Microsoft Australia’s technology chief, Lee Hickin, today declared the company’s commitment to open source software while speaking at an event hosted by one time adversary and open source giant, Red Hat. Microsoft has evolved into an open source company as it transformed, Hickin said, and around half of the services now running on Azure are open sourced.

Hickin told Red Hat delegates the irony of his presence at a Red Hat event was not lost on him.

“I recognise the irony of Microsoft here at an open source community event and I’m really proud to do that and I’m humbled and privileged to feel that we can be on the stage with Red Hat,” Hickin said.

Microsoft, when under the leadership of Steve Balmer in 2001, famously dismissed open source, with Balmer calling open source operating system Linux a “cancer”. Fast forward to 2019 and Red Hat has been acquired by IBM for a record $34 billion and Microsoft is now a major partner, this year launching Azure Red Hat Open Shift a collaboration on Red Hat’s latest Kubernetes container platform.

Microsoft Australia CTO Lee Hickin. LinkedIn.

Microsoft has changed significantly too, Hickin said, modelled on a mission statement to democratise technology and data.

The local CTO said Microsoft’s recent changes, including a shift to open source, were driven by global CEO Satya Nadella who has transformed the company based on what customers want.

“Satya … really understands what it means to think about where we need to be for our customers, to really transform the company from being essentially a proprietary software company to being an open source company,” Hickin said.

“And I say that with my hand on my heart in a very serious way. We are an open source company. We are committed to open source, we’re committed to Red Hat, and we’re committed to continuing our engagement and our support of broad open source community through a range of technologies.”

Hickin described how Microsoft had shifted from a proprietary approach to an open source one as its Azure cloud business matured.

“Azure is open … 50 per cent of what runs in Azure is running on open source platforms. We are not a proprietary Windows company. We are the open source cloud that has a range of services across a whole bunch of tools and technologies.”

Red Hat Partnership

According to Hickin, 95 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are using Microsoft Azure. Red Hat, meanwhile claims 100 per cent of Fortune 500 companies within the telco, airlines and banking sectors use its products.

“We know Red Hat customers are Microsoft customers,” Hickin said. “We want to think about how do we make that better for both [customer groups]?”

This year’s launch of Azure Red Hat Open Shift was more than a repackaging of Red Hat technology on the Azure cloud, Hickin said. The new Kubernetes platform was “co-built” with customer challenges in mind. 

The new platform simplifies Kubernetes, Hickin said, by including management and security tools, making the container approach more viable for enterprises.

“We bring the networking security, and security constraints and tools, and information services built into Azure [and] we apply that into the open shift platform. So you get the best of both worlds.”

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