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With Open Service Mesh, Microsoft takes direct aim at Google’s Istio

Microsoft's latest open-source project will be transferred to a foundation at the earliest opportunity — a developer-pleasing move Google avoided to retain control of its similar software.

Microsoft building

Microsoft's Open Service Mesh is a new open-source project designed to help companies manage the ever-increasing complexity of building applications in a modular way.

Photo: Courtesy of Microsoft

More than a year after declaring itself a neutral party in the emerging service-mesh arena, Microsoft will release its own open-source take on the technology Wednesday — while not-so-subtly tweaking its cloud rival Google in the process.

Microsoft's Open Service Mesh is a new open-source project designed to help companies manage the ever-increasing complexity of building applications in a modular way — a modern architectural concept known as microservices. It was designed as a "lighter-weight" version of Istio, the Google-backed project that addresses the same need, said Gabe Monroy, director of product management for Microsoft Azure.

That's not the only thing about Open Service Mesh that's different from Istio: Microsoft plans to transfer the project to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation as soon as possible, Monroy said. Google's back-and-forth regarding its governance plans for Istio has been a hot topic over the last year, as the company has sought to retain control of that project.

Modern software development moves fast. Developers are under immense pressure to ship code early and often, which not only allows companies to introduce new features at a steady clip, but also makes it possible to fix bugs and solve problems much faster than older cadences allowed.

Microservices are one method used to achieve that velocity while ensuring reliability. In contrast to a so-called "monolith," microservices allow developers to break applications down into lots of smaller parts that can be tweaked and updated without causing problems to unrelated parts of the application.

But the benefits of microservices are balanced by the complexity of managing all those separate parts and making sure traffic flows smoothly between them. Service meshes have emerged as a solution to that problem, and there are now several companies, including Google, HashiCorp, Buoyant and Solo.io, all jockeying for position to take advantage of the increasing popularity of microservices.

Last year Microsoft said it intended to be the Switzerland of service meshes, introducing a concept called the Service Mesh Interface that helped its customers use the service mesh of their choice on Azure. Yet Monroy said customers wanted a less-complex version of Istio — one that still worked with the container project Kubernetes and Envoy, another open-source project developed by Lyft that addresses a piece of the microservices puzzle, but was easier to use. So, Microsoft built one.

Assuming the Open Service Mesh is accepted by the CNCF, the subset of the Linux Foundation formed around Kubernetes in 2015, the organization would control the governance and trademark policies of several projects in this space, including Envoy and Linkerd (built by Buoyant).

At one point, Google told its Istio partners that it would transfer control of that project to the CNCF at some point, but surprised and angered those partners late last year when it reneged on that vow. Google has since pledged to transfer Istio's trademarks to a neutral holding company, but open-source and trademark experts are not exactly sure what to make of Google's new Open Usage Commons.

People

Why the stock market went crazy — and one way to fix it

Leif Abraham, the co-CEO of Public, joins the Source Code podcast to talk about what's happening with GameStop, how fintech companies should be helping investors, and what "finance social" looks like.

Public's app tries to make investing simpler. And a little less crazy.

Image: Public

Leif Abraham wants to be very clear that most of this week's GameStop-stock insanity was not happening on his investing platform. (Maybe a little was, but not much.) While Robinhood was climbing the app store charts this week and prices were going out of control, things were a little quieter on Public, where Abraham is co-CEO. And he thinks that's a good thing: He's trying to build a company, a product, and a community that are all focused on long-term goals rather than short-term gains.

At the same time, Abraham said on this week's Source Code podcast, what's happening with GameStop — and AMC and BlackBerry and Nokia and a host of other stocks juiced by retail investors — does signal a shift in how the stock market works. It's no longer the exclusive property of suspenders-wearing bankers and vest-wearing hedge fund bros. The "retail investor," as they're often called, is a force to be reckoned with.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Protocol | Enterprise

SAP unveiled a big sales promo. It's a bid to juice cloud customer numbers.

The move is the culmination of CEO Christian Klein's efforts to turn around the German software giant.

SAP unveiled "RISE with SAP" on Wednesday.

Image: SAP

SAP CEO Christian Klein is trying out a major sales gambit in his attempt to get more customers onboard the software giant's signature cloud platform.

A new offer unveiled on Wednesday called "RISE with SAP" bundles together several products, including the flagship S/4 HANA platform, under one contract with a flat cost, a promotion that the company is hoping will encourage more users to more quickly switch from the on-premise services that dominated the company's product line until the last few years.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Protocol | China

More women are joining China's tech elite, but 'Wolf Culture' isn't going away

It turns out getting rid of misogyny in Chinese tech isn't just a numbers game.

Chinese tech companies that claim to value female empowerment may act differently behind closed doors.

Photo: Qilai Shen/Getty Images

A woman we'll call Fan had heard about the men of Alibaba before she joined its high-profile affiliate about three years ago. Some of them were "greasy," she said, to use a Chinese term often describing middle-aged men with poor boundaries. Fan tells Protocol that lewd conversations were omnipresent at team meetings and private events, and even women would feel compelled to crack off-color jokes in front of the men. Some male supervisors treated younger female colleagues like personal assistants.

Within six months, despite the cachet the lucrative job carried, Fan wanted to quit.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a Reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

People

Google's union has big goals — and big roadblocks

Absence of dues, retaliation fears and small numbers could pose problems for the union's dream of collective bargaining, but Googlers are undeterred.

Recruiting union members beyond the early adopters has had its challenges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

When the Alphabet Workers Union launched with more than 200 Googlers at the beginning of the year, it saw a quick flood of new sign-ups, nearly quadrupling membership over a few weeks. But even with the more than 710 members it now represents, the union still stands for just a tiny fraction of Google's more than 200,000 North American employees and contractors. The broader Alphabet workforce could prove difficult to win over, which is a hurdle that could stand in the way of the group's long-term ambitions for substantive culture change and even collective bargaining.

The initial boom of interest from Googlers was thrilling for Alex Peterson, a software engineer and union spokesperson. "It's really reinvigorating what it means to actually be a community of Googlers, which is something that's been eroding over the past four or five years, or even longer."

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

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