I’ve been a little out of touch lately – crazy accounting project for school – but was able to carve out a little time to chat with the guys at Engine Yard who are doing some cool things with Ruby.Engine Yard employs Evan Phoenix, the founder of the Rubinius project. The project aims to deliver a virtual machine for Ruby and will be previewing Rails running on Rubinius at RailsConf 2008 later today.

According to Evan, Rubinius is an implementation of a Ruby platform, just like the standard Ruby interpreter, IronRuby, MacRuby, JRuby, or countless other implementations. What’s interesting is that since Ruby doesn’t really have a specification, it’s difficult to say that platform xyz is not a compatible implementation of a Ruby runtime. In response, Rubinius decided to create a test suite that could help standardize Ruby as a language across the growing number of VM implementations for Ruby. The test suite is available at RubSpec.org. According to Evan, many of the other implementations are using the test suite. I can see this leading to a formal standards body (a la the JCP, but without one vendor with overwhelming control) to guide the Ruby language. A standardization process would be good news for enterprise customers that want to reduce vendor lock-in.

As an aside, an interesting thing about the Rubinius project is that anyone can get commit access after submitting one patch. While the project is sponsored by Engine Yard, they don’t appear to be controlling commit access (ah, this would make Josh happy ;-). As a result, there are over 150 committers to Rubinius, some of whom are very active and others who have submitted only a few patches.

It’ll be interesting to watch the Ruby community mature and see if Rubinius’ truly open governance model will catch on with other early OSS projects (or rather, with the companies that back these projects).

I just read Mary Jo Foley’s post titled: “Ozzie: Open source a more disruptive competitor than Google”. In it, she quotes Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie as saying:

“Microsoft has built up a culture of crisis,” Ozzie told conference attendees.

Competitors like his former employer, Lotus, and now, Google, have spurred the company to make changes to its business to stay ahead, Ozzie said. But while Google is a “tremendously strong competitor,” Ozzie acknowledged, “open source was much more potentially disruptive” to Microsoft’s business. (He noted that, unlike Google, many open-source programmers aren’t beholden to shareholders.)

Open source a larger threat to Microsoft than Google? I’m not buying it. (I keep thinking about FJS’s comment on 3 good days for Microsoft.) I’m not even buying that OSS is a threat; it’s a huge opportunity (more on this in another post).

I am buying that Ozzie would make this statement in order to elevate the focus on OSS inside of Microsoft. As Ozzie states, “Microsoft has built up a culture of crisis”, so when your Chief Software Architect says xyz is worrisome in public, the internal implications are profound. Depending on the press that this (simple) statement from Ozzie gets, it would seem that the lives of Sam Ramji et al just got a little easier. As much as Sam et al work to convince the market that there is a role for Microsoft in the OSS world, the other part of their day is spent driving change internally. I think Sam’s team should buy Ray a few drinks for making this comment ;-).

I’ve always been of the opinion that the OSS community underestimates Microsoft too much. It seems that Microsoft isn’t making the same mistake (anymore). As Mary Jo states:

Ozzie said that competing with open source “made Microsoft a much stronger company.”

Fun times ahead.