Open source lives in polyglot programming

The prominence and pervasiveness of open source software in cloud computing is something I’ve researched and written about quite a bit. I’ve also discussed how open source software is a key component and catalyst for the devops trend that blends application development and deployment via IT operations. Now I’m seeing the same effect from open source software yet again in a disruptive trend: polyglot programming.

An upcoming report on polyglot programming by 451 Research will more deeply explore these drivers and impacts, including the role of open source software.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

WebOS and the open alternative live another day

There has been no shortage of reaction to HP’s move to make the Linux-based WebOS open source software. Below, I offer some of my thoughts on the meaning for the different players affected.

*What’s it mean for WebOS?
Moving WebOS to open source was best option for HP. It retains some value in the software depending on its involvement. It is also the best fate for the code, rather then being sold or simmered to its IP and patent value or even used as another weapon in the ongoing mobile software patent wars. Still, the move comes amid huge developer and consumer uncertainty for WebOS. Nevertheless, at least WebOS was already in the market with a compelling products, the Palm the Pre, in the modern smartphone market. WebOS will hopefully have a faster path to open source than Symbian since the former is based on Linux. I still think the greatest opportunity for WebOS may be in serving as an open alternative in the market, particularly after Android has proven to handset makers, wireless carriers, OEMs and others that a Linux-based, open source mobile OS can succeed in the market and provide profit for multiple parties. Furthering this opportunity, WebOS may be even more attractive to these key vendors, channel players and other stakeholders who are tired of the IP and patent stress and expense around Android. Of course, Android was not under patent or IP attack until it was successful in the market and the same may be the case for WebOS, though we think its IP roots and history in touch and smartphone technology are less complex in terms of origin and ownership.

*What’s it mean for competitors?
For Apple, an open source WebOS means more market pressure and open pressure, more competition for developers and a real danger WebOS hooks into the Android ecosystem. WebOS may also be harder to attack from a patent and IP standpoint since it is older and more singular in ownership (Palm and now HP). Other factors include HP’s own formidable patent portfolio and the perception of Apple as a patent aggressor, which would be reinforced if it attacked WebOS the way it has gone after Android.

For Android, it may finally get a dose of its own open medicine, feeling the pressure of another Linux-based, open source mobile OS that is familiar to many developers, compatible with newer smartphone technologies and appealing to handset makers and other key OEMs. However, WebOS is also a validation of Android, which paved the path for mobile Linux and open source to finally break through beyond geeks to reach a mass consumer audience.

As for other proprietary players such as Microsoft and RIM, another open source rival is bad news. It presents another open source option and potentially serious competition on developers, applications, devices, carriers and consumers. An open source WebOS may also make Android, in effect, more open with faster, easier access to code for both Android and WebOS compete. This could make it even harder for these older, proprietary players to get developer or consumer mind share that is already slipping.

*What’s it mean for open source? Really, there is no downside for open source except that it will be viewed as a form of software cemetery if WebOS is not developed or delivered to market. HP’s WebOS move does give open source greater prominence in mobile software. Again, it is a validation of Android, which is Linux-based and open source, and shows that we haven’t seen the last of mobile Linux and open source software in Android.

Our view on the Changing Linux Landscape is out

We are pleased to present our latest CAOS special report, ‘The Changing Linux Landscape.’ This latest in our series of long-format reports takes a more in depth look at the Linux server market and how cloud computing, competition and the confluence of application development and IT operations known as devops are all affecting it.

Basically, we still see commercial vendors Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) leading the market, but there are significant changes afoot, ushered in by cloud computing, wide use of other distributions such as Ubuntu, and continued use of unpaid community Linux such as CentOS and Debian. In addition, other distributions such Oracle Enterprise Linux continue to evolve and grow, as do the providers of Linux support, which now includes Microsoft. These additional competitors and choices, along with the new way of developing and deploying enterprise applications known as ‘devops,’ are all driving and disrupting the Linux server market.

This means challenges and opportunities – particularly in PaaS, which embodies devops practices – for both vendors and users. The report focuses on market dynamics with competitive analysis of leading Linux distributions, analysis of adoption drivers and hurdles, and customer case studies highlighting how Linux is put to work in today’s cloud computing environments.

PuppetConf and the state of devops

It’s been some time now that we’ve been talking about devops, the pushing together of application development and application deployment via IT operations, in the enterprise. To keep up to speed on the trend, 451 CAOS attended PuppetConf, a conference for the Puppet Labs community of IT administrators, developers and industry leaders around the open source Puppet server configuration and automation software. One thing that seems clear, given the talk about agile development and operations, cloud computing, business and culture, our definition of devops continues to be accurate.

Another consistent part of devops that also emerged at PuppetConf last week was the way it tends to introduce additional stakeholders beyond software developers and IT administrators. This might be the web or mobile folks, sales and CRM people, security professionals or others, but it is typically about applying business operations methodology to applications and IT, thus bringing in more of the business minds as well. The introduction of additional stakeholders was also a theme we heard from Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies in his keynote address. Kanies then discussed how the community was working to make Puppet the ‘language of operations,’ which it basically is along with competitors Chef from Opscode and CFEngine when it comes to devops implementations.

There was another interesting point on the PuppetConf stage from DTO Solutions co-founder and President Damon Edwards, who said devops should not be sold as a way to achieve cost savings, but rather as something that will bring return on investment (ROI). This is similar to the shift of open source software drivers we’ve seen in the enterprise, which are sometimes changing from cost savings and time to factors of performance, reliability and innovation.

Later in the conference during his keynote, Eucalyptus Systems CEO Marten Mickos also had some interesting observations concerning devops, which he described as managing the cloud from both sides. One of his points was that developers have the most to learn about operations. While I would agree to some extent, this statement is interesting when considered alongside my contention that most of the change in devops is happening on the IT administrator and operations side. Later in an interview, Mickos elaborated on his devops thinking, indicating the experts who orchestrate applications in cloud computing — both developers and admins — must understand the entire lifecycle and environment. Continuing our comparison of devops to open source, Mickos indicated the open source MySQL database that he helped usher into the enterprise was disrupting old technology, while devops is innovating new technology.

While it remains early days for devops in the case of many enterprise organizations, we continue to see and hear signs that devops practices, technologies, ideas and culture are making their way into more and more mainstream enterprise IT shops. While we expect devops practices to be implemented by many enterprises based on utility and need to leverage cloud computing, we see a higher level of awareness and engagement from leadership and executives than we did with open source software. This means we expect uptake of devops to happen more quickly and to generate more revenue and opportunity.

Big business better use open source

There was a recent skirmish about open source software in the enterprise regarding a contention that open source is not really used by big business, which was refuted, naturally, by open source vendors. Nevertheless, my experience among not only vendors, but also investors and particularly large enterprise end users, is that open source is typically atop the list of priorities, strategies and options. Granted, I’m an analyst working primarily covering open source software in the enterprise, but I have many conversations with non-open source companies, and the end users with which I speak are focused on open source among many other things.

I wrote about big companies using open source last year, and today I find that most companies, whatever vertical or industry, are leveraging open source software in one way or another, whether infrastructure software and operating systems such as Linux, middleware where we see Apache Tomcat and Red Hat JBoss going strong or applications, where every category has open source options, and most categories have paid, commercial open source options.

I am currently repeating a theme that I came up with when economic conditions were growing the use of open source, including paid use, mission-critical use, production use and, yes, big business use. The theme is this: a few years ago, enterprise organizations might say they were not using open source or did not want to use open source for this reason or that reason, and it was probably accepted as somewhat reasonable. Flash forward to today, and the commercial support and credibility of open source have evolved amid a drive toward open source alternatives from economic conditions. Thus, to say that an organization avoids or bans open source software today is tantamount to saying that organization does not save money, does not do things efficiently and is not progressive. There may be those who continue to believe that the use of open source is still relegated to geeky development or IT operations teams, or that it is limited to test and dev projects, but it has already made inroads into production. Whether the leadership of big business knows it or not may be another matter.

Apple gets its Android on

Another week, another Apple hype cycle, but what is most interesting about Apple’s recent unveiling of the new iPhone 4 was what came with it — iOS, which is being viewed as Apple’s platform play beyond just iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

What’s also interesting is that recently, we’ve been seeing Android hype actually keep pace with iPhone/iPad hype. We’ve been seeing Android command headlines, not only in smartphones, but also:

Android in tablets, where we are seeing the same type of reaction and strategy in response to iPad as we did from iPhone from a wide array of key vendors and groupings held together by Android.

As we anticipated in our report, Mobility Matters, Android in the enterprise, which also involves cloud connectivity and competition.

Android in automobiles, where we not only see a strong presence for embedded Linux, but we see additional evidence of smartphone players and strategy stretching out to cars and telematics and other devices in RIM’s acquisition of RTOS vendor QNX, which opened its code in response to the surge of Linux in the embedded OS space.

Android in TVs, where there are obvious synergies that fit into Google’s TV play, as well as broader in-home implications.

Android in other mobile devices and electronics as evidenced by the embedded Linux nonprofit Linaro, created by hardware heavies ARM, IBM, Samsung, ST-Ericcson and Texas Instruments to support Android, among other Linux-based software, with the latest system-on-chip (SoC) and device technology. Android has been a huge part of the consolidation we’ve seen in embedded Linux that includes Intel-Wind River, Cavium Networks-MontaVista, Mentor Graphics-Embedded Alley and RIM-QNX.

Android in toasters: OK, this was just an on-stage joke at the 451 Group Client Conference last November in Boston, but there may be some company or consortium working on it, so I’ll list it here toward the bottom.

But seriously, it will be interesting to see whether Apple’s advantage in closely connecting the hardware and software will turn into Android’s advantage in the flexibility to run on a wider variety of hardware and devices as competition broadens out beyond the smartphone.

Apple is now more formally aligning its different platforms and devices via the operating system, and this is something that has been happening with Android for at least a couple of years and with Linux for longer. There is no question Apple is finding success with its devices and market growth, but it is also interesting to see a more open alternative giving it real competition, not only in smartphones, but in many more facets of technology and our lives.

LinuxCare relaunch reveals cloud lift for Linux

LinuxCare, which recently relaunched a new cloud computing-based Linux services business, had represented frankly a lot of the Linux support business, promise and opportunity that never quite lived up to the hype and expectations. LinuxCare, which suffered from lack of leadership and execution, later became Levanta, and we eventually questioned its Linux-only approach in an enterprise IT world increasingly made up of mixed-OS deployments. Levanta shut down, along with some other missed systems management efforts, in 2008.

The lack of novelty and uniqueness about Linux continued, and as we saw with Linux World 2008, Linux had become so well ingrained in enterprise IT that it truly seemed nobody cared. Like Levanta, LinuxWorld is now gone.

So why would now be the right time for another go at Linux support business? I believe the answer lies in the same response I’ve been offering a number of users, vendors and clients: cloud computing. We began watching more closely the use of Linux, including unpaid community Linux, in cloud computing a couple of years ago with our report, The Rise of Community Linux. Last year, we continued to track the use of Linux, and again community Linux, in cloud computing as we were still hearing about the use of both paid versions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Suse Linux Enterprise Server, but also community versions such as CentOS, Debian, and Ubuntu, which is growing both its paid and unpaid use in cloud computing environments.

We’ve also seen cloud-specific versions and vendors, such as CloudLinux, which typically aim their cloud-tuned Linux software and support at specific verticals and industries. For CloudLinux, as well as for the major Linux vendors and others, that specific industry is hosting and other service providers moving to the clouds.

So a LinuxCare relaunch with with focus on supporting Linux for cloud computing infrastructure, applications and services makes some sense, and also highlights the continued business, benefits and opportunities of Linux as opposed to competing operating systems.

Where open source was, and where it is now

Over the years of my observation, coverage and participation in open source software, SourceForge (both the code repository site and the corporation) has typically served as one key barometer of where things stood. However, this began to change a couple of years ago, when I wrote about how the resources for finding, understanding, assessing open source software were growing. Today, we see that the bulk of open source software — both code and communities — have nothing close to a single home or destination. Today we see that the SourceForge destination has given way to Google Code, GitHub, Eclipse, Codeplex, Wazi, individual forges for projects and vendors and other places where open source software and its communities conduct their business.

So it makes sense that SourceForge the corporation — formerly OSTG, formerly OSDN, formerly VA Software, formerly VA Linux Systems, formerly VA Research — is yet again changing its name. This time, it’s going with Geeknet. While I was sort of scratching my head at first, this also makes sense given the company, whatever you call it, is now focused less on the code and community, but more on reaching a market, in this case, a market of geeks. This is the post-Ohloh company that is now perhaps accepting that its ThinkGeek e-commerce property holds more opportunity than a code hosting service. In fact, the strong ThinkGeek property and new Geeknet name may also be indicative of a realization and departure from community focus given key community figures were recently cut by the company. We’ve also seen a steady decline in prominence for Geeknet’s Slashdot and other media sites, accompanied by tough times for online advertising. Given where open source software is today, not only in the enterprise, but increasingly across industries, devices and markets, it seems it has become difficult to impossible to house it all under one roof.

So where is all of that open source code and community? If we look at recent findings from Black Duck Software, we see that the answer is, basically everywhere. In a survey of 175 customers using open source software over the last 18 months (a variety of customers and applications in mobile, digital media, social media, financial services and enterprise software), Black Duck found that each project contained an average 22% open source software (average size of 700MB of code). Black Duck also estimated that 22% of open source software saved $26m per product or application — an idea we’ll be discussing in depth in a coming CAOS report on the cost benefits of open source software.

Although the fragmentation of open source software repositories and hosts may seem to present some challenges in finding and understanding open source software, we actually believe that the diversity and competition are driving greater collaboration and communication among developers and greater visibility and granular information about projects and developers for users and customers of open source software.

The open pressure in the mobile game

This time last year, I was researching and writing our CAOS report, ‘Mobility Matters.’ At the time, we indicated that open source software was prevalent across all layers of the mobile software stack. We viewed Linux and its various mobile forms — Android, Moblin, Ubuntu Netbook Remix and others — as a weapon that OEMs would wield competitively, particularly as they responded to Apple and its deep iPhone disruption. However, we also noted that open source tends to be actually less open in the mobile world. Developments this week and ongoing indicate this continues to be the case.

We wrote last year about how openness was emerging as a significant factor, differentiator and disruptor in the mobile software market, with Apple enjoying success with its closed, controlled approached, but also getting pressure from more open plays, such as Google’s Android.

Now we see it is Android that is feeling the pressure. I believe new and different players, as well as venerable mobile vendors, all have tremendous opportunity around Linux and open source software in mobile and consumer devices. However, the more strings, NDAs, licenses and developer agreements they add, the more they close development, the process and applications, the more they curtail the opportunity.

We can understand and appreciate the need for carriers and handset makers to control certain aspects of how a mobile device behaves, communicates and interfaces with the user. However, on the other end of the line, where we have ISVs, software developers and other members of this market and community, real openness and transparency is critical. Here, the hooks and controls don’t make as much sense and, frankly, don’t cut it with developers.

While this is not the first time I’ve questioned Google’s approach and Matt has illustrated the problem with half-open, I do believe it is among the key stakeholders in the open mobile opportunity. Still, it is now being put to the test and will have to respond appropriately if it is to retain widespread respect among developers. And Google and Apple are not alone. Any vendor that is picking its fruit from the open source tree must be wary of the line between being open and not.

Open source and cloud computing – when Worlds collide

I recently attended Open Source World, concurrent with Cloud World in San Francisco and naturally, a good place to converse on and consider the intersection of open source and cloud computing and what it means for vendors, customers and the software. I found a general consistency among views on this, but did hear some surprising input as well. Below are some points and perspectives I heard while attending the conference, with some of our thoughts on those views included.

*While IT staff may be reluctant to let go of control (and embrace cloud computing), the fact of the matter is they can’t keep up with the business side of enterprise organizations and strategies. This continues to the case for many organizations that turn to both open source software and cloud computing as tools to allow them to keep pace. Interestingly, it seems open source software is more of an established pillar, with some trepidation around cloud computing, but familiarity and generally fondness for open source software. Open source does represent cost savings and flexibility, and when it intersects with cloud computing, this includes avoiding vendor lock-in.

*Since we’re always asking about how vendors and customers typically roll out cloud computing initiatives and infrastructures, I heard a lot of talk about the cloud computing customer process. Many vendors reinforced the idea that open source has paved the way to the cloud, a topic coverd here on the CAOS Theory blog by Matt. Consider Amazon’s use of the Xen open source hypervisor at the core of its EC2 cloud offerings as a prime example. We’re also hearing more and more about internal cloud use, public cloud use and hybrid scenarios where organizations look to their own, private resources first, then use Amazon, Google or other cloud options for higher scale and heavy lifting. Many organizations don’t want to compete with the initial, large cloud players as much as they want to emulate and leverage them. A lot of folks also referred to cloud computing and its potential to take virtualization beyond the hypervisor and beyond the server so that applications, databases and data are all abstract.

*I came to the conference thinking we’re not yet seeing much in the way of actual deployment of internal cloud infrastructures, based on previous vendor and customer conversations, but heard indications it may be more of a case of early adopters not wanting to disclose their cloud plans and architectures. This is a familiar theme in open source software, where early adopters and major users can often be shy about their use of open source software for competitive or other reasons. One vendor reported that 9 out of 10 customers are going ahead with some sort of internal cloud plans. We also heard about new cloud computing providers who are picking their customers, rather than pitching to whole swaths of customers.

*Cloud computing, similar to Linux and other open source software, is also clearly emerging as a major opportunity for hosters and service providers, as well as vendors that cater to them.

*We also heard that some large IT users, such as those in academia, are accustomed to using large cluster and high-performance IT infrastructures, so they are likely to be among the early customers and users. also experience in doing this among academia and newer, emerging companies (Canonical)

*It was not all cloud computing cheerleading at the conference, as one meeting revealed some concerns that cloud computing will not sufficiently meet the needs of high-performance computing (HPC) needs. However, there was quickly a response that HPC can fit with cloud computing as it does with grid computing, where a grid infrastructure can still use reinforcement from the cloud during spikes, for example.

*There was also an ongoing theme of mixed environments, and it seems the trend will continue in the clouds, where we expect to see proprietary and open source pieces used together frequently. Open source and proprietary software used to often be a choice of either/or, but with both increasingly deployed and supported together, the choices grow and the customer gains more control. We see advantages, such as licensing costs and flexibility, in open source software and truly open standards, but we also realize there are preferences and legacy ties for proprietary software as well.

As license issues swirl, a new CAOS report

There has been no shortage of lively discussion on open source software licenses with recent shifts in the top licenses, perspectives on the licenses or lack of them for networked, SaaS and cloud-based software, increased prominence of a Microsoft open source license and concern over the openness (or closedness, depending on your perspedtive) of the latest devices. Amid all of it, we’re pleased to present our latest long-form report, CAOS 12 – The Myth of Open Source License Proliferation.

In the report, we cover how the spread and structure of open source software licenses has indeed led to some proliferation, but rather than a bad thing for the enterprise, we believe the variety and abundance of open source licenses has enabled broader enterprise use of open source. Furthermore, there has been an evolutionary natural selection of the most popular open source licenses, with the GNU GPL family, BSD family, Artistic, Apache and MIT licenses dominating both open source software hosted on repository and open source software in use, according to vulnerability reporting and analysis from Airius Internet Solutions. Another key finding in CAOS 12: vendors such as Sun Microsystems and IBM are contributing to license consolidation, retiring open source licenses in Sun’s case and for IBM, superseding the Common Public License with the Eclipse Public License, which similar to the Mozilla Public License is growing in types of software and popularity, particularly given mixed licensing within open source.

The report also carries on the themes of increased open core models, whereby open source software and licensing is combined with commercial licensing, that we covered in CAOS Nine – Open Source is Not a Business Model, as we consider how the need to generate revenue and reward investors can impact decisions on open source licenses. The report also identifies where different open source software licenses are most prominent, both in terms of the layer of the enterprise software stack and types of environments, from mobile and embedded software to SaaS environments to cloud computing.

Despite some recent doubts about it, we see GPLv2 still widely popular beyond its most prominent projects Linux and MySQL, which nonetheless help bolster its significance. Still, it is a once favorite license that may be fading as it is being used less in new projects, which are opting instead for more modern terms and coverage from GPLv3, AGPLv3, CPAL or other open source licenses. There is no question that GPLv3, by contrast, is on the rise and despite its lack of addressing what is commonly known as the ASP or network or SaaS loophole in GPLv2, is generally viewed as more modern. However, there is still strong resistance to GPLv3, particularly outside of the U.S., where we see the European Union turning to its own EUPL for more appropriate language and license coverage. This puts EUPL on our CAOS 12 list of licenses to watch, and another interesting license that joins it there is AGPLv3, which we’ve covered on the CAOS Theory blog before. As covered in the report, while AGPLv3 has failed to gain the same level of support and traction as its cousin GPLv3, it is the open source license of choice among some interesting new cloud plays, such as 10gen and Enomaly, which we’ve also covered here. If a project or vendor can demonstrate some development, distribution or collaboration advantages from AGPLv3, we believe it could lead to a broad embrace of the license in the enterprise. We should point out, however, this has yet to occur and at present, AGPLv3 is often viewed as onerous, to the extent that Google does not support the license in its Project Hosting.

With implications for vendors, both open source and proprietary competitors, for investors and for end users and customers of enterprise open source software, CAOS 12 is also intended as a guide to which open source licenses are most popular and appropriate, and why, for the many enterprise uses of open source software, whether in development, infrastructure, middleware or applications. Looking ahead, we don’t see the most popular open source license list changing much, as vendors tend to stick with the one or two licenses that suit them and rarely change. However, there will be some interesting jockeying among those top dozen licenses. The emergent models of virtual appliances, SaaS, virtualized and cloud environments will certainly impact license decisions and direction, but things will most likely follow the evolutionary path that open source licenses have traveled thus far.

The incredible, expandable Linux netbook

My Acer A1 netbook that I purchased three months ago has already had four operating systems installed and run on it — it shipped with Windows XP, then it had Ubuntu Netbook Remix 8.04, then I upgraded to UNR 9.10, then I went back to UNR 8.04. Oh and I burned an image of Moblin OS onto USB and took that for a test drive, too. I’ve also used the Linpus OS that shipped on my wife’s Acer A1 and felt stunted and limited on both Linpus and Windows XP. So far, my preference is UNR 8.04.

While I installed and run the netbook version of Ubuntu, I typically always switch over to ‘Classic Desktop’ mode (under Preferences and Switch Desktop Mode in either UNR or desktop mode). This offers an environment that’s familiar to my desktop and notebook Ubuntu, and also, I believe, offers a more advanced experience, with multiple workspaces and, after some minor tweaking, access to more tools and applications.

While I’m still discouraged to see some recent developments, such as Eee netbook pioneer Asus turning more forcefully toward Windows, and I’m concerned about market maneuvering from Microsoft, I’m truly excited to hear that Ubuntu and Moblin, probably the best two operating environments I’ve used on my netbook, are coming together, along with other distributions, including Xandros and Red Flag. I’m also getting anxious to have an opportunity to try Android or at least some different applications. All of this software will run on my one netbook, and thanks to free and open source software distribution and licensing, I can make a set of USB keys to have for road trials, share with friends, family and acquaintances and spread. In the end, it seems Linux netbook distributions may start looking like Linux desktop distributions — numerous, tuneable, specialized and broadly supported in hardware and applications when popular.

While all netbooks and hardware may be capable of doing this, Microsoft’s software doesn’t really seem to fit the same way. I also look forward to trying Windows 7 on a netbook, but once I’ve tried it and used it, when can I expect something different — maybe an OS tuned specifically for 3G, or maybe one with practically zero onboard storage for purely Internet or cloud computing, how about a gaming netbook? With Linux the limits seem endless. This doesn’t seem as much the case with Windows, particularly Windows XP, for which the end has already come.

I’m guilty of getting XP netbooks, but I run Linux

I’m not sure whether folks are really hungering for more discussion or input on the Microsoft share of the netbook market, Linux share and potential, yada yada yada. However, I need to get this off of my chest. Back when I looked for and found, despite difficulty, the perfect Linux netbook for my wife, we were thrilled to open a box that was the first pre-installed Linux machine we ever purchased. Sure I have four or five other computers running various Linux distros, but those were all dual-boots, Windows wipe-offs or, as in the case of my original HP Linux notebook, a deceased Windows install. So yes, we were excited with pre-installed Linux.

However, the Acer Aspire One with Linpus Lite left something to be desired. After having written about the latest Fedora, I was disappointed in the experience from Linupus, based on a much older version of Fedora. It was far too simple and stymied, really. By the second day of ownership, my wife was clammoring for me to put on the Ubuntu, which she’s used on our numerous laptops that have the OS installed instead of or alongside Windows. We gave the Linpus a shot, but in the end we were far more anxious to try out Ubuntu on the netbook. I downloaded the Ubuntu Netbook Remix 8.04 image, copied it to a USB key and then fired it up on the A1. All of the hardware, including Webcam and wireless, worked without skipping a beat. The UNR interface, though, seemed still to be somewhat over-simplified, even for our in-house 9-year-old. Not to worry though, we switched with a click to the traditional, regular Ubuntu desktop environment and found it to perform quite well and offer much more in terms of flexibility, applications, workspaces and more.

Now to my WinXP mea-culpa. We were enjoying my wife’s netbook (notice WE when it was actually HER birthday present) so much, we were anxious to get additional machines for our daughter and for me. With prices still at around $200-$300, it seemed pretty doable, but we would have to wait awhile. Amid further frustration in finding Linux models available, I began contemplating the dreaded Microsoft tax, but also figured I should give Windows XP a try on these devices. When we were looking for an XP model for me, we found a good deal on another A1 with the larger, 16 GB solid-state hard drive (a requirement in my opinion). It was such a good deal, in fact, that we went ahead and ordered two. I kind of justified this by figuring it would at least maintain the generally agreed upon 30% Linux, 70% Windows share figures for the global netbook market.

The Windows XP netbooks, additional A1s based on our good experience, soon arrived. White for my daughter and coffee brown for me (I think I like hers better, but she won’t trade me now). They were just as shiny as the Linux version my wife had received months earlier, but there were a couple of things that were different. My wife’s Linux netbook came with a vinyl sleeve to cover the device when it was closed or packed. Mine did not. My wife’s 16GB netbook arrived with 16GB of internal, solid-state hard drive capacity. Even though it was advertised the same, mine came with 8GB internal, solid state capacity and an unused 8GB card in the netbook’s SD port. It’s worth noting that my daughter, a lifetime multi-OS user, had no interest in test-driving Windows XP, but instead wanted Ubuntu on her netbook ASAP.

I, however, wanted to test-drive XP on the A1. It started with some weird, ’90s video game music that was reminiscent of our WebTV device (it was still fun). I registered my WinXP netbook, declined the auto updates and waited for the software to install. Once it booted, WinXP on the A1 had a sluggish mouse. Unlike the Linpus or Ubuntu experiences, it came at me with options for camera, toolbar and search engine software as I tried to play around. The wireless worked out of the box, but I was somewhat taken aback by Explorer, which I hadn’t used in years. It was OK, but like the touch-pad mouse, seemed a little slow. The main differences were a faster boot with Linux, faster browsing with Firefox on Linux, and the ability to run the vanilla Ubuntu dekstop, which provided a far more sophisticated and satisfying computing experience than Windows XP. I commonly run a browser, email client, instant-messaging and office documents in multiple workspaces on my A1 with Ubuntu. This compared to the sluggishness of multiple Explorer tabs and the inability to have multiple workspaces in Windows XP.

So while I have indeed contributed to the official Microsoft share of the U.S. netbook market, I am on record here as saying all of my netbooks, including the two Windows XP ones I got for a total of $500, now run Linux. Thus, Linux has 100% market share here, even if the official statistics don’t have it right.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2009.03.20

Topics for this podcast:

*IBM-Sun rumors swirl with implications for open source
*Linux and open source rising up in the clouds
*Acquia adds to Drupal-based commercial offerings
*West Coast CAOS Tour

iTunes or direct download (28:21, 6.8 MB)

Linux and open source no puff in the clouds

UPDATED – I had to update this post after a conversation with RightScale founder and CTO Thorsten von Eicken and for Sun’s Open Cloud announcement, which are both now included below.

There has been some substantial technology and news regarding open source software in cloud computing lately. More proof that open source is reaching into nearly all aspects of enterprise and broader IT, and also reinforcement of the idea that open source software will continue to have a pervasive and disruptive impact on the way organizations of all shapes and sizes do their computing and deal with their data.

First up is RightScale, which as detailed by 451 colleague and Principal Analyst William Fellows, is up and running across the pond on Amazon’s EU EC2. As WiF reports, RightScale started with Red Hat Linux clone CentOS, but is seeing demand and traction among its users with Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux, which it recently began supporting in full. Our report also highlights Ubuntu packaging and integrated AWS-compatible Eucalyptus APIs. For its part, RightScale says its cloud infrastructure now includes cloud-ready ServerTemplates for Ubuntu — pre-built templates for common cloud configurations.

In my recent conversation with RightScale founder and CTO Thorsten von Eicken, he indicated as ISVs and others contemplate how to publish, sell, support and monetize applications in the cloud, they can benefit from the lessons and advantages of open source software. von Eicken and I agree that open source represents a different usage and payment model that is more conducive to cloud computing than traditional software licensing and payment models.

Next up is my own coverage of Cittio and its initiation of Project Zeppelin to create a standard, open agent and open source instrumentation for cloud monitoring. One of the most interesting aspects of Zeppelin is its intent to provide a standard way to compare clouds — both public ones from Amazon and others and internal deployments — and match applications to infrastructure by looking at discovery, monitoring, evaluation and auditing data. Monitoring of the clouds is also a place we see Hyperic, the most cloud-centric of the systems management and monitoring vendors centered on open source.

We’re also hearing a lot about the Apache Hadoop Project, most notably the new commercial play around it – Cloudera (covered recently in Matt’s latest CAOS Links and late last year in a blog). With Hadoop in use at places such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo! and recent $5m in funding from Accel Partners and others, the company certainly has some opportunity that is not pie in the sky. Indeed, Hadoop, which is also a focus for Cittio, and Cloudera are all further evidence of how real open source software is for cloud computing.

Although it may be getting lost in the noise around the potential IBM-Sun acquisition rumors, Sun Microsystems made a significant cloud announcement involving open source, as well. With its release of the Sun Cloud aimed at ‘developers, students and startups,’ Sun is relying on several open source components such as Java, MySQL, OpenSolaris and Open Storage.

So while many Linux and open source fans and followers have, unfortunately, grown used to hearing about Linux in this or open source in that when it turns out to be just for the buzz and attention created by those key words, Linux and open source in the clouds is more than mere mist.

Open Solutions Alliance – not off-course for open source

As chance would have it, just after briefing with new Open Solutions Alliance President Anthony Gold, who also serves as VP and general manager of open source business at Unisys, I read a fairly critical blog about Gold and the OSA from Glyn Moody. I believe that Moody raises some valid points and offers Gold the opportunity to clarify the OSA’s dedication to truly open standards and openness in enterprise software later in the comments. However, I must disagree that the talk of including proprietary players in the work of making open source software more integrated and acceptable in the enterprise is something new or attributable to Gold. In fact, it was at OSCON 2007 when I talked with former Jaspersoft CTO and then OSA spokesman Barry Klawans about the changing direction of open source, much of which involved more effectively getting into the enterprise alongside and working with preponderant, proprietary software.

While I wanted to point out that I was hearing about this direction from the OSA long ago, I don’t fault Moody for questioning what this increased involvement and influence from proprietary players will mean for open source software. Still (and much of this may be attributable to the pure mention of Microsoft), I don’t think the OSA is straying from its mission of making sure the enterprise open source coals stay hot by looking to integrate with proprietary software.

Another example of where we may see more of a ‘proprietary’ or traditional influence on open source: (as brought to us by 451 CAOS colleague Matt Aslett), the new U.S. President Barack Obama administration’s request for perspective on government use of open source and its advantage from Sun co-founder and former CEO Scott McNealy. It seems some FOSS supporters would prefer Uncle Sam turn to a more pure open source executive than the prior head of the formerly more proprietary Sun Microsystems. However, it does make some sense to seek counsel from someone such as McNealy on adopting open source from a legacy and history of more traditional, proprietary software adoption, which exists in government. Similarly, Anthony Gold and Unisys have a unique perspective on what customers are asking for: open source, proprietary, both or other. It’s also worth noting here that in its member predictions for 2009, OSA executives highlight the impact and opportunities of a new U.S. administration and its incorporation of open source thinking.

During my discussion with the OSA, we talked about the changing motivations driving enterprise organizations to use open source software at all levels of their IT. While cost certainly remains a huge draw from customers, particularly in current conditions, we’ve seen other considerations high on the list of customers: interoperability with existing, legacy, often proprietary software and continuity of support; access to a community of experts; and the ability to combine open source tools. All of these are pertinent to open source vendors, including OSA members and the organization as a whole. While there is certainly opportunity in making open source software tools work well together, there is equal, if not more opportunity in making open source software tools work well with existing, proprietary tools.

A few years ago, this was typically an immense challenge for open source vendors since proprietary vendors were hardly receptive to such interoperability. Things are different today, however, and as Gold confirmed and as evident by greater interoperability among different operating systems, systems management software and applications, proprietary vendors are increasingly seeing the open source light and seeing the benefit of supporting open source components: it brings in customers.

Moody and others that sound the signals of caution and concern have good reason to do so and we do need to ensure that open standards are truly open, but again, the fact is that there is more opportunity than risk in making open source software work with whatever currently sits in enterprise IT shops, much of it proprietary.

Will mobile open source learn from closed?

I’ve been talking to mobile OS, mobile middleware and mobile application vendors over the last few weeks as part of my research for another CAOS special report on open source in the mobile market. At the same time, the news has been full of headlines about the first Google Android phone, the outlook for an open-sourced Symbian and of course, Apple’s iPhone.

The timing seems interesting to me, as Google attempts to leverage a mobile Linux OS and open source to garner its usual developer strength, and Apple works to control its mobile OS and the applications that may or may not run on it.

No question Android is aimed primarily at extending Google’s own applications to mobile devices. I’ve also covered some of the issues with Google’s Chrome browser and overall open source strategy. However, compared to Apple, which has increasingly been the focus of skepticism from FOSS supporters, Google seems to be much more open, both in the sense of code and to the idea of third-party development. Google and Android are also getting some help from members of the Open Handset Alliance (HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and others). Despite a previous lack of mobile operator on board, T-Mobile has of course stepped up to sell services for the first Android phone, HTC’s G1. Google’s partnership with Amazon for Android support in its music store and a more open Android Market are also significant for Apple and the market.

If Google and OHA are not learning from Apple’s moves, both good and bad, there are others who may be able to take advantage of a more open approach. In fact, the two with perhaps the most to learn, Nokia’s open sourced Symbian and the larger LiMO consortium, are most likely to compete with one another given their strength and presence in markets outside of North America — mainly Asia and Europe. Interesting developments here include the recent inclusion of Open Kernel Labs and its embedded hypervisor technology in the Symbian Partner Network. As for LiMO, the mobile Linux consortium that includes membership from a number of hardware, software and mobile operator players, just announced a Panasonic phone that is the 23rd LiMO-compliant handset in the market.

Can Dell and Vodafone play leapfrog with Linux?

The technology and buzz keep on coming in the netbook space, which consists of lower-cost, smaller-size notebook computers (many of them Linux-based) that are as much like a smartphone as they are like a PC. One of the most exciting develoments this week was Dell’s introduction of its first line of netbooks to come with both WindowsXP and Ubuntu Linux. What was even more exciting was to hear that Dell is working with Vodafone to offer its new netbooks in a broadband wireless package, which is perhaps the most compelling application of the smaller, more mobile netbooks.

Hopefully, Dell, a mainstream OEM leader when it comes to Linux, will not follow Google’s Chrome and offer the 3G only for the XP version. If they truly want to jump ahead and stand out from the netbook crowd that has gathered, they should push the technology, add the 3G and keep the Linux.

Linux certainly has cost advantages for netbook manufucturers, which typically pass savings or technical bonuses on to consumers. There’s also a real possibility that Linux will have an advantage when it comes to adding applications. After all, if you pay $350 for a computer, do you really want to spend $100 or $50 or even $25 on applications for it? With Linux, users will have the ability to browse, add and, equally importantly, remove applications as they wish. Try that with XP. Some vendors, including Xandros, also see an opportunity in providing the applications and content that go along with netbooks, at least ones that are running Linux.

Sun full of open source and skepticism

Sun continues to take a performance pounding, and the rumors of replacements, layoffs and revamps are beyond swirling and now perpetuating skepticism of the company. It strikes me as odd that Sun, which has embraced open source and is also the defacto leading corporate open source software contributor, is continually dogged by doubts about its transitions and tenures despite well-respected technology and participation in open source. Part of this lies in the company’s continuing dichotomy in strategy — a reference to tepid support for Linux and continued preference for and focus on Solaris. This is a large part of Sun’s ‘handicap,’ IMHO when it comes to Linux and open source. Sun has its own OS, and therefore is in the same category as the dreaded Microsoft for many.

However, Sun has a longstanding, solid history with open source. OpenOffice, OpenSolaris, OpenSparc, Java, etc. While the company has generally benefited from its move to make Java open source under the GPL, its OpenSolaris and Solaris OS under the CDDL have been a somewhat different story. Nevertheless, Sun knows how to do open source right and continues to participate effectively in a variety of open source software communities, projects and enterprise products.

Let’s also not forget that it was Sun that started off this year with a billion dollar bet on open source, MySQL and its database software and business. When Jonathan Schwartz and co. were on the conference call for the acquisition in January, there were many references to Sun’s belief in the LAMP stack (along with the expected reference to the possibility of a SAMP stack that includes Solaris). And therein lies the dichotomy again.

Does Sun want to support and see success from Linux? Or does it want to see success from Solaris (and OpenSolaris)? The company may want to have it both ways and while it’s certainly possible and practical to support multiple operating systems in this day and age, Sun needs to make it clear whether it wants to fan the flames or fight the fire that is Linux. Let’s consider Novell. Is it putting much investment or roadmapping into Netware? No, the company is focused on Linux and integration of NetWare and Linux in Open Enterprise Server since it acquired SUSE in 2003. While an acquisition spurred the Linux embrace in Novell’s case, Sun does not necessarily need to buy a Linux vendor (there are fewer of those, too with Xandros’ recent purchase of Linspire).

The bottom line is that many if not most enterprise Linux wins come at the expense of Solaris and other Unix software. Sun would be wise to recognize this and it could go a long way toward clarifying its achievements and objectives with open source and getting its house in order.

Mobile Linux – less open, less advantage

We had a feeling this might be a big year more for non-desktop Linux, particularly for mobile and embedded uses of the open source OS. This week’s deal by Finnish giant Nokia to pay more than $400m for total ownership of Symbian so it can open the OS has stoked the red hot mobile Linux and open source coals, just in time for summer BBQs.

Our Mobility Research Director Tony Rizzo says the move may help Symbian stay in the game, but he still sees challenges in shedding the ‘Nokia’s OS’ label.

Colleague and CAOS Research Director Raven Zachary believes Symbian (a storied, widely-used OS that has seen its share of market loss to Linux over recent years) may be akin to Sun Microsystems’ Solaris, which similarly saw Linux eat away at its share. I think the analogy is acurrate since in both cases, Linux (and Windows) have taken share, but the ‘older’ operating systems still remain strong in certain niches and geographies. Still, having seen many of its summer BBQ guests leave for the Linux party (a trend aided by LiMO Foundation and Google’s Android efforts), Nokia is now telling them all, ‘Hey, we’re now serving the same kind of beer at our Symbian party that they have over there with the Penguin.’

Time will tell how cool, or warm, the response is, but the Symbian as Solaris and the old proprietary OS as new open source questions also bring up a key point in the mobile Linux and open source discussion: it’s different here. Typically backed by a vendor or consortia, mobile Linux is usually less open and more pre-configured, pre-customized, etc. compared to Linux on the server. It is typically tuned and closed, as others point out, by vendors and consortia with their own objectives. Sure, it’s still flexible, modular and more accessible for developers, embedders, and application players, but this brings us to another big difference for Linux and open source in the mobile setting: the proprietary, mobile OSs are far more open than their server bretheren. They have to be for the hardware and ISVs. These differences can contributes to reducing the open advantage of Linux and open source.

Thus, I wonder whether the most open approach would have the most differentiation, impact and payoff by virtue of its adherence to true, open source development. I believe the vendor, consortia or community that can keep that open source advantage by keeping the code and development open is most likley produce innovation, growth and profit.

Nokia, which continues a significant bet on open source that also includes its $153m TrollTech acquisition from January 2008, believes it can stem Linux losses by making Symbian more open. However, I don’t think the opportunity lies in making a mobile OS that is almost as open as mobile Linux. The real p​rize, I believe, will be reserved for the OS that is more open than mobile Linux, at least in its present form(s). This could include a more open mobile Linux. When it comes to Linux or any other mobile OS, more open means more advantage.