Open Source Stories: Ahmet, Azure Linux Engineer @ Microsoft

Courtesy of Ahmet Alp Balkan

Ahmet Alp Balkan, Software Engineer on the Azure Linux team at Microsoft, talks about Google Summer of Code, DockerCon Europe and meetups.

What do you do at Microsoft?
I work on the Azure Linux team as a software engineer and my job is to make various open source projects — primarily Docker — work well on Azure.

How did you start programming?
Like most people, I started with websites. Back then (I was 10 years old), I was using Microsoft FrontPage, which was a webpage editor that looked like Word. I was creating websites on there and, while editing, would go to the code tab to see how the code was being created. Later on, I wanted to try and make the website more dynamic. That’s when I started to look at classic ASP, then switched to PHP around high school. When I got to college, I learned a lot of programming languages and started to use them.

When did open source come into the picture?
I studied computer science during college, and during my second year, I became a Google Summer of Code student — that’s pretty much how I got into open source. My project was to get one of the Turkish Linux distros installable within Windows. That’s how I got started, and continued my involvement by doing my own open source projects, which I realized people actually cared about. Ever since then, I’ve been doing open source.

You started on open source at Microsoft pretty early on. How has the open source culture changed looking back?
I guess when I first started, the only things that were open sourced were the Azure SDKs. Beyond that, we had some other open source projects, but not a lot of people heard about them. The biggest open source movement was started by the .NET team. I would say those guys are the pioneers of open source at Microsoft. They led one of the most massive open source projects that Microsoft has done to date. So when that happened, everybody started to realize that we’re now going to do open source. That inspired many teams to consider open sourcing parts of their projects or at least start using more open source software. At the beginning it was kind of disorganized, it was interesting to see people doing open source just to give it a try. And that’s how it pretty much evolved over time.

[After .NET was open sourced] everybody started to realize that we’re now going to do open source. That inspired many teams to consider open sourcing parts of their projects or at least start using more open source software.

Let’s switch the topic to Docker. How did you get started?
I started contributing to Docker before I got to my current position on the Azure Linux team and later on, I realized that I could do what I was doing as a full-time job. That’s when I joined the Azure Linux team to just contribute to Docker. Now I’m working on additional open source projects.

You were known as the “Docker Guy at Microsoft” for quite some time. How did you get this title?
I think it began when I started creating a Docker image for ASP.NET. That was the first official image that Microsoft has ever done. It is still currently one of the most popular images on Docker Hub. The next thing I did was porting the Docker client to Windows. So every time you type the Docker command on Windows— that’s what I did. Through these contributions and more, I was a top contributor for a little over a quarter for Docker.

You also do a lot of Docker-related talks, especially at the Seattle Docker meetups. What are your most memorable talks?
I think my most memorable talk was from DockerCon Europe in Spain. That was the best. I think I did well because I was talking about my own project — I was really excited. It was a side project. It was also picked as the highest rated talk of the entire conference.

How would you describe the Docker community?
The Docker community is, essentially, a bunch of people that like to have fun. When I sent the first Windows pull request ever to Docker, people immediately started to send me Windows and Bill Gates-related jokes. It was very fun. The Seattle community in particular — they’re always eager to hear about new things. When I have a new project, I usually go to a meetup to show it to people and it’s always welcomed. Some language meetups set the bar too high, and you feel pressured to show something amazing. But at Docker meetups, you just need to teach them something they didn’t know before, and they’ll appreciate it. That’s how it works. The Docker community in general is very vibrant.

Some language meetups set the bar too high, and you feel pressured to show something amazing. But at Docker meetups, you just need to teach them something they didn’t know before, and they’ll appreciate it.

Quick Bytes
Favorite Coding Environment & Tools: Sublime Text and VI

Favorite Late-Night Coding Snack: S’mores at home

Favorite Swag: Docker scarf

Role Models: Burcu “Rakyll” Dogan

You can find Ahmet on Twitter and find him speaking at Docker Meetups in Seattle. His personal website is at: www.alp.im