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Behind Closed Doors

Oct 17, 1998, 03:44 (2 Talkback[s])

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by Dwight Johnson

Little known to the outside world, Microsoft has been putting together a research team of academics and think tank luminaries to address the future of computing.

The team, Microsoft Research, now numbering some 300 and slated to grow to over 500, is being lead by Richard Rashid, formerly of Carnegie Mellon University and the main force behind the Mach operating system, first developed in the 80's and still used today in several high-end UNIX variants.

A satellite group to the main team in Redmond is in San Francisco and is called the Bay Area Research Center (BARC) led by Jim Gray and famed computer architect from Digital Equipment Corp. Gordon Bell. BARC's mission is to study scalable systems. BARC has already built and demonstrated to the public last year the TerraServer, a huge cluster of Alpha-based servers.

According to Rashid, "One of the things we're trying to do is get to the next level in distributed systems.... We're working really hard to get technology into the products."

Because Microsoft Research is staffed by former academics and researchers, it represents a major opportunity to introduce the powerful ideas of Open Source(tm) development into the Microsoft organization.

If you know someone working for Microsoft Research, you may be able to do the Free Software community a great service by showing him or her a tool like Perl that they will certainly find useful in their work and then going on to explain how a tool like Perl gets developed even though it is not supported by a research and development budget such as they enjoy.

Working in this way, we may soon find members of the Microsoft staff making significant contributions to Free Software projects in their spare time and Free Software being more and more used by Microsoft personnel in the course of their work.

Over time, Free Software use will change the culture of Microsoft until finally even management sees the advantages of the Open Source model, even as IBM and Oracle are seeing it today.

In contrast, making Microsoft the Great Satan will only widen the rift and delay the day when Open Source will be universally accepted as the best model for software development.

Learn more about Microsoft Research.