Linux – the OS that keeps on giving

Most Linux users and supporters are well aware of the openness, collaboration and flexibility that mark the OS and its distributions, but we’ve received some more tangible gifts from the Linux community recently as we enjoy the holidays. We also see the OS continues to run strong in a variety of settings, and this is best-evidenced by the latest releases of the most popular distributions.

The first gift was more of a Halloween present with Canonical’s October release of Ubuntu 8.10. Highlights of the update to the popular desktop and server-striving Linux: new, easier 3G wireless network support, greater USB portability, new guest sessions and Gnome 2.24, which features new IM, multi-monitor, time tracking and other support. The 8.10 release, which focuses a bit more on performance improvements rather than polish, nonetheless should keep current Ubuntu users happy and continue to draw in others with its ease of use.

We also had a significant update from Red Hat and the Fedora community with the anticipated release of Fedora 10 in November, which also marked five years of this Linux distribution that serves as a desktop and server OS and also a community development OS for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. While it had some server and administration highlights centering on virtualization, remote management and security, Fedora also had some nice improvements for ordinary Linux users. Atop the list as a Linux-wide trend that may prove critical to winning desktop share, and this is Fedora’s faster boot up time. The Fedora 10 update also adresses some lingering audio issues in Linux with an ironed out PulseAudio. Fedora 10 also features an improved NetworkManager and updated Gnome and KDE desktop environments.

In the days leading up to the holidays, we received yet another Linux update in the form of the latest OpenSUSE 11.1, which serves similarly to Fedora as its own distribution and the foundation and testbed of Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise. OpenSUSE 11.1 is the first release developed with the new OpenSUSE Build Service 1.0 and under a simpler license with no EULA. It features a full range of updates and improvements: new Linux kernel for broader hardware support, including video cameras; Nomad remote desktop, new YaST system management and partitioner and — there’s a theme here — the latest Gnome and KDE versions.

Given all of the new and interesting features out there, I’m tempted to use some of my holiday free time to play with all three distributions. Even though I haven’t installed and tried all three yet, I think these latest Linux distributions demonstrate quite clearly that Linux is leading the way to the future of the OS.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2008.12.19

Topics for this podcast:

*Free Software Foundation sues Cisco
*Code-vetting business continues for Black Duck, Palamida and others
*Open source ERP player xTuple targets new verticals
*The outlook for open source enterprise applications in 2009

iTunes or direct download (27:52, 6.4 MB)

451 CAOS Links 2008.12.19

Red Hat increases its service levels. Linux Foundation appoints Ted Ts’o CTO. Sun delivers VirtualBox update. Novell cancels BrainShare. BBC enables iPlayer for Linux. And more.

Note: This is the last 451 CAOS Links post of 2008. We’ll be back with a bumper holiday special on January 2. Happy holidays!

Official announcements
Red Hat Increases Service Levels and Reduces Costs for Customers with Extended Update Support Red Hat

Linux Foundation Appoints Ted Ts’o to Position of Chief Technology Officer Linux Foundation

Sun Microsystems Extends Virtualization Leadership With New Open Source xVM VirtualBox Sun Microsystems

Novell BrainShare, a note from John Dragoon Novell

Advancements to openSUSE Linux Distribution Improves User Experience and Eases Community Contributions Novell

Sun Microsystems Leads International Consortium and Wins Grant for Research and Development Project on Technology Accessibility
Sun Microsystems
Adobe AIR 1.5 Now Available for Linux Adobe (Pdf)

BBC Unveils BBC iPlayer Desktop on Adobe AIR Adobe (Pdf)

Open Source Authentication Provider Offers Free Advanced Management Feature with Service Plan Likewise Software

Enomaly Appoints Enterprise Software Veteran Stephen Pollack to Its Board of Advisors Enomaly

Red Hat Announces availability of Hibernate Search 3.1 community project on Red Hat

ICEfaces Evolves Integration with NetBeans IDE and GlassFish Providing Migration Path for “Project Woodstock” JSF components

Digium Announces Sharp Rise in Asterisk Downloads in 2008 Digium

Sourcefire Announces EMEA Channel Expansion Sourcefire

CohesiveFT Partners With Virtual Iron to Automate Enterprise Deployment Virtual Iron

JumpBox Enables Open Source Web Application Deployment Without Hardware; Releases 38 JumpBox Virtual Appliances for Amazon EC2 JumpBox

JumpBox releases virtual appliances in Open Virtualization Format (OVF), further increasing deployment ease for VMware ESX JumpBox

XAware releases XAware 5.2 XAware

News articles
Adobe learns lessons of open-source Flex Gavin Clarke, The Register

What vendors really mean by ‘open source’ Mark Taylor, ZDnet UK/Sirius

Terracotta Doesn’t Want to Kill Your Database, Just Maim It Stacey Higginbotham , GigaOM

Neuros offer cash incentives to open-source LINK coders Chris Davies, SlashGear

What Oracle stands to gain from open source Matt Asay, Cnet

Announcing Percona XtraDB Storage Engine: a Drop-in Replacement for Standard InnoDB Vadim Tkachenko, Percona

My advice to the database division at Sun Lukas Smith

Scaling memcached at Facebook Paul Saab, Facebook

Facebook shows self-interest may trump licensing Savio Rodrigues, InfoWorld

Why We Don’t Have “Per Incident” Support Tarus Balog

Vudu Reveals Open-Source RIA Platform, But is it Enough to Survive Heavy Competition? Jose Fermoso, Wired

Free Software Foundation’s Richard Stallman Says Don’t Call It ‘Open Source’ Alexander Wolfe, InformationWeek
Just in case anyone needed reminding.

Open source in 2008 in pictures

I was thinking of writing a round-up of the key open source agenda items in 2008 but then I got distracted putting together some graphics, so – two birds with one stone – here’s open source in 2008 in pictures:

(Some of these I’ve already written about, some of them I’ll write about next year. Apologies for the headache-inducing colours on some of these, they are works in progress and brighter colours are easier to assemble.)

Open source is not a business model

What we talk about when we talk about community

The five ages of vendor-led open source revenue strategies

Open source as a strategic competitive weapon

Open source is not a panacea

“When it comes to a proprietary software vendor with a distressed business model taking
advantage of open source as a last-ditch effort to stay afloat, we do not see open source as a panacea.”

That statement was made in our third CAOS report Going Open, published in February 2007, but is significant today given recent headlines about new vendors engaging in open source.

Can open source save gaming companies?” asked Dana Blankenhorn this week after Cyan Worlds announced that it was making the code for the servers, client and tools for MystOnline available as an open source project.

Vudu Reveals Open-Source RIA Platform, But is it Enough to Survive Heavy Competition?” asked Jose Fermoso as streaming video hardware-maker Vudu reportedly released an open source RIA platform for its set-top box.

I don’t know enough about either company to declare their business models distressed with any authority, but Cyan Worlds has already detailed its ill-health, and Dana explains that “as with many past attempts to grasp open source the way a quicksand victim grasps a vine, Myst open source is an act of desperation”.

[UPDATE – As pointed out in the comments, the motivation behind open sourcing Myst is less about keeping Cyan Worlds alive and more about keeping the Myst Online community alive – UPDATE]

Meanwhile Chris Albrecht at newteevee details Vudu’s ongoing problems while Jose at Wired writes: “if all this sounds like a company desperately trying to stay relevant, you’re right”.

Which is not to say that open source plan will not help either company, as long as they are going open source for the right reasons. As noted in “Going Open”:

    “Why go open? This is an important question, and the answer should be crystal clear. This is not a decision that can be easily reneged on. Once the source code is publicly available, there is a commitment to a long-term focus on the open source approach. The open source community does not take kindly to vendors that are whimsical in their approach to open source. Set clear expectations about what is to be accomplished from such a move.”

Which is essentially the same message I echoed recently while noting how ‘why’ is the most important question open source vendors should ask themselves.

Will open source deliver the goods for Cyan Worlds and Vudu? Maybe. I’m inclined to repeat our advice from February 2007, however: “It’s unlikely that a distressed business model in the proprietary software world will have much of a chance to resurrect itself simply by releasing the code as open source.”

Will Cisco settle or battle?

While we have not heard much of a response from Cisco regarding the Free Software Foundation lawsuit over Cisco’s alleged lack of GNU General Public License and Lesser General Public License compliance, many are indicating there is likely a fight ahead. However, based on previous lawsuits and resulting settlements involving free and open source software proponents, including a suit and settlement with telco giant Verizon, I think the more likely result is some type of settlement this time around, too.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that Cisco opts to push back and cite its positive participation and contribution to open source software, but that seems like a bigger gamble than just getting into full compliance in the eyes of the FSF and its legal representatives at the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC). In contrast to most software copyright lawsuits, we do not see the same adversarial spirit around past SFLC suits, at least not the BusyBox GPL cases that have heightened awareness of GPL compliance and open source licenses in general. We may also be seeing a more aggressive stance from the FSF, which is separate from the SFLC, but may nevertheless be emboldened by SFLC’s BusyBox success and still seeking U.S. court precedent on the GPL.

Still, I believe the FSF will be consistent with what we’ve seen from the SFLC in the willingness to work with a vendor, even one that it has sued after warnings, so long as that vendor agrees to the terms of settlement, which have typically consisted of appointing an open source compliance officer, publishing and availability of code as required by open source licenses and undisclosed payments. The SFLC settlement with Verizon, which many people thought would simply drag out the case in typical legal process fashion, is a good example of how I see the Cisco matter playing out.

However, a settlement to the case will not necessarily settle the issue. Beyond the legalities, I think the key question is whether Cisco — as well as other vendors such as Google, Oracle and even Microsoft — not only participate and comply by the letter of open source licenses and accepted practices, but whether they actually believe in open source and the rewards of making the code open and available. I believe that issue will remain unsettled for Cisco and for many other vendors leveraging open source software for enterprise users.

451 CAOS Links 2008.12.16

Markus Rex returns to Novell’s Linux business unit. Red Hat’s second largest shareholder cuts its stake. The CEOs of Novell, Sonatype, Digium and Kaltura go on the record. Shaun Connolly joins SpringSource. And more.

Official announcements
Novell Announces Executive Appointments to Focus on Cross-Platform Solution Strategy and Growing Linux Business Novell

Palamida Finds Security Tops List of Concerns Inhibiting Broader Open Source Adoption Palamida

GigaSpaces Announces Extreme Scalability for MySQL Enterprise Customers GigaSpaces

OpenX Achieves Significant Growth Across Product Lines and Publisher Community / Software Serves 300 Billion Ad Impressions Monthly OpenX

SplendidCRM Software goes live with cost-effective Software-as-a-Service SplendidCRM

News articles
Legg Mason cuts stake in Red Hat Triangle Business Journal

Microsoft and Open Source: The Song Remains the Same Darryl K. Taft, eWeek

Novell’s CEO sees a new world of software Tom Harvey, Salt Lake Tribune

Energized by open source: Ditching closed apps spurred growth, utility says Thomas Hoffman, ComputerWorld

Speaking With Digium CEO Danny Windham Greg Galitzine,

Ron Yekutiel, Chairman and CEO of Kaltura TVWeek

Ingres Builds Open Source Stack With Red Hat Charles Babcock, InformationWeek

OU opens crack for open source Mark Ballard, The Inquirer

Open source adoption is often bottom-up, Ph.D study says Gijs Hillenius, OSOR.EU

Eurostat considers to publish more open source tools using EUPL Gijs Hillenius, OSOR.EU

Q&A: Mark de Visser, CEO of Sonatype Matt Asay, Cnet

SpringSource In My Step Shaun Connolly

Fundraising and Open Source Resilience Brian Gentile, JasperSoft

In a Time of Less, Do More with Open Source: Top 25 Open Source Projects That Will Help Trim Development Budgets Palamida

Can open source save gaming companies? Dana Blankenhorn, ZDNet

Herding cats for fun and profit: Four tips for working with online communities Joe Brockmeier, ZDnet

‘Myst Online’ to be released fully open-source Dave Rosenberg, Cnet

Building Vibrant Open Source Communities John Mark Walker
An updated version of a presentation given in March with Fabrizio Capobianco from Funambol.

Oracle outlines its open source “citizenship”

Back in October last year a corporate accountability group called As You Sow attempted to persuade Oracle to detail its commitment to open source by publishing an Open Source Social Responsibility Report.

Oracle resisted the proposal but did promise to share more details on its use of open source in the next version of its Oracle’s Commitment social responsibility report. I just noticed that the renamed Oracle Corporate Citizenship Report (Pdf) was recently published (in late November as far as I can make out) and does indeed include a section on Oracle’s commitment to open source.

In the section “Open Source and Accessibility” Oracle notes that “Open source is a software development approach that offers free access to a product’s source code. Open source permits individuals to adapt a product to their needs and release such modifications so the whole community can benefit.”

The report also lists the major open source projects to which it contributes, including Linux, Xen, PHP, Apache, Eclipse, SASH, Spring, Berkeley DB, and InnoDB but is light on details.

(As it happens The 451 Group has just recently published a report on Oracle’s open source strategy, so clients can join the dots by clicking here, while non-clients can request trial access).

Anyway, the publication of Oracle’s Corporate Citizenship Report reminded me of this suggestion from earlier in the year that corporate and social responsibility might be key to encouraging corporate contributions to open source.

Bradley Kuhn noted in June that the Software Freedom Law Center had received a call from “someone involved with one of the many socially responsible investment houses” who was thinking about “willingness to contribute to FLOSS” as a factor in social responsibility. (The SFLC’s site is down at the time of writing, here’s the cached version of Bradley’s post).

Clearly we are some way from open source being considered socially responsible outside the IT industry but interesting to see a company like Oracle including open source in its responsibility report. IBM mentions open source in its Corporate Responsibility Report (Pdf) while Sun Microsystems mentions it in its Corporate Social Responsibility Report but in both cases that is as much about validation of corporate strategy as it is about being seen to be socially responsible.

Oracle’s new report may say more about Oracle’s changing relationship with open source than it does about a more widespread view of open source as socially responsible, but given the current economic climate it is likely we will see more corporations talking up the use of open source as a tool to make more efficient use of resources.

Open source – the ultimate globalization tool

I’ve been hearing a lot from open source software vendors about internationalization and more specifically, localization of their software by, logically, local community members and contributors that take the code and run with it in Japanese, Russian, Spanish and a variety of other languages in places all over the globe.

I think there is a good degree of recognition that open source gives a project or organization an instant global reach given developers and users from anywhere in the world can get involved using the Internet. What may be less obvious is the trust that a project or organization can gain with a locale and community that is a world away, but is at the same time welcomed and empowered by the Internet and free and open source software. With open source, foreign communities are not limited to the code and licensing provided by the vendor, which if it is a U.S.-based vendor, will likely encounter skepticism or disdain. With open source, the code is available and those foreign communities are able to participate and to prove their market viability, which typically leads to further partnership and investment from the vendor.

One example is GroundWork, which recently saw a community form around its open source systems management and monitoring software in Japan. GroundWork is now working with partners Fujitsu and Praesentia to offer both its Community and supported Professional version software in Japan, complete with local UI, Japanese documentation, Japanese version of Nagios and local support. As we cover in a recent report, this is an increasingly common example of enterprise expansion through open source without any additional investment up front.

Movial, a Finnish mobile device development vendor focused on mobile Linux and open source, is an interesting example of a non-U.S. company that stresses the ability of open source to deliver international reach. Essentially, once you are open source, you are global by nature, as Movial sees it. Given the potential for developer and community participation from literally anywhere there is Internet access, as well as the increasing trend of vendor investment and involvement in those foreign communities and markets, it’s hard to argue against that. Movial also cites a cross-border trust that is inherent in open source, but often lacking in proprietary software.

Another good example of open source’s internationalization powers came out of a recent discussion with Fedora Project Leader Paul Frields, who highlighted the increasing number of languages and localities supported in the Linux distribution. Frields reported that while there were only two or three languages supported in Fedora Core 4 a few years ago, the latest Fedora 10 supports 16 languages. Further reinforcing that, Frields said the foreign ‘ambassador roles’ working to follow up on foreign participation is more than doubling every year and is now at about 600.

It’s clear that open source delivers significant advantages when considered from a global market perspective, but it is also worth noting that vendors may be able to shed negative image or national biases or resentments through open source software, something the proprietary model cannot easily match, particularly without significant investment.

451 CAOS Links 2008.12.12

FSF sues Cisco for GPL violations. JasperSoft and Lucid Imagination raise funding. Sun updates OpenSolaris. WaveMaker launches IDE for the cloud. And more.

Official announcements
Free Software Foundation Files Suit Against Cisco For GPL Violations Free Software Foundation

Jaspersoft Secures $12.5 Million in Venture Funding JasperSoft

Sound Investment Red Hat

Jaspersoft Announces New Community Edition of the World’s Most Widely Deployed Business Intelligence Software JasperSoft

HP Expands Easy-to-use Virtual Protection Tool, Desktop Linux Offering for Small Business Customers Hewlett-Packard

Sun Microsystems Launches Latest Version of OpenSolaris Sun Microsystems

Zmanda Partners With Sun to Launch Advanced Backup Solutions Based on OpenSolaris Zmanda

WaveMaker Announces First Open IDE for Cloud Computing WaveMaker

Alfresco and Joomla Deliver First Integration Based On CMIS Standard Alfresco

Google Web Toolkit and Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Middleware Enable Next Generation Web Application Development Red Hat

Open-Xchange Announces Four Additional SaaS Providers Open-Xchange

Ingres Database Achieves Certified Integration With SAP Netweaver Technology Platform Ingres

SpringSource Launches New Partner Program for Consultants and Developers SpringSource

GoldenGate and Ingres Extend Real-Time Capabilities for Open Source Customers to Achieve Business Continuity GoldenGate

OpenLogic Launches Training Services for Open Source Software OpenLogic

Jedox Announces Palo OLAP Server 3.0, Featuring New Multiprocessor Support for Even Greater Speed and Scalability Jedox

SFLC Works With LinuxDefenders to Address Software Patent Threats Software Freedom Law Center

Open Health Tools Announces New Open Source Project that Will Help Run Health Information Exchanges and Create Unique Identifiers for the Healthcare Industry Misys

Essentia Powers Open Solutions Alliance Community Portal With EssentiaESP Essentia

News articles
Sun shines after Dunn’s backing Richard Waters, Financial Times

Microsoft revising its attitude toward open source Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service

Lucid Imagination Raises First Round PE Hub

Sun takes another swing at cloud computing James Niccolai, IDG News Service

Funambol’s CEO sees AGPL as essential for FOSS in cloud computing’s future Bruce Byfield,

EU court to hear groups, vendors in Microsoft antitrust appeal Paul Meller, ComputerWorld

Saving on licences is a main advantage of open source, report says Gijs Hillenius, OSOR.EU

Is Cisco an open source leech? Savio Rodrigues, InfoWorld

Answering Savio: “Is Cisco an open source leech?” Dave Roberts

Whither open source in the land of leeches? Matt Asay, Cnet

Free Software Foundation Files Suit Against Cisco For GPL Violations Dave Roberts

WaveMaker Launches First Open-Source IDE for the Cloud Chris Keene, WaveMaker

Open Source Business Intelligence In an Economic Down-Turn James Dixon

Symbian vs. Android vs. Windows Mobile Fabrizio Capobianco, Funambol

Open Source Industry Expert Defends Decision to Join Microsoft Lisa Hoover, OStatic

Insubordinate or honest? What should Sun do about Monty? Joe Brockmeier, ZDnet

A Little Chat With Microsoft On Open Source Platform Strategy Serdar Yegulalp, InformationWeek

On the adoption of CPAL and the AGPLv3

In conversation with an open source vendor’s CEO the other day I was reminded that in 2007 there was a relatively large fuss about the creation/approval of two new open source licenses designed to close what was known as the ASP loophole.

It occurred to us that in hindsight perhaps the issues that drove that fuss had been overblown. Certainly a look at the adoption rates for the licenses in question suggests that they were not as essential as we were led to believe, although market momentum could change all that in years to come.

A bit of history:

The CPAL (Common Public Attribution License) was approved by the OSI in July 2007 while the AGPL (GNU Affero General Public License) v3 was published by the Free Software Foundation in November 2007 (and approved by the OSI in March this year).

These licenses were developed separately to deal with the loophole that allowed third parties to make use of open source software in Software-as-a-Service or hosted environments without attribution or triggering the distribution mechanism of the GNU GPL that requires modifications to be distributed under the same license.

The two licenses approached the problem from different perspectives. The FSF considered dealing with the loophole in the GPL itself but removed the provisions that would have done so in the third draft and instead decided to adopt and rewrite the existing Affero General Public License to address the issue separately.

The GNU AGPLv3 requires anyone that modifies the software and offers its for use “remotely through a computer network” to make the source code available to those users.

CPAL, created and submitted for approval by SocialText, was concerned more with attribution, although also borrowed terms from the Open Software License that make it clear that “external deployment” triggers the same conditions as distribution.

The Open Software License (OSL), incidentally, is a license created by Larry Rosen in 2005 and approved by the OSI in 2006 that, arguably, already closed the loophole that the AGPLv3 and CPAL were designed for.

History lesson over.

Given the importance that was placed on creating these licenses, we would have expected to see rapid take up by open source vendors during 2007/8. That hasn’t happened. In fact an executive from one vendor told me today that it seriously considered adopting the AGPLv3 but decided it ultimately wasn’t worth the hassle.

In our recent report Open Source is Not a Business Model, we looked at the licenses used by open source vendors today. Just three of the vendors that responded to our survey expressed a preference for using the AGPLv3 – Funambol, WaveMaker and KnowledgeTree – while the same number expressed a preference for using CPAL – SocialText, MuleSource and XTuple. Additionally two vendors were using the OSL – Concursive and SpikeSource.

A look at Black Duck’s Open Source Resource Center indicates that neither the AGPLv3 nor CPAL has made it into the list of the top 20 licenses, although it does indicate that 159 projects have adopted the AGPLv3 (Palamida’s latest count is 181).

Digging deeper into Black Duck’s figures reveals the projects that have migrated, most of which are small individual projects rather than larger vendor-backed products. Two names do standout, however, that indicate how the AGPLv3 could yet see wide adoption.

Cloud computing platform vendor 10gen has adopted the AGPLv3 for its Application Server, Mongo Database, and Grid Management System, while Enomaly chose the license for its Elastic Computing Platform.

Additionally, CPAL has also picked up some users outside the core open source software market. Reddit picked CPAL in June, just days after Facebook released its Open Platform under the license.

While adoption of AGPLv3 and CPAL has not been rapid, those examples point to the theory that the licenses will become more relevant as businesses increasingly make use of browser-based applications and cloud platforms.

Last month Bradley Kuhn argued that steady and measured adoption is better than vendors rushing in without thinking, while Fabrizio Capobianco this week explained how the community needs to adjust its thinking to address more promotion of the AGPLv3.

In fact, perhaps the lack of adoption is purely a branding problem. The “ASP loophole” is so last century. Call it the “cloud loophole” or the “social networking loophole” and vendors will be falling over themselves to close it. Of course I am being facetious. Or am I?

Cisco – open source leech or learning to share?

Savio Rodrigues and Dave Roberts have been engaged in an interesting discussion this week about Cisco and its approach to open source.

Savio responded to Dave’s criticism of Cisco’s approach to open source software, which recalled this post from Matt Asay in which he outlined the large amount of open source software used within Cisco’s ASA and PIX security appliances.

Dave’s criticism (and is should be noted that Dave is an executive at Vyatta, an open source competitor to Cisco) is not that Cisco is using open source software within proprietary products but that it is failing to pass on the benefits to its users, either in the form of cost reductions or access to the code.

Savio noted in his response (which raised the question of whether Cisco is a “leech”) that Cisco’s use of open source may have enabled it to focus its attention on other differentiating features, passing on a related benefit of the use of open source to its users.

Dave is unconvinced. In his response to Savio’s response he maintains that benefit is simply a matter of taking a buy versus build approach in which the cost of ‘buying’ the software is zero, and that Cisco is not passing any “open source benefits” to users.

It would appear from Dave’s earlier post that the open source benefits he would like to see are the ability to modify and fix the code if the user chooses to, as well as the ability to contribute to that code. He previously wrote:

    Specific questions I would ask myself about any company “using” open source:

    1. Did the company in question pass on the costs saved in development to me?
    2. Is the majority of the code open to me for modification if I want to, or is the open source wrapped up in so much proprietary code that it really isn’t standalone. In other words, it’s great that a company would use something like Apache as the web server in its products, but just getting the source code to Apache isn’t really interesting if the rest of the code in the product is otherwise closed.
    3. Can I fix bugs in the code myself?
    4. Will the company take back contributions from me so that I don’t have to keep fixing bugs in the code myself?
    5. Does the company contribute back in the form of patches, marketing, documentation, etc?

That’s the back story. There are two quick points I wanted to make.

The first is that, while Dave notes “if you’re complying with the appropriate license terms, I don’t have a problem with that”, if we assume (as Dave does) that Cisco is abiding by its obligations, then he is effectively asking Cisco to go beyond those obligations in passing on “open source benefits” to users.

Dave also noted that he sees business benefits in being more open, which brings me on to the second point. I wrote recently about the five stages of engagement in open source communities, as described by the Eclipse Foundation.

A reminder:

From Public photos

It would probably be fair to say that Cisco is currently at stage two (1, USE in the graphic) in this five stage process (“The vendor begins to make use of open source software internally as part of its ongoing research and development process, realizing that it can save money on non-differentiating code and improve interoperability”).

In my experience companies quite quickly see the benefit of moving from there to contribute to and then champion open source development, which would be likely to deliver the benefits Dave is looking for.

However, it is also my experience that vendors have to see and understand the benefits of doing so for themselves – they cannot be cajoled by criticism into being more open. Cisco is at least heading in the right direction. Labeling it a leech is not going to help.

Give Linux with no surprises

In other words, if you’re offering or giving a Linux-based computer this holiday season — whether you’re a big box retailer, online distributor, or Linux fanatic who wants to spread FOSS to family or friends — make sure you tell them it’s Linux. I know, I know. Why offer advice about Linux computers when no one is using them, right? Well, given that Linux represents roughly 30% of the millions of netbooks being sold, Linux is actually being used by consumers like never before. As we see in recent ads in newspapers, online and elsewhere, the word ‘Linux’ is actually appearing a lot more in public. This is a good thing, but there is a danger.

I hope that vendors selling consumer PCs and netbooks running Linux will prominently display and detail that: ‘This is a Linux-based computer, and this is an alternative operating system to Windows XP or Vista.’ When I page through the newspaper, once I slap myself in the face after seeing the ‘Linux Laptop’ EeePC on sale at Toys’R’Us, I am glad to see the word ‘Linux’ (also the same 8G storage as the Windows Laptop side-by-side for $30 less). However, I’m somewhat disappointed that a separate Dell newspaper insert does not mention Linux. The cool, little Inspiron Mini 9 is advertised with its features, but lists the operating system as: ‘Mini OS Powered by Ubuntu 8.04.’ No mention of Linux. Now of course most Linux folks know that Ubuntu is Linux, but most folks reading the Sunday paper don’t know what Ubuntu or Mini OS is. I, in fact, am not sure what Mini OS is? The point is, Dell should follow the lead from Toys’R’Us and go ahead and label the computer with Linux.

Many attribute reported high return rates for Linux netbooks — which have been refuted and likened to the rate for Windows-based machines — to the fact that people just assume they’re getting Windows and are surprised when they don’t. This is probably a sad truth and the lingering effect of Microsoft’s monopoly and good old fashioned user inertia. However, I think the netbook — which represents a different form factor and cost threshold for mobile computing — lends some advantages to Linux, which is constantly being pushed for greater performance, power savings and support. The competition, at least for now, is limited mostly to Windows XP, which is no longer being developed and will be increasingly less supported.

I’m not the only one who thinks sellers and distributors need to be open about the open source OS. Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth says it is critical to let users know they are getting Linux. Perhaps he and Canonical need to reach out and convey this to Dell as the two seek success for Ubuntu in the Mini. Andy Typaldos, CEO of Xandros, which is used in the popular Eee PC, says he thinks the biggest issue is average users assuming and expecting they get Windows with any computer they buy. This will change as a new generation of users — many of whom will be netbook buyers and recipients — enter the picture, but for now I think it is the reality.

However, Linux has enough advantages to stand on its own, whether it is the added memory, storage or other functionality manufacturers are able to add when they avoid OS licensing and use Linux, lower price or forward-looking support. If consumers are simply told this is a bit different, but it is part of this different device and experience, I think they’ll fare better with their new netbooks. If they think they are getting Windows, like a Linux user who goes back to Windows, they will be disappointed.

451 CAOS Links 2008.12.09

Linux Defenders formed to protect against patents. Sun adds new board members and officially announces MySQL 5.1. Microsoft releases open source content management system. Google’s secret OS? And more.

Official announcements
Open Invention Network and Partners Unveil Landmark ‘Linux Defenders’ Program to Give the Open Source Community Greater Freedom Open Invention Network

Sun Microsystems and Southeastern Asset Management Agree to Appoint New Independent Members to Sun’s Board of Directors Sun Microsystems

Sun Microsystems Releases MySQL 5.1 – Boosts Performance & Simplifies Management of Large-Scale Database Applications Sun Microsystems

Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board Elects New Members The Linux Foundation

Appcelerator Brings Web Applications to the Desktop with Titanium Appcelerator

Appcelerator Secures $4.1 Million in Series A Venture Funding Appcelerator
(NB – this funding deal was previously reported in July)

Adobe Collaborates with SpringSource for Enhanced Integration Between Flash and SpringSource Platforms SpringSource

SugarCRM Introduces New Cloud Services and Social Feeds SugarCRM

Talend Launches Talend Babili Community Translation Project Talend

Black Duck Software Busts Myths About Application Development Black Duck

Metaforic to Secure the Open Source LAMP Stack Metaforic

Virtual Iron growth outpaces server virtualization marketplace Virtual Iron

Open Source Visionary Larry Augustin Joins DotNetNuke Corp. Board of Directors DotNetNuke

GroundWork Improves Community Product Testing And Insight With BitRock Network Service GroundWork Open Source

Open Handset Alliance announces 14 new members Open Handset Alliance

FTF and gpl-violations release a guide to reporting and fixing licence violations Free Software Foundation Europe

News articles
Firms Aim to Ease Patent Risks for Linux Users Don Clark, Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Sun’s Mickos says he’s OK with MySQL co-founder’s 5.1 rant Chris Kanaracus, IDG

OS: Does That Mean Operating Systems, Open Source, or Both? Jonathan Erickson, Dr Dobb’s Journal

What’s Open About OpenSolaris? Jonathan Erickson, Dr Dobb’s Journal

Microsoft develops open-source content-management system Mary Jo Foley, ZDnet

Oxite: Just MIX and Serve Joe Wilcox, eWeek Microsoft Watch

Red Hat Invests In Open Source Business Intelligence The VAR Guy

What’s going on in MySQL land? Giuseppe Maxia

The cost of developing enterprise-only open source features Savio Rodrigues, InfoWorld

Destroying MySQL Kevin Burton

The New MySQL Landscape Jeremy Zawodny

Google’s secret operating system Matt Asay, Cnet

Pentaho Channel Chief Lars Nordwall Talks Open Source Business Intelligence The VAR Guy

Native Client: A Technology for Running Native Code on the Web Brad Chen, Google Code Blog

Balancing community and enterprise needs

When Monty Widenius published his criticisms of MySQL 5.1 recently a lot of the coverage that followed focused on his belief that the product had been made generally available too early and has too many serious bugs.

A solution to this problem would have been told hold 5.1 back even longer for more testing or, better still, not to have announced it as a release candidate so early. However, reading Monty’s post in full indicates that this would be a matter of treating the symptoms rather than finding a cure.

He also wrote: “the MySQL current development model doesn’t in practice allow the MySQL community to participate in the development of the MySQL server” and “I think it’s time to seriously review how the MySQL server is being developed and change the development model to be more like Drizzle and PostgreSQL where the community has a driving role in what gets done”.

From a wider open source perspective this is a much more interesting issue as it highlights one of the potential problems of the subscription model: managing the relationship between the unsupported community edition and the subscription-supported enterprise edition.

One of the issues MySQL faces is that when it announced the creation of the MySQL Community Server and the MySQL Enterprise Server in 2006 it decided that it would produce “more frequent binary releases of the MySQL Enterprise Server software than of the MySQL Community Server”.

On one hand this made sense in terms of focusing the attention on the needs of paying customers. However, it also contradicted the belief that “the users of MySQL Community Server expect early access to MySQL features under development”.

The model MySQL came up with is a lot like Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux/Fedora model where all new features are developed and tested in the Fedora project before being certified and tested a whole lot more before inclusion in the Enterprise Linux product – except in reverse.

A number of people have pointed out over the years that the MySQL development process is counterproductive (not least Jeremy Cole).

UPDATE – I should mention this post from Giuseppe Maxia which provides an alternative view of the development process for MySQL 5.1 and notes that “everyone agrees on the need for change, and we are working toward this goal” of opening up the development process – UPDATE

The issue raised its head again in April when MySQL began to talk about the potential of making some new features for MySQL available only to Enterprise subscribers. Marten Mickos admitted that it would have to hire more QA testing staff to test the code.

Marten responded to my concern about the potential cost of this model by pointing out that as the number of features was small it would not be a serious drain on resources.

However, as Monty’s post highlights (with all due respect to MySQL development and testing staff) the lack of community engagement can have a potential impact on quality, as well as cost.

This is by no means an issue that impact only MySQL – in fact it will impact any vendor that is involved with, or considering getting involved with, Open-Core Licensing strategies.

As Savio Rodrigues recently wrote:

    “It’s logical to assume that the enterprise-only features will not be of the same quality as the community code. This is because fewer users will touch these features and uncover bugs. However, vendors highlight “additional testing” as a benefit of their enterprise edition. So I could be convinced that the code quality will remain high. However, this form of testing results in higher costs to the OSS vendor. I’d argue that the development cost savings of the OSS business model are negated for enterprise-only features, if not for the enterprise-only product on whole.”

We noted the same thing in our recent CAOS report, Open Source is Not a Business Model:

    “Vendors using hybrid development and licensing models are potentially missing out on the benefits of open source development — including lower development costs and broadly tested code — but are balancing higher development and marketing costs with the ability to increase revenue-generation opportunities with commercially licensed software.”

The important point is that revenue generation opportunities, rather than revenue per se, are increased. An increase in revenue may follow, but only if the balance between enterprise and community licensing is the right one.

The same is true of vendor and community development. It is not a matter of one or the other, but identifying and maintaining the correct balance between the two is essential.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2008.12.05

Topics for this podcast:

* Open source getting, and going without VC investment
* Oracle contributions to Linux and open source
* Sun’s latest moves with MySQL database and version 5.1
* Linux in high-end computing

iTunes or direct download (25:50, 6.0 MB)

451 CAOS Links 2008.12.05

IBM picks Ubuntu for virtual desktop. Nokia acquires Symbian and prepares for open source. SourceForge gets a new CEO. Microsoft finds some old TCO numbers down the back of the couch. And more.

Official announcements
IBM and Business Partners Introduce a Linux-Based, Virtual Desktop IBM

Novell Reports Financial Results for Fourth Fiscal Quarter and Full Fiscal Year 2008 Novell

SourceForge Appoints Scott L. Kauffman President and Chief Executive Officer SourceForge

Nokia acquires Symbian Limited Symbian

Symbian Foundation moves closer to launch Symbian

Oracle Contributes Code to Linux Community, Teams with Emulex and Launches Early Adopter Program Oracle

Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 Reduces Cost with End User Management for Mixed IT Environments Novell

SpringSource Teams With VMware to Deliver Virtualization to Enterprises Using Spring SpringSource

db4objects, Inc. sells its object database business to Versant Corporation in order to focus on Servo, its ground-breaking user data management service Servo Software

Dimdim Exits Beta, Releases Source Code, Launches SynchroLive DimDim

Moonlight 1.0 BETA Makes Linux Users First Class Citizens for Digital Media Novell

Continuent Announces Support For MySQL 5.1 Continuent

MindTouch Introduces New Desktop Suite and New Converters for Mediawiki, Atlassian Confluence and IBM Lotus Notes MindTouch

iVenture Invests in Siruna Siruna

DotNetNuke Corporation Appoints New CEO DotNetNuke

Document Interoperability Initiative Demonstrates Momentum and Results Microsoft

Actuate Publishes 2008 Open Source Report Series; Detailed Country Reports Available for North America, Germany, France and UK Actuate

Save Up To 96% on ECM with an Open Source Stack Alfresco

Microsoft Gives Businesses Lower TCO Versus Hidden Costs of Open Source Microsoft

JBoss Enterprise Application Platform Expands to over 45 Certified Configurations Red Hat

InnoDB Plugin 1.0.2 for MySQL 5.1.30 (GA) Released Innobase (Oracle)

New Relic Announces Support for Ruby on Rails Release 2.2 New Relic

Songbird 1.0 is Here! Songbird

Dexton ASE Opens up to Open Source Community Dexton

News articles
Open-Source Developers Set Out Software Road Map for 2020 Peter Sayer,

Google: Open source lets us control our destiny Chris Duckett, Builder AU

Cloud computing to fuel open source explosion Nick Heath,

Zmanda’s Revenue and Subscriber Base Quadrupled in 2008 via Open Source Data Protection Solutions Jayashree Adkoli, TMCnet

Microsoft boosts OOXML compatibility David Mayer, ZDNet

Valley Girls: Mitchell Baker Maggie Shiels, BBC

China Internet cafes switching to Chinese OS The Associated Press

Microsoft disparages open-source TCO with year-old case study Mary Jo Foley, ZDNet

Saas, open source and “social media” at Gilbane 2008
Kathleen Reidy, The 451 Group

Ingres Paints a Rosy Picture Glyn Moody, ComputerWorld UK

Mapping open source into mobile: who, where and how Andreas Constantinou, Vision Mobile

Thank you to our friends Todd Barr, FiveRuns

SugarCRM Veteran Builds Pentaho’s Open Source Channel The VAR Guy

China: We’ll keep Red Flag flying here Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian

Tracing the evolution of open source in China Mike Rogoway, The Silicon Forest

The five stages of community open source engagement

I wrote recently that the “five ages of vendor-led open source revenue strategies” I’d come up with wasn’t suitable for vendors that build a business around community-led projects.

I recently met up with Ian Skerrett, director of marketing at the Eclipse Foundation and while we were chatting about community engagement, amongst other things, he showed me a graphic that demonstrates why engagement with an open source community has its own five-stage process.

From Public photos

Source: Ian Skerrett, Eclipse Foundation. Based on research done by Carleton University and Nortel. For more see this post.

The five-stage process matches with what we’ve been hearing from a number of vendors recently as we’ve examined their attitudes towards open source. Some are further along the process than others while others have skipped a stage (or more accurately completed a stage in private before publicly announcing their engagement with open source).

The five stages, as I would describe them, are as follows:

Stage one (O in Ian’s graphic)

Stage two (1 in Ian’s graphic)
The vendor begins to make use of open source software internally as part of its ongoing research and development process, realizing that it can save money on non-differentiating code and improve interoperability.

Stage three (2 in Ian’s graphic)
There is a realization that open source is a two-way street and that to get the most out of the software it is using the vendor needs to contribute back to the process, helping to improve the overall quality of the code and making further savings on not having to support forked code.

Stage four (3 in Ian’s graphic)
The vendor begins to champion specific projects, and the open source approach in general, as it begins to see the full value of collaborating with partners and competitors in the development process.

Stage five (the right side of the dotted line)
Up until now the process has been largely led by engineering. The realization of greater value pushes the vendor over a line to realize that open source engagement needs to be business-led, rather than engineering-led. It begins to engage in multiple projects and realizes the true business benefits of open source engagement.

That’s my take anyway. Ian will no doubt have more insight. One of the reasons this works so well is that you can think of a vendor engaged in community-led open source development and pretty easily plot them on this chart.

As Ian notes in the comments below, the chart can also be used to track the engagement in open source communities of enterprise users, as well as vendors.

Here’s an interesting experiment: where would you place Microsoft?

If it ain’t broke…

In was trying to avoid getting involved in the discussion surrounding Stuart Cohen’s article Open Source: The Model Is Broken in BusinessWeek, but I just can’t help myself. There has been a lot of negative reaction to the article, most of which, in my view, is wide of the mark.

Stuart’s article basically makes the point that the idea that open source vendors would overthrow the software industry establishment based on business strategies that rely on support and service revenue is wrong, but that open source development is a successful way for vendors to collaborate and reduce costs while improving the quality of underlying code.

This, to me, is not controversial. In fact, as Zack Urlocker points out, it is actually fairly obvious. It is essentially the underlying conclusion we came to with our recent report Open Source is Not a Business Model (mind you, I didn’t think the title of that report was controversial so maybe I can’t see the wood for the trees).

The important factor in understanding Stuart’s article, as Serdar Yegulalp points out, is to read the sub-head: “The open-source business model that relies solely on support and service revenue streams is failing to meet the expectations of investors.”

Apart from the unfortunate use of the word “model” where “strategy” would have been more appropriate, it is important to bear in mind that Stuart is writing from the perspective of investors, not developers. The article is in BusinessWeek after all, not OpenSourceWeek.

That explains why, in my opinion, his article does not contradict the Cost-Conscious Companies Turn to Open-Source Software and Open Source: A Silver Lining in the Economic Slump articles that make up the BusinessWeek special.

Open source software is being deployed by an increasing number of enterprise customers, as profiled in the first article, but that doesn’t mean they are doing so in enough numbers to provide substantial support and service revenue (of course that depends on how substantial your support revenue needs to be).

Meanwhile all of the vendors bar one mentioned in the second report (JasperSoft, Digium, Zenoss, MuleSource, SugarCRM) use some form of commercial licensing to generate revenue from open source software. The other is Red Hat, which comes as close as you can get to commercial licensing without crossing the line and is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule when it comes to open source business strategies.

While Stuart nods in that direction towards the end of his article it is unfortunate, as Zack notes, that he didn’t make the link between the failings of the support and service strategy and the successes seen by vendors using other strategies.

Since open source is not a business model, the business model cannot be broken. As a business strategy it is thriving, however. As Matt Asay notes:

“This is a marathon, not a sprint. We just need to stop thinking sprint in terms of open-source business models, and think more like longer-term plays like SaaS, Google-like data aggregation plays, etc. The money isn’t in support, and it’s arguably not in the software, either. Rather, it’s in the services that surround the software, some of which may be created from software, and some from people. But none of it looks like a pureplay support model, to Cohen’s point.”

Open source, VC and the long path

My CAOS colleague Matt Aslett wrote recently about how we expect to see an uptick in open source merger and acquisition activity given the current economic conditions and bargains for the larger, mostly proprietary players. Matt also discusses the difficulty of further VC funding, though we have seen some significant investment announcements, such as Open-Xchange, Infobright and others. Still, Matt is probably right that funding will be harder to come by for any company, open source or not.

I also continue to see a number of startup and younger open source vendors — would-be fundees — that are opting to hold off on venture funding and stick to building up business, customers and reputation. BitRock is chief among these vendors, which see some open source counterparts on the hook for tens of millions of investment, but with an exit path that has become overgrown with previous, strategic deals that valued open source as high as we have ever seen (e.g. Red Hat-JBoss, Citrix-XenSource, Sun-MySQL, Nokia-Trolltech). The fast path to acquisition is no longer as scenic or valuable, given valuations are now down to the floor. The option of the IPO is, well, not really an option right now. So companies such as BitRock, which was considering an A round earlier this year, are sticking to the angel-funded, bootstrapped startup route and a longer path to profitability and then, perhaps acquisition or going public.

Ohloh, the open source developer and project ranking and information company that provides a site for users and developers to communicate across open source projects, is another example. CEO Scott Collison reports the company, which is healthy, is now considering its best path forward, which may or may not include funding. Collison adds that he believes the only reason Ohloh can look ahead and consider an exit path is because it has been frugal and taken very little capital.

Another open source executive whose company is going ahead with further funding says the path, end game and funding boil down to the maturity and presence of the software, with established projects, communities and now vendors leveraging widespread use to present less risk to investors. The maturity matter is also something Matt discusses. I agree and think it is the newer companies still in the process of proving themselves and their products that are proceeding without funding, whether by choice or not.

Still, if doing without venture funding becomes more common for open source-based startups, it may limit the growth and revenue we see from open source. That, in turn, may make it even harder for those that do want or need VC investment to get it, particularly if they’re open source. Then again, it may just mean that while there is less investment funding to be had, there is also less investment funding sought, at least for now.