People who write code for a living have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft. Over the years the press has played up the hate (and the hype), but today I thought I would turn to one Microsoft software project which is generating genuine interest and kudos from some developers.
The product is Microsoft's free Web Platform Installer, now on version 2.0, which lets developers quickly install Microsoft's Internet Information Services and a boatload of free Web applications on top of IIS, including WordPress, Moodle, SugarCRM, and Acquia for Drupal. The fact that this Microsoft product is playing nice with open source software is remarkable in itself, but what has gotten developers particularly interested is the cloud potential. Blogger and developer Jorge Escobar yesterday said:
"I was blown away with the concept behind this application. Basically Windows has introduced point-and-click cloud computing for the masses and it's doing it in a way that resembles the iPhone application directory but for web applications.
I hate to say it but it's brilliant."
Not everyone who has seen the Web Platform Installer is so impressed, however. Last week, developer, author and podcaster Kevin Yank acknowledged that Web PI makes it "easy to set up IIS as a development environment for PHP which has been really painful in the past," but said he believed it is not getting much traction in the marketplace, where WAMP or LAMP installations are often preferred. He also said open-source developers are suspicious of anything Microsoft does, which would slow adoption.
But it's the cloud connection and the potential hooks to Azure -- Microsoft's soon-to-be-launched cloud computing platform -- that also come into play. More than a few developers commenting on a Hacker News thread that they were looking forward to Web PI applications being tied into Azure instances, even though someone identifying himself as working on the Azure platform made pains to note that the two products are "really quite distinct".
Nevertheless, the idea that Microsoft is simplifying and opening up its cloud-related offerings, and removing development obstacles and other potential barriers to entry (such as billing-related headaches) is enough to draw a lot of interest and maybe even turn the page on some of the bad feelings resulting from its bruising battles with the open-source community. In the months to come, the big question on many people's minds will be how Azure measures up in production environments, and how it works with both Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications.
Sources and research: news.ycombinator.com, SitePoint podcast #36, Microsoft.com, jungleg.com, sriramkrishnan.com, hanselman.com, kevinyank.com
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