There have been a few good announcements from Microsoft and customers around topics on Open Source, Standards and Interoperability recently.

First up was the UK Cabinet Office announcement on use of Open Source in the UK Government which contained a refreshing amount of common sense.  For me the key statement is:

“This Government has long had the policy, last formally articulated in 2004, that it should seek to use Open Source where it gave the best value for money to the taxpayer in delivering public services. While we have always respected the long-held beliefs of those who think that governments should favour Open Source on principle, we have always taken the view that the main test should be what is best value for the taxpayer.”

It should not be a debate about one type of software vs. another type of software.  In the same way no Government should mandate the purchasing of commercial software over open source software, neither should it be the other way round – it needs to be decided on the total cost to the citizen.  For more on this I would take at look at the post from Jerry FishendenNew UK Government Open Source policy’.

On the Open Source topic, it is great to see Microsoft continue to engage and work with the Open Source Community.  There are a number of projects running, for example allowing Eclipse developers to work on Silverlight, and also the project Moonlight that is providing an open source implementation of Silverlight to work on Linux.

We also have our Open Source project site www.codeplex.com where people can load up and collaborate on Open Source projects (and is also which is where we host the code for the CSP templates).  We support and work on a number of projects, you can find more about them on http://port25.technet.com/, http://www.microsoft.com/opensource and also on the Interoperability blog.

On the standards side there has been a huge change over the last few years.  The area where I keep track of most is around SOAP and Identity Standards; where we now not only input into a number of different standards organisations, but also now support standards such as SAML 2.0, OpenID and REST.  A few years ago the talk was all about WS-Federation vs SAML2.0 and WS-* vs REST and which standard would win.  Luckily we are past this now. Each standard has its own strength and weakness, we need to understand when to use them.  In some cases over time a dominant standard will emerge (TCP/IP for example), whereas in other cases we will live with a mix (.jpg, .gif, .png).

There was one announcement around Azure that completely passed me by until someone pointed it out to me.  Azure is Microsoft’s Cloud Platform where you can host and run cloud apps.  It supports the .net family of languages, which you would expect.  But if you take a closer look at the bottom right of one of the sides you will see we looking to support the Eclipse IDE, python, ruby on rails and php.

For me personally it is great to see Microsoft not only adhere to Open Standards, but also adopt and support Standards that have traditionally be seen as ‘rivals’.  I also think that supporting other programming languages is a great direction and I hope we see more of it in the future.  Well done to the Azure guys for leading the way!