A Microsoft PDC Surprise for Open Source Aficionados

PDC09Yesterday, the Ray Ozzie announced updates to Microsoft’s Cloud Services platform built on Windows Azure.  There were lots of significant announcements that covered everything from social media and to building rich applications by accessing government data sets.  The most surprising announcement caused me to reflect on a conversation at EDUCAUSE’09 with Josh Kim of Dartmouth and blogger for Inside Higher Ed.

Josh challenged me (Microsoft) to do something groundbreaking and daring.  Specifically, he said that Microsoft should provide a public hosted instance of Moodle for all of education.  This would help schools and universities get out of the business of implementing technology and move faster to using it for learning.  My response for Josh was simply, “that would be novel and different.”  The conversation did leave me with a lot of thoughts on how that would work in a practical way.

At this year’s PDC, Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic and creator of WordPress, joined Ray Ozzie on stage. WordPress is the leading blogging platform on the web (Disclosure: higherinnovation.com is hosted on WordPress, SQL, and IIS7).  At the PDC, Mullenweg demonstrated WordPress running with PHP and MySQL on Windows Azure.  The immediate benefit of WordPress on Windows Azure was the infinite scalability available to websites hosted on the platform.  The fact that Windows Azure supports these Open Source technologies give schools and universities a broad set of options when designing their cloud application strategy.

The WordPress announcement brings me back to Josh’s challenge with Moodle.  The underlying technologies for Moodle are similar to WordPress with PHP, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server.   The bottom line is nothing prevents Moodle from running at high-scale on Windows Azure.   An imaginative state university system could take their Moodle implementations to cloud scale without having to learn any new programming skills.  This creates an opportunity for an always-on learning course management system without the overhead of datacenter investments.

Now, let me be super clear.  Microsoft currently has no plans to host Moodle.  That’s a decision for the Moodle community to pursue with Microsoft. Microsoft does have the cloud infrastructure to give unparallel scale and availability to Moodle with Windows Azure.  I would love to hear your thoughts on Moodle powered by Windows Azure.

Visit www.microsoftpdc.com to learn more about other PDC announcements or www.windowsazure.com for more on Windows Azure.