"This sponsorship will enable the ASF to pay administrators and other support staff so that ASF developers can focus on writing great software," said Sam Ramji, senior director of Microsoft's platform strategy, in a blog post from the OSCON open source conference in Portland, Ore. Ramji did not disclose financial details, but the arrangement makes Microsoft a Platinum sponsor of Apache.
Apache officials welcomed the move, despite the group's sometimes rocky relationship with the world's biggest commercial software developer.
"We thank Microsoft for their generous sponsorship that goes towards supporting The Apache Software Foundation and the over 60 top level projects in use and development within the ASF," ASF chairman Jim Jagielski said in a statement.
Microsoft also pledged to make more of its own code available to open source developers.
"Microsoft is putting a wide range of protocols that were formerly in the Communications Protocol Program under the Open Specification Promise (OSP). This guarantees their freedom from any patent claims from Microsoft now or in the future, and includes both Microsoft-developed and industry-developed protocols," wrote Ramji.
In his blog post, Ramji added that the company is donating code to the open source community. "Microsoft is contributing a patch to ADOdb, a popular data access layer for PHP used by many applications," said Ramji. "The patch enables support for SQL Server through the new 'native driver for PHP' built by the SQL Server team. ADOdb is licensed under the LGPL and BSD. This is our first code contribution to PHP community projects but will not be the last."
By cooperating with open source developers, Microsoft may be hoping to ease pressure from U.S. and European regulators, who have charged the company with using monopolistic practices to protect its software franchise.
The European Commission, which already has imposed more than $1 billion in fines on Microsoft, earlier this year said it's eyeing the possibility that the company is still violating monopoly laws by failing to make its products interoperable with competitors' offerings and by illegally bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with the Windows operating system.