Bill Hilf, "This will be the place we not only blog, but also where we put analysis from our OSS labs and also where we discuss and show other parts of Microsoft that we think are just plain cool or interesting."

According to Jupiter Research senior analyst and Microsoft Monitor author Joe Wilcox, Port 25 takes a different approach from Microsoft's "Get the Facts" campaign, which was designed to combat Linux zealots.

"Get the Facts will continue to churn out FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about Linux and open source, heavily relying on third-party information, such as analysis from analyst firms. Port 25 content will come from two sources: Microsoft's Open Source Lab and the site's community," explained Wilcox.

Still, Wilcox notes that it's not yet clear how much of the content will come from non-Microsoft employees. "If, as on day one, Microsoft's voice is the loudest on Port 25, the site should be viewed as being most about marketing, just like Get the Facts, but with a softer approach."

Customers will be able to submit questions through the Port 25 site, such as whether Active Directory in Windows Server will work with Linux desktops. Hilf and members of his team will also post blogs covering technical and open source related topics. Interviews with Microsoft employees will also be added to Port 25.

"I think what you’ll see here over time is how a bunch of open source guys inside Microsoft think, as well as people and technologies inside Redmond that we think other folks like us would find interesting as well," added Hilf. "So, there will be much more to discuss, debate and learn from together – but for now, port 25 is open."

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