Just Ask: Joyent Finds a Node.js Partner in Microsoft

NodeSummit, a two day conference in San Francisco, will discuss the transformative role Node.js is playing in both the future of computing and today’s deployed systems.  It’s coming up on the 24th & 25th of January.  As I anticipate this meeting of the minds, I’ve been searching out the experts. Last week I caught up with Jason Hoffman, CTO of Joyent,  to talk about Node’s strategy and technical impact. This post explores part of the node adoption strategy.

It might not be popular position to take, but perhaps the most strategic play that Node has been able to execute was the involvement and support of the Microsoft team. Microsoft is generally not seen as a key participant in the open source movement and so I was surprised to see that they have been deeply involved with and supporting Node.js. They have committed to providing a Node.js runtime on their Platform as a service (PaaS) offering, Azure. When I asked Hoffman about approaching Microsoft he reflected on the typical aversion of the open source community to working with the dominant player in operating systems. Perhaps Microsoft was open to collaborating with Joyent simply because they were approached as a partner rather than an adversary.

But how were they persuaded to roll up their sleeves are get to work with Joyent engineers?  “This was definitely an engineer to engineer conversation” Hoffman explaned. “We went to Microsoft saying ‘no one has ever done a good job of abstracting asynchonous I/O across unix and windows.’’ Clearly having such a tool would be beneficial to both platforms. Partnering with Microsoft is sure to dramatically extend Node’s reach to a much wider audience.

I got a kick of a related story Hoffman told me of his experience as a graduate student. He managed to get a position working in a lab run by a Nobel laureate. He soon became aware of the fact that he was only the second student ever to work in the lab and thought that must have been an indication of his own unique and special qualities. He was quickly corrected by his professor who revealed that Hoffman was only the second student to ever ask to work in the lab. Maybe it was this experience that led Joyent to reach out to Microsoft for collaboration on an open source platform.

The moral of this story, whether in graduate research positions, or strategic partnerships with billion dollar corporations is simply: ask. Look for a follow up post about the technical impacts and new design patterns being facilitated by Node.js.

Be sure to read the next Business article: How We Built a Google Calendar Undelete Tool in Four Days