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The Evolution Of Born-In-The-Cloud Solution Provider 10th Magnitude, Microsoft's Open-Source Partner Of The Year

As 10th Magnitude's Azure practice dramatically scaled over the years, it evolved in ways no one expected -- increasingly embracing expertise around open-source solutions and driving a game-changing transformation.

When 10th Magnitude opened the doors of its Chicago headquarters eight years ago, around the time Microsoft was launching its Azure cloud, Microsoft's ecosystem was considered the primary antagonist of the open- source movement.

But as 10th Magnitude's Azure practice dramatically scaled over the years, it evolved in ways no one expected -- the born-in-the-cloud solution provider increasingly embraced and developed expertise around open-source solutions, becoming a leading-edge partner in driving a game-changing transformation under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

"We went really deep in open-source technologies on the Microsoft platform," Jason Rook, 10th Magnitude's vice president of market development, told CRN.

Those efforts were recognized Thursday by Microsoft when it named 10th Magnitude its 2018 Microsoft Open Source Applications and Infrastructure on Azure Partner of the Year — the second year it has bestowed that accolade on a partner.

[Related: 8 Things Partners Need To Know About Microsoft's Acquisition Of GitHub]

Open tools and platforms likely will become more of a driver of success for 10th Magnitude and its peers due to Microsof't move this week to purchase GitHub, the leading repository of open-source code.

10th Magnitude first built a successful practice by shutting down traditional co-located and private data centers and moving their customers' infrastructure to the cloud — specifically Azure.

"In that motion, we found a lot of open-source systems," Rook told CRN.

Soon after its founding, 10th Magnitude developed expertise in delivering Platform-as-a-Service, the first component introduced on the nascent Azure cloud service. A lot of those early engagements involved helping developers get their applications running in the cloud.

That work led to rapid build-up of a DevOps practice, and an inflection point about four years ago.

"What we learned very quickly is the DevOps space is primarily driven by open-source solutions and open-source communities," Rook said. "That's how we ended up with this deep open-source skill set."

The firm first forged a "tight relationship" with Chef, pioneering the use of the popular infrastructure configuration management tool for Azure environments.

With more customers interested in open-source solutions, the solution provider's employee base changed. Rook said 10th Magnitude found itself increasingly hiring engineers from the open-source community, as opposed to "traditional Windows-centric folks."

Before long, about 80 percent of the Azure services 10th Magnitude was implementing were running on Linux.

Microsoft has said six in every 10 virtual machines on Azure run Linux, Rook said, and "we absolutely see that."

Partnerships followed with HashiCorp, leveraging its Terraform tool for defining data center infrastructure with code, and then around container technologies.

"So much of that work we were doing for customers was going to containers with Docker and Kubernetes," Rook said. "We're seeing that every day."

Now 10th Magnitude is working as much with open-source as it is in the Windows ecosystem, he said, and Microsoft has been supportive all the way.

Last year, 10th Magnitude won Microsoft's Hybrid Cloud and Infrastructure Platform Partner of the Year Award, an accolade recognizing delivery of value to enterprise customers through its data center technologies.

But the open-source award is particularly gratifying, according to Rook.

Customers using open tools, and underlying open-source operating systems, "are spinning the Azure consumption meter," he said, spending a tremendous amount with Microsoft for its cloud infrastructure.

A couple of years ago, 10th Magnitude started implementing GitHub, which had become "kind of the de facto repository for a lot of the work we do," he said.

Microsoft's planned $7.5 billion acquisition of the hosted code repository will solidify its gains with open-source developers by proving the software giant's commitment to supporting those technologies, Rook said.

Many customers evaluate Azure against Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services, and sometimes feel their use of open-source tools makes Microsoft's two rivals the safer choice, Rook said.

"What GitHub does is it sets Microsoft apart from AWS and Google and really establishes they're in the open-source space for the long haul," he told CRN.

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