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Microsoft forms, funds new open-source foundation

Elizabeth Montalbano | Sept. 11, 2009
Sam Ramji, the interim president of the new CodePlex Foundation, will leave Microsoft Sept. 25

NEW YORK, 10 SEPTEMBER 2009 - Microsoft has founded and is providing the funding for a new foundation aimed at bringing open-source and proprietary software companies together to participate side by side in open-source projects.

According to its Web site, the new CodePlex Foundation "will complement existing open source foundations and organizations, providing a forum in which best practices and shared understanding can be established by a broad group of participants, both software companies and open source communities."

CodePlex has for some time been the name of the site on which Microsoft hosts open-source projects. Microsoft contributed US$1 million and the CodePlex name to the new foundation, which will license that name back to the CodePlex Web site so it can continue using it.

The group is a nonprofit whose interim president will be Sam Ramji, who's currently senior director of platform strategy at Microsoft, in charge of the company's open-source endeavors. During a press conference Thursday, Ramji confirmed he is leaving Microsoft on Sept. 25 to join a cloud-computing startup in Silicon Valley. He will, however, stay with the CodePlex Foundation through its first 100 days.

Ramji said the new foundation's mission is to foster more participation in open-source projects by commercial software companies, whose developers are not participating as much as they should be in them right now.

"There is a convergence of maturing technology and evolving business models, an inflection point [where] more software companies are exploring how to work with open-source communities. Some of us see a great opportunity to drive change."

A board of directors supporting Ramji is comprised mainly of Microsoft employees, including Bill Staples, Stephanie Boesch and Britt Johnson. The only non-Microsoft employees on the board are longtime open-source guru Miguel de Icaza of Novell and Shaun Walker, cofounder of DotNetNuke.

Ramji and the board will search for a permanent executive director of the foundation, which now only has a deputy director, Mark Stone, formerly of O'Reilly and VA Linux (now SourceForge), according to the Web site. Eventually, the foundation will have permanent board members who will all be well-known and respected members of the open-source community, he said Thursday.

Indeed, the eventual independence of the foundation separate from Microsoft will be key to getting developers on board to support it, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with RedMonk. He likened it to the Eclipse Foundation, another open-source group that started as a vendor-backed project -- in this case, IBM -- but that since has been able to operate independently with continued support but not strict oversight from IBM.

"What will be interesting to see is when and how CodePlex takes steps to establish an identity independent from that of Microsoft," O'Grady said.


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