Bonum Certa Men Certa

Speculation: Who or What is Walli? (Or “How Microsoft Invades FOSS”)

"Black Helicopters" caveat

A reader of this Web site, who sincerely wishes he is wrong on this one, has had some finds and thoughts to share about Microsoft's open source strategy. Here it goes. Judge for self and take it with a pinch of salt.




IT is a small world: From your blog to Eric Raymond's to S. Walli's to Andy Updegrove



I know this is focused more on Microsoft than on Novell, but I wanted to share my opinion and two interesting pieces of text I reached thanks to your Web site linking to the first stop in the way.

From one of your articles referring Eric S. Raymond story about how Microsoft tried to hire him, I searched for S. Walli, a former Microsoft employee with whom, at the time, Eric had an interview. Here is an inspiring excerpt from Eric where he explains the ultimate reason why Microsoft can't ever ever be trusted, and it is absolutely impossible that this company will ever change its behaviour:

"I had my serious, constructive converstation with Microsoft last year, when a midlevel exec named Steven Walli took me out to dinner at OSCON 2004 and asked, in so many words, “How can we not be evil?” And I told him — open up your file formats (including Word and multimedia), support open technical standards instead of sabotaging them, license your patents under royalty-free, paperwork-free terms.

I believe Steve Walli went back to his bosses and told them that truth. He is no longer with Microsoft, and what little he’ll say about it hints that they canned him for trying to change their culture.

This didn’t surprise me. Microsoft’s profit margins require a monopoly lock on the market; thus, they’re stuck with being predatory evil bastards. The moment they stop being predatory evil bastards, their stock price will tank and their options pyramid will crash and it will be all over.

That being the case, negotiation is pointless. Microsoft is not reformable. Jeering at offers like this is actually the most constructive thing we can do."

Sam Walli got the boot and he runs a blog where we can find some insights from a person who has been in both sides of the wall: He is at the same time an (ex)insider and an open source convert, and he even quotes Andy updegrove in the war Microsoft is waging for the ISO rubberstamp, so I think it is an interesting source wher to look for strategic insights


I found a most interesting and clarifiying comment from one of the readers of Walli's blog:

Personally I would have to think long and hard at what kind of IT future we want. One where MS controls everything, or one where developers and IT are free to innovate.

Make no mistake, MS has no love for Open Source, any more than it does for Linux. MS will offer empty platitudes to the Open Source administrators and developers who support MS with their efforts, while behind the scenes, they will only use Open Source as a means to prop up their fledging server business.

The two faces of MS will invariably show, as they always have. On the left side of the face, MS will claim victories of working well with Open Source. On the other side of the face, MS will be doing everything they can to destroy the OS movement. How? They will look at the Open Source solutions and attempt to find fault with the OS projects. They will start hiring the top Open Source talent to create MS proprietary equivalents or to create extensions that only run in a MS environment.

Those developers who take the MS deal, will be forced into a campaign through coercion and wild MS laced koolaid parties, to vociferiously refrain, "Open Source OK, but MS much better."

MS knows that they are in serious trouble, Vista is a show piece of why MS is so bloated and over managed, that they cannot even put out a competent OS that has been cooking for five years. MS is rapidly seeing Open Soruce taking over the Web. MS knows it cannot compete with Linux Servers in price, features, security, nor scalability. This is rapidly becoming so apparent, that even financial magazines are starting to see and report on this phenomenon. It will not be long until even the most ardent Microsoft devotee will have to acknowledge that E-Commerce does not run on Microsoft.

IIS is not king, Apache is. NET is not king, Java and PHP are. MS has been and still are losing the Internet/Intranet/Extranet battle. Yes there are some areas where MS is entrenched, but as more and more IT shops start trusting their Web based infrastructure to Open Source, it is only a matter of time till they start replacing the Exchange and Sharepoint servers for Open Source solutions. If Open Source is reliable and trustworthy enough to run their B2B, why would it not be trustworthy enough to run their email and File sharing needs?

Of course there are true developers and engineers at MS who really want to work with and on Open Source projects, They see really neat stuff being done in Open Source and are truist to their professions. These developers and engineers want to be in on the action. I am sure their employer actually feeds them the line that, "MS wants to do some real Open Source as well", and encourages them to take a look, but not leap.

In reality, MS is the same predatory company it has always been. The "Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish" philosophy of MS has not changed. It only has a new target.


IT is a small world: Part 2: Now in BLACK HELICOPTER MODE



***Warning: This is a BLACK HELICOPTER MODE PARANOID SPECULATION***

I just read in S. Walli's blog that this guy is coming to Spain and is jumping inside the advisory boards of some of the more promising Open Source projects in my country.

He spoke about some very interesting and promising projects based in Spain (where we have been traditionally handicapped by a culture of disregard for science, technology and innovation): BitRock/Bitnami, OpenBravo and EBox-Platform.

I am specially a fan of Ebox-Platform ( http://ebox-platform.com/ ), quite similar to SMEServer; it is a Debian GNU/Linux-Based full-featured perfect replacement for Windows Server, and I think of it as a direct threat to the SmallBusiness server Microsoft product. Any SME implementing this solution would be automagically free from Microsoft Lock-in, since it replaces Windows Server as file-server, replaces Exchange Server, ISA Server (it includes a firewall), etc and is costless. Moreover, it takes 10 minutes to install and configure.

I wonder why this solution is not better known. I also sent a letter to the developers suggesting them to release it under the GPLv3 in order to avoid patent threats (very much as I did with the developer of hmailserver), still no reply.

“Can it be that Microsoft is disseminating its "droids" (even if they present themselves as ex-Softies) as fifth-columnists in the companies they perceive a biggest threat to their closed business model?”What ringed my "Bad Karma Master Alarm" was this article about infiltrating Open Source through marketing and how well he knows the intricacies of this business.

And the way it praises and promotes Microsoft marketing campaign in order to gain brain share among open source developers and try to fight back the web going open standards and free software innfrastructure-based.

And he is also advertising the latest EclipseCon, where Microsoft has just infiltrated with Sam Ramji.

Can it be that Microsoft is disseminating its "droids" (even if they present themselves as ex-Softies) as fifth-columnists in the companies they perceive a biggest threat to their closed business model? Is Walli still working for the Borg?

I know I might sound a bit paranoid, and while I really look forward to see that Walli's intentions are honest and I really want to be wrong, it seemed quite a coincidence to me to see Walli reaching some of the most interesting projects in my country, which is not much reputed for innovation in IT, though we are seeing some very interesting developments related to GNU/Linux and Open Source as of late, e.g. www.linex.es and www.guadalinex.org. This latter one caused an emergency flight of Steve Ballmer to my country in order to avoid the regional government of Andalusia adopting it and ditching Windows (www.molinux.es).




Again, take this with a grain of salt. For context and further reading, consider this recent post about Microsoft infiltrating Eclipse. The many links there help draw a broader picture.

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