Microsoft search to be powered by open source

Microsoft for years has been warning the world not to use open-source software. Apparently, its Kumo search team didn't get the memo.

As The Register reports, Microsoft's new Kumo search technology is filled with open source and, in fact, the Kumo search team, formerly Powerset, "tr(ies) to use open-source software, if it is available."

In other words, open-source software appears to be the default choice for the Kumo team, not proprietary software. It looks like Microsoft's anti-open-source bubble really has burst.

Indeed, reading through the Powerset-turned-Microsoft-Kumo team's description of its approach reads like it was written by an open source-friendly IBM:

Instead of creating a proprietary copy of these pieces of infrastructure, Powerset decided instead to turn to Hadoop, a Lucene subproject that is a framework for running data-intensive applications on large clusters of commodity hardware...Unfortunately, there was no Hadoop equivalent to Google's BigTable storage engine.

Because we have benefited greatly by leveraging the available Hadoop technology, Powerset decided to give back to the community by developing an open-source analog to BigTable that is built on top of HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System). After all, we need to develop it, anyway, it isn't part of the Powerset "secret sauce," and we, in turn, could benefit from contributions from other members of the community.

Is this the future of Microsoft?

At least in the short term, the answer seems to be yes. Microsoft has been demonstrating that while it remains skittish about licensing its important software under an open-source license, it is very keen on consuming open-source software and embedding it into its proprietary products. JQuery's admission to the Visual Studio code base is just one example. wrote recently that Microsoft has lost its focus, with serious consequences. I think that this is true.

I also believe that Microsoft's fear-mongering around open source cost it years of productivity and quality gains that it could have been delivering to customers through open source. I hope that reign of ignorance is over.

Microsoft CEO Ballmer argues that Microsoft needs to be more disruptive in search, and open source is a way to start moving in that direction; prime rival Google embraces open source unreservedly.

For Microsoft's Kumo search, it certainly is moving in that direction. But when will we see Microsoft embrace open source for its core products? I'm not holding my breath.

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