In the world we live in today, almost every announcement has the word “open” in it. Unfortunately, it feels like there are as many definitions of what “open” means as there are announcements mentioning it. Sometimes it means “we have documented our closed-source SDK from our 100 percent proprietary product”, but nothing more. Allow me to give you my definition. Plus, you can sign up for a free digital event to learn more about Microsoft's commitment to Open Source.
When we started the Industrial IoT team eight years ago, our team had already been working in the automotive and manufacturing spaces for a long time. Back then, we were called the “embedded” team. The replacement term “IoT” came much later. During these early years, we learned that customers in the manufacturing space were tired—very tired. They were tired of getting locked into proprietary ecosystems dominated by a single vendor who was charging them big bucks and yet they couldn’t go elsewhere as their data and interfaces were locked to that vendor’s systems.
We knew we had to do things differently. Satya had taken over the company and enabled each and every person working for Microsoft to embrace openness and focus on doing what’s right for the customer, instead of our bottom line. Increasing our bottom line then became a byproduct. This is a subtle but important distinction. The share price of Microsoft today is an indication of the success of this strategy and has proven him, and by extension us, right.
Giving customers the freedom to choose
So what, exactly, did we do? The .NET Framework had just been made open-source and cross-platform, so we wanted to do that, too. But we wanted to go even further. We wanted to really give our customers the chance to leave at any time. Yes, you read that right—allowing your customer to leave builds trust and increases the value of your product since you are not trying to limit them but are convinced that they will stay simply because the product you are selling is so good.
Building trust through contribution
Enabling them to leave meant enabling them to take their applications and their data with them. This meant using open interfaces throughout, not building SDKs the customers had to integrate, and also using open data models everywhere. With that in mind, the obvious choice in who to work with was in fact the very organizations responsible for the open data models and interfaces we wanted to build into our products. As it turned out, these organizations really needed help when it came to their open-source reference implementations anyway and welcomed us with open arms. We said we will contribute as much as possible to these organizations and in turn build the open-source reference implementations we contributed back into our products and therefore endorse the quality of the reference implementations we contributed. This strategy was the foundation of great partnerships with many consortia that lasts to this day and in many cases just keep getting better and better.
Eight years later and Microsoft has contributed over 4.6 million lines of code to the OPC Foundation and another 174 thousand lines of code to the Digital Twin Consortium, making us by far the largest contributor of open-source software to both organizations. The over 50 thousand lines of code we contributed to the recently launched UA Cloud Library is only a small but important part of that. Analysts all over the world are taking note of that, and it is a big reason they are putting us on top of everyone else time and time again when it comes to their magic quadrant publications.
Perhaps it is time for you to take note, too, and figure out for yourself what “open” really means to you.
Join us at Azure Open Source Day on February 15, 2021, to learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to Open Source.