A New Appreciation for Open Source in India – and Our Role in it.

by anandeep on November 29, 2008 05:55pm

As I stated in my last blog,  I am attending the premier Indian Open Source conference, FOSS.IN, in Bangalore.   This conference had some very technical talks (which I will also blog about) but, like any other Open source conference, it was the people who were the most interesting.

There seems to be a large PHP contingent here.  I met some folks from Piazza, a company that does PHP applications.  Of course they asked the million dollar question - "Microsoft has an Open Source group?"  But, very quickly, they soon started talking about how they could work with Microsoft technologies.  They hadn't realized that we had a relationship with Zend, and that Microsoft would treat PHP as a first class language. 

Once they heard about this, they excitedly started thinking of .NET applications that their customers were asking for, and how they could build them.  These developers were not based in Bangalore, but in a small town in Kerala.  They followed the true Open Source model of living and developing from where they wanted, and did not have to work in a large overgrown city with corporate offices.  This is a BIG thing in India - and I am seeing this for the first time.

The other PHP linkage I made was with Damian Hickey,  CEO of Zacware.com.  Zacware is making an e-commerce server called Freeway, which is PHP based. His was more the traditional Open Source business, and his firm had already reached out to Microsoft's representative in Queensland, Australia to see how they could make this application run on Microsoft platforms. 

We had a long discussion about community and how Microsoft could approach Open Source.   Again, the theme of opening a two-way conversation came up.   Damian's development team is in India and I was able to talk to his PHP dev lead, who was also excited to work on .NET.

I had asked one of the organizers why I hadn't heard of a well known contributor to the Linux kernel who hailed from India. I was promptly told that Balbir Singh and Ankita Garg were the two names to know.  I ran into Balbir - who works for the IBM Linux Technology Center - and we had some good discussions on kernels  and people we knew in common.  Turns out he knows Tom Hanrahan, my current boss.  (Tom, I mentioned you in my blog. I hope you are noticing for my review next year!)

I then chatted with Amit Shah from Qumranet (now Red Hat). He gave a talk in the conference on how he parleyed an interview question from Qumranet into a career in hypervisors.  Again, he was keen to work with Microsoft, especially when he heard about our virtualization Interop efforts with Xen and Novell

I also met a passionate young student, Abhishek, who very politely asked me all the tough questions about Microsoft. These involved questions on patents, open sourcing  Windows, and OOXML. I answered them, presenting my own point of view.  The reaction? He said he had been waiting to talk to someone from Microsoft who was so open about this stuff, even if he didn't agree with me on everything.

What did I learn about Microsofts role in Open Source in India? Our role here is to be the two way conduit, but we also need to engage the community with the same kind of passion for our own (Microsoft's) stuff that they have for Open Source.  Anything less will appear fake.

More to come.


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