An old dog admits learning some tricks from a penguin

While Microsoft has never been known to dish out compliments to its competitors, I had a chance recently to sit down with Peter Houston, director of server strategy at Microsoft, who had some interesting thoughts on Linux and open source.

"Over the last 10 years, Microsoft has learned a lot about what it takes to build software for the enterprises," Houston says.

"There are some thing's we've learned out of the open source.

There's a technology thing and a people thing: the people thing is that that the community model is pretty good at connecting customers with developers."

Houston stopped well short of saying that Microsoft would adopt an open source model; he maintains Microsoft's software development approach is better in the long run for enterprises.

But he adds that a more community-focused approach at Microsoft has allowed customers to have more access to Redmond developers than ever before. "We've increased our focus on community a lot, and we'll continue to do that in the coming year."

On the technology side, he adds, "One of the things that we liked to see is more componentization in our server architecture," similar to Linux. "When you look at Linux, it's fairly straight forward to deploy ... if you want to run a Web server, you just strip it down and take out what you don't need.

In the next releases of Windows Server 2003, we've done a lot of things to make it deployable with a smaller footprint, minimizing the number of services that don't need to be there."

Houston also made some concessions about previous Microsoft server products. When posed with a question about the stability of Linux vs. Windows operating systems, Houston says the comparison today is different from a few years ago.

"People compare Linux to NT 4.0. And I think people who have used NT 4.0 know of the reliability issues [with it]. The number one thing we did in Windows 2000 was to invest hugely in reliability features," he says. "We've shown that we've made those improvements. When I talk to a customer who believes that there is a reliability advantage with Linux, odds are they were an NT 4 customer. It's up to us to convey that more broadly, because I don't think we have done that enough up to now."

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