Larry Augustin Angel investor and advisor to early stage technology companies.
Jeff Waugh Passionate about the philosophy of Software Freedom and the business of Open Source.
Ismael Ghalimi Founder and CEO of Intalio, creator of BPMI.org and initiator of Office 2.0
Ivelin Ivanov Member of the JBoss core team as well as Director of Product Development.
Vinnie Mirchandani Founder of Deal Architect, former technology industry analyst (with Gartner), outsourcing executive (with PwC, now part of IBM) and entrepreneur (founder of sourcing advisory firm, Jetstream Group).
David Rossiter Runs an IT PR agency focused on helping companies communicate with IT industry analysts.
The conference is going to reflect Ubuntu's focus which right now isn't set on building out the ecosystem. Will it always be that way? Of course not. We'll have to wait until next year to gauge what it is at that point.
I don't know if I agree with Matt on the Yet another license argument. Open source companies and communities are obligated to do what's best for themselves. Plus, those who would be most confused by the proliferation of open source licenses most likely aren't even aware of their sheer numbers. Still, you have to admit, xTuple is a cool name.
By now the cat's out of the bag, the last Linux adoption barrier is marketing. Note: even if the article doesn't say it outright, I took their Linux references to mean desktop Linux, but whatever. I've pontificated about the state of affairs regarding marketing open source software community several times, as have others. However, in spite of this and other forms of dialogue and exchange, the innovation process has consistently stalled. And this fact seems, to me, counterintuitive if only for the simple reason that the same zeitgeist which has and continues to power the success of Linux and every other open source effort should affect marketing techniques. Yet, the self-sufficient grassroots foundation that made commercial-quality, community-developed software a reality has been anything but a buttress for marketing and advocacy.
What has occurred is an increase involvement of commercial business infrastructure which has brought with it significant marketing resources. And while this is good, I think the beauty of open source is that when you take good software created with an open development model, a great deal can be done without access to a marketing budget. Even if open source software doesn't sell itself, the fact that it's freely available, affords opportunities for introducing creatively constructed marketing that bends traditional rules. I'm no marketing guru, but then again I don't think you have to be in order to understand behavioral tendencies. When nothing is being hawked for a price, people tend to let their guards down and are more open to experimentation. Ever notice how many folks try taste samples in grocery stores? Would those numbers be similar if the samples were being sold? Of course not, people are more prone to take a risk when no direct costs are involved up front. The parallel to open source should be evident.
So where are the viral marketing campaigns put out by open source communities? Sure, P.R. connections are great, but when you're recruiting users it's not compulsory. The possibilities may not be endless but they are far more diverse than is reflected by contemporary efforts to explore them. We're literally swimming in platforms and tools (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) whose purpose it is to better connect us to those outside of our oftentimes insular virtual communities. Why not take advantage? Maybe I'm over thinking or being too analytical, but I think the area of marketing provides open source communities everywhere a standing offer to round individual capabilities as full fledged platforms. So if anyone has any thoughts on the subject I'm open to hearing what they might be.
Below are some notes I took during a briefing with OpenBravo earlier this month. Needless to say I was surprised at the progress made in terms of the company's revenue streams, product architecture and partner ecosystem. What I find most interesting about OpenBravo is the fact that it continues to seemingly slip under the radar of even those who are watching the open source Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) space [like myself]. Yet after taking the time to get an update on OpenBravo's history/current state, prospects and vision for the future I took home some positive indicators about the company.
Project founded in 2001.
Spin-off from local university.
The original version was to fashion a web-based ERP using open source.
Initial phases of the product development cycle were done entirely in-house.
Revenue in the early stages came from consulting/implementation duties.
ERP is the core of business information systems.
Attracted $6.4 million in the first round of the financing held in January 2006.
Published the source code on SourceForge later that year in April.
Has registered 200,000+ downloads
Experienced a name change to OpenBravo...
Client operations support
SMB's lack the resources of the Global 1000 but boast unique needs.
System Integrators (S.I. from now on) play a critical role in forging local connections
Considering adding a warranty stack if the current rates of growth keep up.
Solves business problems without all of the unnecessary bells & whistles.
Provides freedom from vendor-locking at a cost-effective price.
A quick picture of competitors and the size of the typical customer in their target market reveals:
SAP >> large
Microsoft >> mid-sized
Quickbooks >> low
Constructed atop a Model-View-Controller (MVC) and Model-Driven-Development (MDD) framework which are enabled by a metadata driven engine based on a 2002 version of the recently forked, Compiere. This currently takes up only 10% of the code base with significant improvements having been made to the borrowed component.
I just finished reading a rather well put together post detailing the misunderstandings of traditional media when it comes to open source. The points made in the piece were timely and for the most part accurate enough to resonate with my experiences (as an analyst) with various segments of the tech media and open source software industry. However, the reasons and motivation behind what might be termed as a pervasive state of misapprehension, is far more telling not only about the media but also the entire open source software industry. To me, it isn't simply the intrinsic realities of media or even journalism (both professional and grassroots) which prevent a larger majority from 'getting it.' Rather it is also the approach to outreach by the open source software community, in general, that is fueling this significant void in understanding.
Interestingly enough, the same dynamics which have helped propel open source into mainstream consciousness serve as impediments as it seeks to reach mass audiences through the media. The strong, open, inwardly-attuned communities which are fertile environments for the production of software assets don't do very much to encourage effective outreach. Amongst open source software communities, where word of mouth and demonstrated technical ability are critical elements of social capital, it remains a challenge to context switch into vis-a-vis mode where more formal methods of communication are required. Granted, there are a growing number of capable P.R. firms working as the
go-between, but are limited in terms of how much informative background it profits them to provide.
Ironically, I have also observed how the very low-barriers to participation have buoyed impressive growth, tends to commission more of a liberal, laissez-faire attitude towards those considered 'outsiders' such as the members of the tech media. For example, in a community-driven existence where participation is typically encouraged, there is a tacit assumption that those who want to find out more will be able and willing to take the personal initiative to understand through exertive exchange. However, such an assumption rarely holds for those more interested in a concise scoop as opposed to engaging in the extended learning/growth process.
As a general rule, the media in their normally assigned roles aren't around to determine the intensive depths of qualification, but to function as outlets for grounded and factual information. They're given neither the time nor charged with the duty of becoming exceptionally well-versed in each and every area they cover. Yet the reality of open source in its current evolutionary stage is that those who understand it best do so based on extended amounts of experiential knowledge. Resulting in a vast chasm between the average level of understanding within the boundaries of an open source ecosystem and those outside of it (i.e. the media), it takes a concerted effort to meet anywhere near half-way.
Part of the challenge related to reaching larger numbers of the tech media is working around the tendency to view open source as little more than cost-free proprietary software. When this happens the variances contained within the open source model which enable more cost-efficient software to be produced are ignored in favor of focusing only on the cost differences. The fact that open source is in fact a platform or that it offers more than just open access to source code but also a multitude of participatory avenues, is conveniently ignored or brushed into the shadows. I've always felt there is significant room to both conceptualize and express clearly what the open source model means to users, customers, partners, etc. I've raised an eyebrow at the motivations behind recent moves by the OSI but maybe it could step forward in this arena and consider producing media toolkits which address these topics and more? OSI-branded materials might go quite a ways towards establishing some compelling thought leadership.
I anticipate the increasing maturity of the open source software industry to foment the need for proactive outreach by its participants but also to capture an increasing share of the tech media's attention. And it's going to take both to bridge the gap in active cognizance, one which affects each side for the worse. Hopefully small steps forward to open up the dialogue will warrant progress in that direction.
The blogosphere, or at least the hemisphere which cares about such
things, has been busy producing references to the latest series of
events surrounding Sun Microsystems' Project Indiana, the binary distribution of the company's OpenSolaris operating system. For example, last week Enterprise Linux Log featured a story about the state of affairs at a recent NYC UNIX user group
in Manhattan where things didn't seem to go well. However, what I took
from news of the event, including commentary from those who attended
was entirely different from the way in which the article was seemingly
First of all, I think it's apropos to point out several facts which
should be kept in mind as the focus on OpenSolaris & Project Indiana
There is a tremendous amount of complexity involved with
establishing a successful open source operating system and building a
surrounding community. It's going to be a protracted process with a
significant degree of difficulty. The fact that the market for open
source operating systems has seen a great deal of expansion as of late
doesn't mean Sun will be able to overstep plain and simple natural laws
of open source software development. The proceeding months and years will resemble a battle, albeit one which can be won, but a battle nonetheless.
Making OpenSolaris more Linux-like doesn't necessarily entail undoing the Solaris value proposition. It makes little sense to create a pseudo-Linux distro (there's enough Linux available as it stands),
yet Linux's popularity and reasons for such can not and should not be
ignored. The fact of the matter is that changes to OpenSolaris are
inevitable, whether they alienate its core user base by crossing
becoming too Linux-esque has yet to be seen. Thus far there has only
been discussion and proposal. I see Sun attempting to make the Solaris experience friendlier to those whose comfort zone is with Linux, not as an abandonment of its base.
Open participation breeds discourse and disagreement...a fundamentally positive reality.
As has been proven before, lowered barriers to participation creates an
environment where people can and do speak. However, what is often said
shouldn't always be taken as gospel. Sometimes those closest to open
source technology (its users) can exhibit the type of blind fervor and
narrow-mindedness which prevents rational exchange from occurring.
While all forms of feedback should be encouraged, there is also room to
filter what is returned. At the least, the fact that the winds of discontent are blowing is a healthy indicator...it would be more concerning if things were silent.
Sun is still integrating the open source development model into its strategy.
Like any one person or group, Sun doesn't have all the answers. That's
why it's important for them to continue to turn to the Solaris
community, as the best course of action won't be made clear by circling
the wagons but by facilitating honest dialogue. In the meantime, there
will be a lion's share of conflict and divergence. The key will be how
well Sun integrates the governing realities of being a large,
for-profit corporation with those of successful open source software
As neither a Sun apologist nor a biased observer (they're not
Entiva Group clients for the record), hopefully the above will be taken carte
blanche. It would be quite a bit helpful to witness a more pragmatic
approach to analyzing the current status of OpenSolaris/Project Indiana
landscape. Partly because in the rush to categorize and pass judgement
it's impossible to maintain an objective mindset which powers the
formation of balanced viewpoints. Enough time hasn't passed to claim
The emergence of Linux on the desktop has spurred some interesting viewpoints about its current state and future. One, as expressed by Alexander Wolfe at InformationWeek, is a prime example of some of the fact-based misinterpretation surrounding the topic. So for the record, I found Mr. Wolfe's piece to be rather informative and well constructed, but felt that it neglected to mention the varied dynamics behind the apparent schisms within the diverse Linux development community. By failing to do so, the article came off slightly shallow and banal, doing more to comfort pre-conceived notions about Linux than actually inform and encourage original thought patterns.
There is nothing factually wrong with Mr. Wolfe's journalistic approach, only it lacks the appropriate perspective of the current state of Linux as determined by the evolutionary process that is the open source software movement. Is 359 a large number? Yes. Yet considering the ease of creating a new distro, this number must be balanced with a comprehensive view of things before qualifying it as an open source mess. The article makes mention of this fact, but fails to allow it to serve as a moderating reality. How and why should the fact that any given distribution is free to fall or rise in popularity, stop development/community activity or merge into another entity, etc. and have it count against open source as a whole?
Let's assume for a moment that the Linux kernel were a commercially licensed entity. Would the fact that a significantly smaller number of resulting Linux-based distributions would then be available, indicate success of some sort? Not necessarily. Likewise, the existence of 359+ distros doesn't qualify as an undeniable win-win. The figure should actually be viewed as a manifestation of the nature of the open source development model than anything else. Additionally, the argument that 359 is too much, is a purely subjective one that does little to portray any strength or weakness of consequence. Still opinion is opinion and it should stand as such, yet I wonder how many mistake Mr. Wolfe's for fact given his platform and reach...
Last week both Vinnie Mirchandani and Dana Blankenhorn commented on subjects related to the reach of and dynamics for technology channels. While Dana's post mentioned open source software directly and Vinnie's didn't, both cited points which are directly relevant to a key topic amongst the open source software marketplace: monetizing the channel ecosystem.
On a related note, I recently added my thoughts on a recent announcement from OrangeHRM which mentions some of the challenges that managing a rapidly expanding global product community can entail. Since there should be little doubt that community is a significant portion of the open source equation, the intersection of that community and the entire ecosystem is indeed notable. Accordingly, from the perspective of open source software companies, strategies for monetizing channel ecosystems have their fair share of reasons for being of paramount importance. Yet considering the nature of open source software (open development model, flat distribution process, etc.) the opportunity to establish new forms of revenue generation is very much promising. The point being, traditional forms of partner engagement tend to not scale well with the current realities of open source software.
Operating a successful commercial open source software operation requires maintaining the delicate balance between enabling the free user and flat out making money. It's a topic which has been kicked around more than once as it is, quite frankly, the essence of building a company whose business model is dependent on open source software. Yet the focus on the relationship between free user and revenue base tends to perpetuate a harmful generalization of the composition of open source communities, one which obfuscates their inherent diversity. The question of who exactly is a 'free user' remains to be answered with any authority. As a result, I've proposed methods for better quantifying and reaching what amounts to a rather nameless/faceless entity and I'm sure others have done the same, but there has yet to be much in the way of demonstrative progress.
Dana made the point that VARs remain the vehicle for entry into the Small Medium-sized Business (SMB) marketplace, a statement which undoubtedly rings true across the globe, and the sizable intersection between the open source value proposition and that market segment isn't a new phenomenon. However, what often goes unnoticed from a high-level, surface view is the continued growth of third parties (VAR's, S.I.'s) who participate as conduits for open source technology to the SMB market. A reality which benefits them quite well as conveyors of ready-made solutions to an often time and resource constrained crowd who finds itself increasingly dependent on IT. The fact that channel participants derive a tremendous amount of value from high-quality, freely available software assets is intuitive at the least, and is also precisely the reason commercial open source companies need to investigate how to extend this relationship.
More can be done for both sides by encouraging the growth of a different variety of relationships. Partner programs are a start, but they don't always reflect the diverse set of dynamics brought into the picture by the open source model. Dana made a reference to making sure to reach VARs and I agree, but what does that entail and how can doing so be made viable for all parties involved. Taking the time to hammer out commonly agreed upon implementation standards might be a decent first step, or encouraging the practice of giving back through shared ownership (as a risk mitigation technique) could be another. New programs, incentives and business relationships (none or all of which have to necessarily be free-of-charge) must be explored to find a proper balance between anonymous use and the duties of for-profit enterprise. In fact, integrating these relationships into the revenue picture for the commercial open source side will do nothing but boost its capacity to provide such at a high level. The result would be better suited options for interaction with open source software vendors for third party channel members and a potentially larger revenue base.
At the current moment, it is my opinion that the prevailing perspective held by the majority of the open source crowd about channel driven business, is one which holds the latter as very much appreciated in many regards, but still somewhat of a side-effect of the latter. As a result, the effort put into cultivating more innovative paradigms for channel participation has suffered. Ironically as more we witness more commercial presence within the open source marketplace it will become critical to evolve the perception of what a product ecosystem, a community and the aligned channel can mean to enabling stronger companies, technology and collaboration.
After a brief respite since Wednesday of last week, due to travel and quite an unexpected spike in my workload, I finally carved out time to squeeze out a blog entry. It's funny because I don't realize how wired to blog I am until I miss several days (something that's happened quite a bit over the past two months)...
Even though the article mentions talks of interoperability in the same breath as IP talk, yet in reality the two couldn't be further apart. Going forward, interoperability with open source will prove more compulsory than optional.
I had the opportunity to speak with some folks from Talend and those who have experience with Talend Open Studio, at JavaOne this year, and was impressed by the company's potential within a data integration space which is experiencing only the first stages of open source disruption.
Dave Dargo points out several noteworthy points in this piece and I agree with a great deal of it. However, I'm still of the opinion that proprietary software still has a place in the world, even if it's a largely marginal when compared to the preeminence it once enjoyed.
I got heads up about yesterday's announcement of the ICEfaces 1.6 release and thought it was interesting not just from a pure technology perspective (Ajax, Java EE, Web 2.0) but as a representation of the trend of what can be labeled organic integration. In this case, like others, there is a discernable overlap between the focus and direction of the technologies involved. Yet this isn't the only angle, what actually intrigues me most is the role that the open source development model plays in driving and enabling the integration both at a conceptual and technical level.
Open source is proving to be a common element capable of pulling ecosystems together into the kind of mutually beneficially, symbiotic relationships which can complement the strengths and weaknesses of each participant. If you look at what ICEfaces and JBoss Seam each gained from the integration, it shouldn't be that difficult to determine what one adds to the other. ICEfaces as an Ajax framework can't/doesn't exist as a standalone entity, it needs a runtime environment. On the other hand, JBoss Seam finds itself in the early stages of establishing itself as a Web 2.0 application framework that is as ready for general use as its application server cousin, and by embracing integration between ICEfaces 1.6.0 and its 1.2.1 GA release it is able to basically provide certification for an Ajax development environment without having to assemble one from scratch. From the press release:
"[T]he newest release of ICEsoft¹s flagship Ajax development environment. Among its other improvements, ICEfaces 1.6.0 offers complete integration with JBoss Seam 1.2.1 GA, ensuring fast, efficient creation of Web 2.0 applications featuring the benefits of Ajax and other next-generation Web technologies."
Is it a coincidence that both efforts happen to be open source? No. Are there notable commercial alternatives to both ICEfaces and JBoss Seam which could have been chosen by either side as a target for integration? Of course, but a key point is that it wouldn't have gone as smoothly with a proprietary component. Take a peek at the JBoss-Exadel partnership, where Exadel went open source (after having been fully closed) in order to better groove in the JBoss middleware solution stack.
So what is the meaning of organic integration? Basically, it can be defined as integration impelled from the bottom up, often happening as a result of real world application and/or use cases. Here, we have ICEfaces and Seam brought together based on the option to exchange/grow within a related sphere of influence, the need to fill gaps within individual offerings and made real through, and to the benefit of, the open source development model. No moneyed M&A, partnerships or otherwise had to be involved to get these two integrated. Only the actual execution with a focus on improving the prospects and opportunities for those involved was necessary.
The commercial enterprise's behind both ICEfaces and JBoss Seam (ICEsoft and Red Hat, respectively) are then able to extract value downstream from this organic integration in the same manner as they do with other aspects of the open source development model. So for companies who have hit their stride in terms of building a revenue stream based on this model, I see very little reason to neglect to consider doing the same.