CodePlex appoints technical director

Ex-Microsoft and open-source veteran Stephen Walli assumes the new post of CodePlex technical director

The CodePlex Foundation, the open-source projects initiative funded by Microsoft, has appointed a technical director, Stephen Walli.

Walli has worked for a number of open-source-based companies, including one that was purchased by Microsoft.

In this newly created position, Walli will manage the organization's galleries, which are groups of open-source projects organized around a common theme. The site currently hosts six projects.

"At a high level, I am responsible for the strategic direction of the foundation," Walli said. However, his first duty will be the more immediate task of ensuring the gallery managers and project leads have everything they need, in terms of services and recommended practices.

CodePlex Executive Director Paula Hunter said Walli's work experience fits well within CodePlex's mission to bridge the worlds of open-source software development and proprietary software companies.

Although software has often been shared, many software companies are still wary of open source despite its potential, he said.

"If you look at how products are built, a product is so much more than just the software. So there are lots of opportunities to take buckets of software, built in these collaborative environments, and build products out of them, or around them," he said, pointing to the many companies that Linux has created.

Walli said CodePlex is in the unique position to introduce the development communities to the commercial software companies, and vice-versa.

"There are lots of companies out there that haven't figured out how to best use open source in a commercial environment," Walli said. "And there are a lot of people in IT shops with projects they'd love to get out and build in a collaborative project, and they have no idea where to begin."

Microsoft founded CodePlex as an independent nonprofit last September, after a number of years of housing its open-source projects at a Web site using the CodePlex name.

At least one critic, standards lawyer Andrew Updegrove, has charged that the organization's board of directors is tipped too heavily in favor of Microsoft, which holds two of the five board seats.

According to Walli, two of the other non-Microsoft seats were filled in March, and he expects the third to be filled shortly. Microsoft provided the startup funding of US$1 million, though Hunter is looking for additional sponsors.

In February, the organization accepted its first non-Microsoft project.

Walli would not comment on his views of how Microsoft has handled open-source issues, though he has commented positively in the past about the potential value of Microsoft's Shared Source initiative.

On his blog, he has weighed in on a number of other pertinent issues revolving around the commercialization of open source, such as the ongoing debate of the value of offering open-source versions of commercial software.

Walli's open-source and business credentials appear to be in order: He has worked on numerous ISO POSIX working groups. Prior to joining CodePlex, he was a consultant, and before that he was the open-source development strategy vice president for web framework provider Optaros.

He also clocked time at Microsoft after the company in 1999 purchased Softway Systems, a company he co-founded that provided the means to run Unix code on Windows NT, through a subsystem called Interix.

"The Interix product juggled core Softway developed code, Microsoft licensed code, and a wealth of [open-source software] covered by a myriad of licenses," his online biography stated.

At Microsoft, he worked as an Interix product unit manager and, later, a business development manager for the Windows Platform team.

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