OSS support grows among proprietary players

VMware continued its embrace of open source software with its recent acquisition of open source and virtual network provider Nicira. The move continued VMware’s aggressive M&A strategy and its effort to transition from proprietary software and virtualization to a broader market and cloud computing, largely through open source software.

With previous open source software acquisitions that have included Rabbit Technologies’ RabbitMQ messaging, Zimbra email and collaboration and SpringSource, VMware seems to have found it paramount to participate and integrate with open source software technology and communities, despite its heritage as a strictly proprietary virtualization vendor.

VMware continues to back and sell mostly proprietary software and products, but its broader engagement of open source also highlights how nearly all vendors in today’s market are, at least to some extent, users or purveyors of open source software. We’ve also seen examples of how the vendors that resist open source are likely to find themselves isolated from vibrant communities if they stick to a closed technology approach.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Microsoft hearts Linux, just not Red Hat

Just when you thought it couldn’t top itself — having contributed Linux kernel code under the GPL, broadly supported Linux alongside Windows with its systems management and other software, and spun off a new subsidiary dedicated to openness, Microsoft showed yet more Linux and open source love recently, adding an impressive Linux lineup to supported software on its Azure cloud.

However, there’s one major Linux player that’s sort of getting left out of the love-fest. It’s enterprise Linux leader Red Hat and its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which has to sit by while other distributions, including RHEL community clone CentOS and market competitors SUSE and Ubuntu, get first-class treatment in Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Future of open source survey highlights progress, changes, challenges

451 Research was pleased to collaborate on the Future of Open Source Survey 2012 with North Bridge Venture Partners and Black Duck Software. This year’s survey garnered 740 responses from a variety of vendors and non-vendors in the industry. Overall, the survey highlighted some subtle and sometimes dramatic changes in what is driving open source software. It also made clear that while there is still a good degree of education and awareness yet to occur around open source software, there is a large amount of open source code making its way into today’s enterprise, webscale, consumer and other computing environments.

Some of the key findings:

*The survey reinforced the prominence and influence of open source software in the enterprise and in key trends driving it, as we and others have highlighted for some time with reports such as Seeding the Clouds and Mobility Matters. When asked which technology areas would see the most significant open source software community innovation from, respondents ranked ‘cloud’ highest at 40%, then ‘mobile apps’ (19%) and ‘mobile enterprise’ (15%) for a combined 34%, then ‘analytics’ with 10%. These areas are indicative of where we see open source software projects, communities, vendors and consortia continuing to broaden use of open source software.

*The survey asked what are the top barriers to selecting open source software when compared with proprietary alternatives, resulting in unfamiliarity (48%), lack of internal technical skills (47%), lack of vendor support (35%) and legal concerns about licensing (33%) as the top answers. Although this indicates there is still some trepidation and lack of awareness around open source and commercial options for support, other survey responses indicate open source software is still spreading to new industries and customer categories. When asked about the most important trend for open source software over the next two to three years, respondents identified the top choices as: adoption in non-technical segments such as government or healthcare (42%); enterprise adoption (40%) and growth in industry-specific communities (10%).

*The survey also showed there is a heavy volume of new, meaningful code coming out of open source software’s many communities. When asked what share of their deployed code they anticipate will be open source software over the next five years, about one third of survey respondents (32%) reported open source had already reached major deployment at 75% or more of their code. Another one third of respondents (30%) said open source will make up half to 75% or more of its deployed code. About a quarter of respondents (23%) indicated open source would make up 25-50% of their deployed code over the next five years, while 15% of respondents said the open source share of deployed code would be a quarter or less.

*We also saw a high rate of open source participation from the survey. When asked about community engagement with open source and their preferred method, 49% of respondents said consuming code, 36% said reporting patches or fixes, 31% said contributing new features, 28% said initiating new projects, 25% said contributing through partners or industry alliances. We believe this shows a high rate of open source participation beyond using code, which is also a meaningful contribution. This also indicates a greater willingness to get involved with open source projects and to start new projects.

*The survey also highlighted the changing drivers of open source software in the enterprise. When asked what are the top factors that make open source software attractive, respondents identified freedom from vendor lock-in (60%), lower acquisition and maintenance cost (51%), better quality (43%) and access to source code (42%) as the top answers. While we had seen vendor lock-in fade as a factor and cost as paramount two or three years ago, today vendor lock-in has become much more of a factor for customers. We believe this has to do wtih cloud computing and customers’ desire to maintain flexibility as they figure out how to best leverage cloud resources. The survey also showed that cost, which we also equate to time and efficiency, is always a strong factor, with 62% of respondents identifying reduced cost of development and maintenance as the main reason they use open source or initiate projects.

*The survey also reinforced our belief that while open source software lays the groundwork and underlies much of cloud computing, the cloud is also giving back to open source by providing vendors a way to differentiate free downloads from paid, cloud-based services. In fact, it seems support and services subscriptions are a much higher priority for open source software vendors than so-called ‘open core’ models that provide software for free and certain extensions, features or support as paid. When asked which revenue generation strategies are likely to create the most value for open source vendors over the next two years, respondents ranked an annual, repeatable support and service agreement as the top answer (52%). Other open source revenue models, such as ad-hoc services and support (41%), value-add subscription (40%), hosted or cloud software services (38%) all ranked higher than a closed-source license or open core model (12%).

For our full analysis on the results of the 2012 Future of Open Source Survey, see our Spotlight report. The results were also presented this week on a panel at the Open Source Business Conference and that presentation is available at the Open Source Delivers blog.

Reading between the lines of the Linux contributor list

The recently released Who Writes Linux kernel contributor list reveals that some of the usual supporters of Linux — Red Hat, SUSE, IBM, Intel, Oracle — remain firmly behind the open source OS.

There has also been a lot of attention on the other contributors, which now include Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT). What I find most fascinating about the Linux contributor list — beyond the increasing rate of code change with some 10,000 patches from 1,000 developers representing 200 companies in each quarterly kernel release — are the contributors that show some new direction and potential for Linux, in this case the processor players.

Whenever the Linux contributor report comes out, there is also typically some focus on those that use the Linux kernel code but do not necessarily appear among its list of core contributors.

One of the most frequent names to come up in this regard is Canonical, backer of the popular Ubuntu distribution.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Open Source Coopetition Fueled by LF Growth

The Linux Foundation has come a long way since initiated in 2007 as the fusion of the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) and Free Standards Group. At its start, I wondered why there was no membership or representation from Canonical, which was the hottest thing in Linux at the time.

Today, Canonical is a member of the Linux Foundation and the
organization continues to grow in its core of system software and Linux as well as in mobile devices and, more recently, the automotive industry — among my predictions for Linux strength in 2012.

The Linux Foundation has also gained some significant members and new groups of collaborators — the latest batch including graphics and microprocessor giant Nvidia.

Read the full story at LinuxInsider.

Ubuntu on the move more than in decline

Ubuntu has been taking some criticism and heat for its falling Distrowatch rankings. I don’t doubt that after years of popularity, we’re finally seeing a bit of a return to the desktop Linux world of old when a new distribution shot up every week or month, then faded, then re-appeared … and so on. However, when I consider where Canonical and Ubuntu are heading, I question the significance of desktop OS standing and Distrowach rankings.

First off, I must say that Ubuntu’s slip off the ‘king of the hill’ game on Distrowatch came at the expense of Linux Mint, another polished, user-friendly Linux. It wouldn’t surprise me if some Ubuntu users may be migrating to Mint or other distributions largely out of frustration or dislike of the new Unity interface over the previous primary interface, Gnome. However, I think the move will be worth it in the long run to Ubuntu, as I’ll explain further.

If considering desktop OS, the most important aspect to me as an enterprise software analyst is enterprise desktop, and Ubuntu does well there. I’m sure there are plenty of shops running other flavors of Linux, including Mint, Gentoo, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian and many, many others, but for corporate desktop, the list quickly thins. Nevertheless, this is where Canonical has had some big victories, including the French police. In terms of consumer and user desktop PCs, the category itself is disappearing into converged and touch-capable devices, further distancing us from the ‘distro wars’ of the past.

Still, the server is where the real action and revenue from Linux exist. Here, Ubuntu still faces a role-reversal from most Linux distributions, using desktop and developer popularity to fuel its use as a server OS, which is also helped by free availability and cloud computing. Ubuntu continues to benefit from its early move to cloud computing and its popularity among developers, but also still faces a huge challenge in monetizing use. Significantly, the latest version, Ubuntu 11.10, incorporates support for OpenStack (or Eucalyptus) and VMware Cloud Foundry PaaS. This could be significant given what we’ve seen from this type of integration and bundling in the past. In addition, Ubuntu benefits from being among the select few Linux distribution that exist in both free, community and paid, commercial form. As reported in our special report, ‘The Changing Linux Landscape,’ the existence of an unpaid community cousin can help drive commercial growth for paid, subscription Linux, as we’ve seen happen with free Ubuntu and paid Ubuntu, as well as Fedora and RHEL and OpenSUSE and SLES.

Finally, the explosion of smartphones, tablets and converged devices — many of them running embedded Linux — makes clear there is more opportunity in these newer devices than in the desktop PCs of old. Ubuntu got a good start in netbooks and continues to be among the most advanced netbook operating systems. This should help its move to smartphones, tablets, other mobile devices, TVs and more and this is where the payoff of Unity occurs. Canonical with Ubuntu may have a real advantage as a user-friendly, mobile Linux OS that can be used by OEMs and carriers without the intellectual property stress that has marked Android, which has nonetheless laid the groundwork for mobile Linux in the industry. In the end, the pain of leaving Gnome has been significant, but the promise of where Ubuntu is headed seems worth that pain.

Canonical, Ubuntu broadening cloud coverage

Whether it’s been our discussion of unpaid, community Linux, the changing Linux landscape or cloud operating systems, we’ve always seen Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux as a major factor in the emerging cloud computing software market.

Canonical was the first Linux provider to so aggressively and prominently target cloud computing by its support and incorporation of the open source Eucalyptus cloud framework more than two years ago.

More recently, Canonical signaled a move with its next version of Ubuntu Server 11.10 will support a different cloud stack, the open source OpenStack software, as its default cloud platform. Eucalyptus will still be included in the Ubuntu distribution and will remain an option, which is key as we see the desire for multiple technologies and choices emerging as increasingly important to customers (the same thing seems to be happening with open source hypervisors Xen and KVM).

Given our coverage of the significance of open source in cloud computing and the importance of openness to customers moving into cloud computing, it is critical for vendors such as Canonical and technologies such as Ubuntu to be flexible in the other technologies and players with which they integrate.

That’s why it was even more impressive to see Canonical strike a deal with VMware. The two announced recently that Ubuntu 11.10 will also feature integration of and support for VMware’s Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS). This is yet another indicator of increased competition between VMware and Red Hat, which has its own version of PaaS in OpenShift. Regardless of the impact to its fellow Linux provider Red Hat, Canonical’s support for CloudFoundry is wise and positions Ubuntu as among the most flexible Linux distributions for cloud computing.

Canonical still faces significant challenges, primarily the monetization of developer, pilot and unpaid Ubuntu use and also its lack of pre-installation on server hardware from major OEMs. Nevertheless, the company manages to set itself apart from all other Linux providers in its continued focus on mobile and converged devices, as well. HP’s abandonment of the space and the idea of synergy between back end servers and mobile devices running the same OS is not much of a validation. However, it could also be an opportunity for Canonical, which is not burdened by the hardware business that became so painful for HP.

Microsoft, broadest supporter of Linux

In writing recently about the continuation (451 subscribers) of the Microsoft-SUSE Windows-Linux interoperability and patent agreement, it occurred to me that in a sense, Microsoft is the broadest supporter of Linux in the industry. Microsoft obviously supports SUSE Linux quite deeply given nearly five years of work with its commercial backer. Microsoft somewhat begrudgingly entered into a virtualization agreement with Red Hat, so that both could better support one another’s operating systems and hypervisors. Finally, Microsoft has been among the most aggressive vendors in the industry to back unpaid, community Linux, such as CentOS, for which it unveiled support last month.

Indeed, Microsoft has consistently displayed some respect for Linux in general, including its contribution of code to the Linux kernel under the GPL.

Despite the concerns about Microsoft’s control over SUSE Linux or Linux in general, the fact of the matter is Microsoft’s investment of both dollars, including its SUSE deals worth a few hundred million, and investment of of resources, such as the interoperability work with Novell/SUSE, the kernel contribution, the cross-OS and hypervisor support work with Red Hat and the support of CentOS, Microsoft is significantly supporting Linux development and use in the enterprise.

I wrote last year about the uncertainty around Novell/SUSE kernel contribution given the Attachmate acquisition.

That all-important contribution from one of the key drivers behind the Linux kernel will now likely continue in large part thanks to Microsoft. And while we cannot simply forget Microsoft’s past actions, such as resisting the GPL, the company’s position as a broad supporter of Linux certainly illustrates how we live in a much different Linux landscape today.

Economy up or down, can open source come out on top?

We’ve written about how a bad economy is indeed good for open source software. We’ve also recognized that with open source software’s maturity and place at the enterprise software table, a bad economy can be a double-edged sword for open source since the failure or fade of large enterprise customers, say big banks, hurts open source vendors right alongside traditional software providers.

What is interesting is that after a couple of years of economic rebuilding, we’ve seen recently how open source is being driven by innovation, particularly in cloud computing, where open source is prevalent and disruptive, and also mobile computing, which continues to be impacted by openness.

Given recent economic developments around the globe, I’m wondering whether we may see a return of cost as the main driver and benefit of open source software in the enterprise. Recent conversations with vendors and customers illustrates the fact that the motivation for adopting open source is not always the main benefit from open source. For example, open source users and customers identified cost as the main reason for adopting open source when we asked more than 1,700 of them two years ago. However, when the same group was asked what was the main benefit from open source, the top pick was flexibility. We also saw dramatic increases in factors such as performance and reliability when comparing drivers for adoption and benefits from adoption. Still, just as we’ve seen unpaid community Linux lead to paid subscription Linux and also paid Linux lead to more unpaid community Linux use, it can go both ways with open source advantages, as well. One recent conversation with an up-and-coming, open source-centered vendor in the NoSQL space highlighted how many large enterprise customers are deploying open source in divisional, departmental, pilot and other limited form to replace traditional databases primarily for flexibility, performance and similar reasons, but finding the cost savings to be significant and worthy of wider deployment.

This begs the question whether open source software, driven by its myriad of advantages for different contexts, finds a way to win regardless of whether economic conditions are good or bad? There’s no question open source has displayed staying power throughout both. We should also point out that these advantages and factors end up putting a lot of pressure on open source software development and projects, given there are inherent expectations of cost-savings, flexibility, speed, performance, scalability, etc. As we’ve highlighted recently, open source is not always the correct route for enterprise ogranizations. However, we do believe that if done properly, open source projects and communities can and do deliver benefits that enable both providers and consumers of technology.

Similar to sales and marketing, longevity, economic and developer opportunity, open core, etc., it all boils down to the community, which in a good economy tends to drive innovation and value or in a bad economy serves as a source of cost efficiency, savings and survival. That is, of course, if the community is properly supported in code, cash, contributions and stewardship that still allows open source to do its thing.

Commercial gains and community pains

Recent conversations at OSCON, which I’ve attended since 2004, as well as observations through talks with vendors, users and developers in open source all indicate a common theme: With commercial successes for open source software come some community growing pains. This was also illustrated to some extent by the attendance, content and vibe at this year’s OSCON, a good annual check on where commercial open source software stands in its ongoing maturation, evolution and disruption.

Full article at LinuxInsider

CAOS Theory Podcast 2011.08.05

Topics for this podcast:

*Our latest special report, ‘Going Open, Going Closed’
*OpenStack marks one year with commercial success, community concerns
*Couchbase previews fruit of integration, unstructured query language
*OSCON and where we are in enterprise open source
*Vendor-led community projects discussed

iTunes or direct download (35:25, 6.1MB)

The open card in the mobile game

I wrote last year about the way Google’s Android mobile operating system was serving as a more open alternative to Apple’s iOS, but not so open that it didn’t leave opportunity for an even more open alternative.

Given that we continue to see software patent-based attacks on Android, as well as swirling FUD around coverage of the attacks and never ending suits and settlements and courtroom developments, it is clear it will be a long time before any of this legal business is ever close to settled, unless ended by settlements first, which is likely.

However, I’m more interested in the technology in the meantime. I also think it’s interesting to see, if not a ‘more open’ alternative emerging, at least another, ‘somewhat open’ option in the tablet market, this being HP’s WebOS. It’s interesting that WebOS evolved from Palm, which HP acquired in March 2010 for $1.4 billion. Though Apple’s iPad is still the clear leader in tablets, it is interesting to see continuing signs that what happened in smartphones (where iPhone led and Android quickly caught up and then passed iOS) may be happening in tablets. There is also still the possibility that tablets may play out like netbooks, with wild popularity followed by a fade in favor of more traditional PCs for traditional PC needs. It is interesting to note that Google’s Eric Schmidt recently commented on the continued utility of PCs, which will remain key to professionals, consumers, and also developers, largely because of the tactical keyboard. What is most likely is continued convergence, and it will be interesting to see what ties emerge between WebOS and PCs as computer hardware giant HP rolls out the OS in tablets and smartphones.

We also see other signs that new, open entrants may be mixing things up in the mobile and converged device market, such as word of a possible Android and iOS competitor from Mozilla. There is yet another project that is already a factor in netbooks, other mobile devices and the burgeoning IT market of automobile information and entertainment systems, MeeGo, which is also open source. Even Research in Motion’s Playbook is based on the QNX operating system, for which source code was made available by its previous owner to make it more like the open source Linux OS, which was attracting developers and interesting customers.

We believed there was a fairly prominent place for open source software, open source operating systems and general openness in mobile software when we wrote our report, Mobility Matters three years ago, but we would have never guessed that the openness of this software would be so significant in two respects: defense from patent and other intellectual property attacks; the market power of open source, which draws in not only developers, but manufacturers and other third-parties. We’ve seen the speed and strength at which a project and community such as Android can grow. Will we now begin to see other alternatives that are even more open emerge as top choices among developers, hardware companies, wireless players and consumers? Never before have those alternatives really existed in the mobile software world, so it’s good at least to see the possibility is there.

The rise, fall and reality of commercial open source

We’ve been writing ourselves about the move toward more permissive licensing in commercial open source, as well as a lessening of the use of ‘open source’ as an identifier or differentiator. We’ve also seen others comment on a perceived loss of significance and importance of free and open source software and open standards. Combine this all with some typical observation on the lack of contribution back to open source software projects, and it might appear that open source software is a once-mighty empire in the midst of decline. However, from my perspective it seems despite all of this, open source software has never before been as pervasive, disruptive and innovative as it is right now. While we have yet to reach open nirvana, open source software is playing a pivotal role in the two most significant software markets currently: cloud computing and mobile computing.

Much of the gloom and doom in open source software the last couple of years has centered on the evil that is ‘open core,’ yet I have been among those contending that open core and the mixing of open source and proprietary models is often something that customers want. In addition, rather than just a matter of converting much or all that open source community goodness to cold hard cash, I believe all of these trends and perspectives support the idea that open source software is actually gaining in significance. Whether it is viewed as an effective marketing mechanism may be another thing, but the fact that open source is prevalent in the two hottest categories of IT today: cloud computing and mobile devices.

We’ve written extensively about open source software’s prevelance in cloud computing. We’ve also covered how the many, critical open source pieces of cloud computing stacks, whether SaaS, IaaS or PaaS, are also having an impact on openness and discussions of it, something we also see when considering recent partnerships and a changing landscape for Linux and open source software.

We’ve also covered the significance and prevalence of open source software in mobile computing. At the same time, we recognized that while open source software was a key ingredient to most if not all mobile software platforms and application ecosystems, there was a lack of open source software reaching end products and users.

In both cases, there are reasons and incentives for ‘going closed,’ so to speak, but it is the true open source efforts that elicit true community benefits: collaboration, transparency, speed, flexibility, security and more. So while open source as a term or identifier may not be what matters most to vendors or customers, there is no question open source is key to the business and future of many, if not most vendors in cloud and mobile computing. Ask Puppet Labs or Chef sponsor Opscode whether open source matters to their customers and their business. Ask Google whether openness is something they consider as they move forward on Android and Chrome. Ask Rackspace whether open source is critical in its open source cloud computing stack, OpenStack. Ask HP whether it is meaningful that WebOS is open source. I have. It is. So the next time we hear about the surrender, retreat, fade or decline of open source software or its importance in today’s computing landscape, just remember that today’s key markets tell a different story.

Structure builds empowerment, value out of devops, auto-ops

We highlighted recently that along with the prominence of open source software, cloud computing is characterized by its early days. Yet users, customers and most importantly, leadership seem to be aware of the need for change, the need to support it and the fact that every day vendors and users put off starting that change is another day they fall behind. Below are some of the key take aways from discussions with leaders, users and other community members I met at Structure last week.

Again, I heard a lot of discussion of how much vendors and technologies are gaining from their users and communities, which are having a greater say, impact and involvement in the deployment of cloud computing technology. I do believe customers have learned from previously deploying open source software and virtualization in their environments and organizations. The louder customer voice is also a case of user empowerment and enablement that has occurred, giving users more flexibility in hardware, features, operating system, hypervisor, programming language and, increasingly, application programming interfaces (APIs). With user and customers such as E-Trade, Lexis-Nexis, Nasdaq and Netflix — among those represented at structure — we can see how bringing their technology experience and expertise to the table can help move things along for both user and vendor.

However, another theme of Structure was the continued movement of devops — the confluence of application development and deployment of applications via IT operations — from early adopter and cutting edge users to the more mainstream enterprise IT user and customer community. Structure provided more validation that the trend is indeed shifting the IT and technology approaches and purchases of some of the same verticals that helped usher in broad use of open source and virtualization: financial services, insurance and telecommunications, in particular.

At the same time we have continued to see the rise of devops, we are hearing more and more about the abstraction of the IT operations for developers, a term we describe as ‘auto-ops.’ Given my complaints about the term ‘no-ops,’ I’ve been promoting auto-ops as a reference to the abstracting of IT operations, rather than implications of cutting or avoiding IT staffs, a term that emerged on the CAOS Theory blog. The term and idea of auto-ops seemed to resonate with the vendors and users with whom I was fortunate to speak at Structure.

While open source took some time to become more official, devops and auto-ops are emerging with a greater recognition, awareness and verve from leadership. Basically, CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, dev teams, ops managers and others leading both the IT and the business efforts see the writing on the wall, and it says something to the effect of: ‘iterate or obliterate.’ Figure out how to get code, features, applications out to users and be ready to address hiccups not only in the code, but in the conduct of that code in the many virtual, cloud, Web, mobile and other environments where it will live or die. Figure out how to be a service provider on top of or below being a software provider (devops), or get help doing so (auto-ops).

The fact that leadership is so in tune with the changes afoot and that they are more experienced leveraging community — open source or not — means that this time around, the trends are going to equate more quickly to proven, policy-driven and paid implementation of devops and auto-ops technologies and practices.

Why Oracle’s donation of OpenOffice disappoints

While Oracle deserves some praise for its donation of OpenOffice.org code to the Apache Foundation, it is disappointing again to see a legitimate open source market contender that has been marginalized by miscommunication and mismanagement of the project by a large vendor.

OpenOffice.org, warts and all, was probably the most significant competition for Microsoft Office for years and in many ways demonstrated the advantages of open source, helping usher in wider use of it, as well as greater usability. OO.o was in fact my reason for originally investigating and moving to open source software more than a decade ago. Regardless of past mismanagement of community and technology, that competitive factor has been diminished greatly since Oracle took ownership of OO.o. Now, after prompting a fork — as has been the case with a number of open source projects that fell to Oracle with its Sun acquisition (OpenSolaris-Indiana, OO.o-LibreOffice, Hudson-Jenkins), Oracle is again turning to a broader open source foundation to ‘free’ the project. It shouldn’t be surprising given our research into the balance of control and community, where we see a preference among both users and vendors for the ‘foundational’ approach that is typically less encumbered by real and perceived issues of control.

But by not making this move sooner, Oracle has again demonstrated that it does not appreciate or accept the broader community benefits of open source software. It ties open source investment and development directly to monetary value, meaning it is focused mainly on Linux and MySQL. Oracle should be commended for its honesty here, given its indication that it will contribute and support open source when it bolsters Oracle’s bottom line. However, the company is failing to tie its own success in open source with the success of the larger communities, which begs the question, is Oracle limiting the commercial opportunity for the open source projects on which it is focused by diminishing the community opportunity for projects it is leaving alone?

I might have more enthusiasm for OO.o as an Apache project, but I am somewhat skeptical for OO.o because of the current inclusion and use of LibreOffice in popular Linux distributions. This is how I came to use LibreOffice, and I’ve found it quite sufficient for my document, PDF, spreadsheet and other office suite needs. I would be glad to see a reunification of OO.o and LibreOffice and despite complex issues such as licensing, it is encouraging to see the leaders of LibreOffice and the Apache Foundation coming together toward a positive outcome.

Back to Oracle, the company again deserves credit for its positive and meaningful contributions to open source software, particularly MySQL and Linux, which would not have nearly the enterprise credibility it does without longtime, first-class treatment and support from Oracle. However, Oracle continues to demonstrate that despite how far open source has come in the enterprise, there are still large and powerful forces in the industry that do not fully understand open source software’s potential.

451 CAOS Links 2011.05.31

Linus announces Linux 3.0. Attachmate maintains commitment to SUSE Linux. And more.

# Linus Torvalds announced the release candidate of Linux 3.0.

# Attachmate CEO Jeff Hawn maintained that the company is committed to SUSE Linux.

# OpenX raised $20m series D funding.

# Cloudera proposed Flume as an Apache incubator project.

# Isidorey unveiled CloudSandra: a NoSQL database-as-a-service based on Apache Cassandra.

# Wayne Beaton highlighted the hard work involved in fostering a developer community.

# Acunu discussed the potential complexities of open source licensing.

Need open source policy? Ask the DoD.

It’s coming up on a couple of years since I wrote about the reasonable approach toward open source software adoption put forth by the U.S. Department of Defense, which was ready and willing to use open source, but was not requiring a less-realistic all-open source or only-open source approach.

Today, we see that measured consideration of open source and its adoption has served the DoD well, given it just published a guide (PDF) regarding its experience with policy and adoption of open source software. This provides a valuable lesson to enterprise organizations considering use of, participation, increased adoption of open source software. Based on our findings that more than 60% of open source users and customers have no policies or guidelines for contributing to open source software (November 2009 survey of 1,711 open source users and customers), it is also needed.

Some highlights from the guide, titled ‘Open Technology Deployment – Lessons Learned and Best Practices for Military Software,’ which was nicely released under the open source Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License, include:

*The guide begins with a nice explanation of ‘off-the-shelf’ software, a common phrase for commercial software purchased/procured by governments, as well as explaining open source software.
*It also walks through some of the fundamentals of open source that are often overlooked or lowered in priority in favor of cost, flexibility or other advantages of open source. This includes intellectual property rights, reuse, governance, forking and licensing.
*In addition to some more technical, government-related infrastructure needs and demands, the guide does a wonderful job covering some of the more aesthetic components of open source software development and community management, including the need to be inclusive, avoiding private conversations, practice of conspicuous code review, awareness and communication of roles and dealing with rude or poisonous members of communities. One key phrase in the report that sums up the wisdom here: ‘Community first, technology second.’
*Interestingly, the guide touches on practices associated with ‘devops,’ – the confluence of application development and application deployment via IT operations. In particular, it focuses on continuous development and delivery, more rapid development and release cycles, testing, transitioning to operations and maintenance. This is another indicator of how significant open source software can be to devops, and also of how pervasive the trend is becoming.
*Finally, the guide cuts through some FUD that may persist in some circles and verticals, including the public sector, regarding open source software, indicating nearly all open source software is backed commercially and available as Commercial-off the shelf (COTS), an important classification for government adoption. The guide also differentiates open source from freeware and shareware, which are often limited both perceptually and legally in government use.

The DoD guide — which similar to its memo on open source a year and a half ago represents a pragmatic, realistic approach to adopting and using open source software — is also another indicator of the drivers, advantages and challenges of open source software, which have typically been about cost, flexibility and avoiding vendor lock-in. We are tracking changes in those drivers, advantages and challenges as well with our take on the recent Future of Open Source Survey.

It’s encouraging to see this happening with the DoD and government, which has long had procurement, procedure and policy that was typically mismatched for open source software. The situation has now changed with vendors providing more support, certification, listings and adjustment to government adoption and use. Governments, led by organizations such as the DoD, are also adapting their way of doing things so that open source, cost savings, collaboration, avoiding vendor lock-in and all of the other benefits of open source are things they too can leverage.

My coverage of the first DoD memo on open source software in October 2009 also included the idea that this policy was taking shape amid more official, above-board adoption of open source software by both governments and enterprises. This means that rather than sneaking into organizations through developers, administrators, teams and divisions — largely under the door and through the cracks — open source software is now being adopted as part of official procurement and use. This trend, which we see continuing, also means a larger opportunity for paid support, services, components and other products from vendors focused on open source software.

Time for your cloud gut check

It may be hard for Amazon, any of its users, critics or competitors to find a silver-lining in the recent cloud outage that took major sites offline for significant periods over the last week (ok, the critics and competitors are getting plenty), but I see a real upside for all: this has been our latest cloud computing gut check.

Just as we have seen in the case of open source software forks, dissents and competition, these challenges all represent a form of open source discipline that keeps code, communities and vendors ‘honest’ in the sense they must respond to developer and user demands and must also steer a successful path both organizationally and commercially. So while there is no doubt pain and loss from the Amazon outage, it is also a reminder that what does not kill your cloud computing deployment will only make it stronger.

It’s true, the outage illustrates that users and providers are still figuring out cloud computing, and that there is still much learning to be done. It was interesting to see some companies actually sending out press releases regarding how well they and their teams were able to keep their cloud-based environments going through the outage. Indeed, as highlighted recently by our own Tier 1 analysts Jason Verge and Doug Toombs, a number of heavy Amazon cloud users were able to largely sustain the blow of the outage and keep their clouds aloft, including Neftlix and Zynga. We can probably assume this kind of thing could happen with a private cloud, and if we don’t, we should. Still, the point is that the differentiation of technology and the team to effectively leverage it emerged as a critical differentiator during the Amazon cloud outage.

I believe the technology, tasks, procedures and preparedness that are represented in the winners versus the losers in this centers on ‘devops,’ a term we refer to often that involves the crossing of development, operations and other professionals in modern IT environments that both leverage and provide cloud computing services. Discussion of devops often centers on efficient use of cloud computing resources by both providers and users. Even when we consider ‘no-ops’ or more accurately ‘auto-ops,’ — whereby systems and operations are abstracted for developers and users — there is a definite need for knowledge, skill, experience and process when confronting cloud crashes, particularly on the operations side. Devops also represents a more holistic view of software in its environment(s), which is critical to crisis management and recovery for both Amazon and its users. Certainly Amazon and its partners are working hard to restore all of their cloud services to full functionality, but it is very interesting and encouraging to see customers and users adding in their know-how and talent to offset down servers and avoid downtime. It makes it clear why a large organization such as Facebook would benefit from opening its own datacenters and practices.

From Amazon’s and other providers’ perspectives – the cloud stubbed toe of this week also highlights how communication and reaction are perhaps as critical as the technical aspects of addressing what’s wrong and fixing it. Open source software also provides lessons here, indicating vendors and providers are best served by transparency and openness. What the message boards and Twitterverse are telling us now is that users will accept some degree of downtime and difficulty, but they want straight information on how long and how severely they will be down. Just as vendors face a challenge in fairly yet effectively pricing and charging for cloud computing, it may be difficult to provide guidance on recovery from an outage, but the same rules of PR crisis management apply: don’t over-promise and don’t under-deliver.

So just like a fork, leadership crisis or large, proprietary competitor is supposed to wreck an open source project or vendor, the latest cloud crash will finally stifle this cloud hype, bluster and momentum, right? Not quite. I would argue that just like a good fork, feud or megavendor foray into open source software is actually a strengthening, disciplinary measure, the latest cloud coughing will serve as a necessary gut check on cloud computing, thus helping us avoid a cloud bubble.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2011.04.01

Topics for this podcast:

*Sauce Labs spread Selenium, application testing in the clouds
*Cisco acquires newScale for ITSM, devops, open source
*Hadapt integrates Hadoop with database
*SMB content management vendor KnowledgeTree moves from open source to SaaS
*eXo Platform rolls out latest version of open-source-based portal software
*OpenStack Google walk the line on control and community

iTunes or direct download (28:27, 4.9MB)

OpenStack: balancing control and community

“the trends appear to be moving away from control and back toward community and collaborative development, which is why The 451 Group has advised that established vendors that rely on controlling open source development projects need to evaluate how they might be able to transition to more collaborative development practices and permissive licensing”
The 451 Group: Control and Community, November 2010

Shifting from control to community is not easy. Recent weeks have provided a number of examples of how the demand for collaborative development from the community can outpace corporate strategy.

A prime example would be the reaction to Google’s decision to withhold the code for Honeycomb until it deems it to be ready for wider distribution.

While Eric Raymond had cautioned against over-reacting to this news, Stephen Walli meanwhile also provided a timely reminder of retaining too much control can be damaging, specifically how it played a part in the decline of the Symbian Foundation.

If that wasn’t enough, Rick Clark also published his concerns about the OpenStack project and whether Rackspace has overstepped the mark in trying to control the project rather than influence it.

OpenStack is a benchmark in the shift away from control seen in the past few years, since the project was itself born out of a desire to shift the balance towards community-led development.

As we wrote in Control and Community:

“NASA… was formerly using Eucalyptus’ open source cloud platform, but in July created the alternative OpenStack project with Rackspace following a disagreement with Eucalyptus. The exact nature of that disagreement is itself a matter of dispute, but it is clear that it was related to the copyright attribution agreement used by Eucalyptus for external contributions to ensure that it was in a position to continue its open core licensing approach. It is no coincidence that the OpenStack project involves distributed copyright ownership and a non-copyleft license, designed to ensure that the core software will remain open source while providing all participants with equal opportunities to create closed source derivatives and complementary products and services.”

Quite how equal the opportunities for participants are was drawn into question by Rackspace’s recent acquisition of Anso Labs and the launch of its Cloud Builders business providing support and services for OpenStack deployments.

While this was unsettling for some it should not have been a surprise as Rackspace had made no secret of its desire to explore commercial support and services revenue opportunities, although it had stated that it has no desire to sell closed source variants.

As we wrote in July 2010:

“The vendor says it does not plan any commercial licensing or products from OpenStack. Its main focus is making cloud computing easier to consume and repeat, although it is anticipating that users will deploy the software on-premises to create their own on-ramp to the Rackspace cloud and is considering providing commercial support for on-premises implementations.”

Even so, the acquisition of Anso gave cause for concern. As Glyn Moody noted:

“Anso Labs held one of the four seats on the OpenStack governance board and three of the nine seats on the project oversight committee. The purchase of Anso by Rackspace means that Rackspace now dominate OpenStack’s governance, three to one, and project oversight, eight to one; the “one” in both cases being Citrix.”

And it is the governance of the project, rather than product or licensing plans, that have raised concern. Specifically, as Rick Clark explains:

“Basically, Rackspace made governance changes without talking to the development community or the sitting governance board. This is extremely problematic for the health of the project… The sad thing here, is that the governing body would have probably approved it with only minor changes. The changes are for the most part good, but the process shows a serious flaw in Rackspace’s thinking.”

As noted above, OpenStack was specifically designed to be more open than the alternative and the organisations behind it specifically chose distributed copyright ownership and a non-copyleft license, as well as a promise of openness in order to shift the balance away from vendor control towards community.

In the context of the wider shift away from control it is interesting to note that these steps are not considered enough and that the call has gone out for even less vendor influence and the creation of a non-profit foundation.

While it is tempting to suggest that Rackspace was not open enough in creating the OpenStack project, another viewpoint might suggest that the result of any level of openness is the demand from the community for more.

It is too easy to assume that in the balancing act between control and community the demand for control is exclusive to the vendor. The vendor is in a privileged position, and must recognise this and act accordingly.

However, we must also recognise that the community is often also seeking control, albeit with the aim of sharing that control between collaborating participants.

The balance between control and community is not simply a matter of balancing between the vendor and developers/users, but between all participants in any collaborative initiative.