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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.

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.

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.

About Protocol | Enterprise

‘It’s not OK’: Elastic takes aim at AWS, at the risk of major collateral damage

Elastic's long-running dispute with AWS entered a new chapter last week with big changes to two of its open-source projects. AWS now plans to take those projects under its wing.

"I don't know why this is surprising to people," Elastic CEO Shay Banon said in an interview with Protocol.

Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Fed up with what he sees as unfair competition from AWS, Elastic CEO Shay Banon felt he had no choice but to restrict the way third parties can use two important open-source projects developed by his company. Yet much of enterprise tech thinks he just threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Last Thursday, Elastic published a blog post — curiously titled "Doubling down on open, Part II" — announcing that Elasticsearch and Kibana, two widely used open-source projects in enterprise tech, would no longer be available under the permissive Apache 2.0 license. Instead, all subsequent releases to those projects will only be available under either a controversial new license known as the SSPL, or the Elastic License, both of which were designed to make it difficult for cloud companies to sell managed versions of the open-source projects they're applied to.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

The current state-of-the-art quantum computers are a tangle of wires. And that can't be the case in the future.

Photo: IBM Research

The iconic image of quantum computing is the "Google chandelier," with its hundreds of intricately arranged copper wires descending like the tendrils of a metallic jellyfish. It's a grand and impressive device, but in that tangle of wires lurks a big problem.

"If you're thinking about the long-term prospects of quantum computing, that image should be just terrifying," Jim Clarke, the director of quantum hardware at Intel, told Protocol.

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Dan Garisto
Dan Garisto is a freelance science journalist who specializes in the physical sciences, with an emphasis on particle physics. He has an undergraduate degree in physics and is based in New York.
Election 2020

Google says it’s fighting election lies, but its ads fund them

A new report finds that more than 1,600 brands, from Disney to Procter & Gamble, have advertisements running on sites that push pro-Trump conspiracy theories. The majority of those ads are served by Google.

Google is the most dominant player in programmatic advertising, but it has a spotty record enforcing rules for publishers.

Photo: Alex Tai/Getty Images

Shortly after November's presidential election, a story appeared on the website of far-right personality Charlie Kirk, claiming that 10,000 dead people had returned mail-in ballots in Michigan. But after publishing, a correction appeared at the top of the story, completely debunking the misleading headline, which remains, months later, unchanged.

"We are not aware of a single confirmed case showing that a ballot was actually cast on behalf of a deceased individual," the correction, which quoted Michigan election officials, read.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
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