2012 to be year of Linux domination

Previously, I’ve called out years for non-desktop Linux in 2008, Linux in both the low and high-ends of the market in 2009, ‘hidden’ Linux in 2010 and last year, cloud computing in 2011. For 2012, I see continued growth, prevalence, innovation and impact from Linux, thus leading to a 2012 that is dominated by Linux.

I expect to see nothing but continued strength for Linux and open source in cloud computing in 2012. The cloud continues to be the biggest disruptor and opportunity for Linux providers. 2012 got off to an interesting start with Microsoft’s efforts to support for Linux on Azure, which highlights just how pervasive Linux has become in cloud computing. As detail in our special report on The Changing Linux Landscape, we also expect Linux to continue to be the basis for most offerings in IaaS and particularly PaaS, which is burgeoning across open source languages and frameworks as well as verticals and enterprise customers. Its popularity among enterprise and other developers will also bolster Linux and open source software in 2012.

We can certainly expect to see Linux continue its domination in supercomputing and the Top 500 Supercomputer List, where Linux continues to grow its share above 90% while others, such as Microsoft, Apple and BSD, fall off of the list.

I also expect Linux will grow its presence and impact on the wider, more mainstream server market, where Red Hat and SUSE continue to benefit from Unix migration, particularly from Solaris. Our analysis with survey data from 451 Research division TheInfoPro shows server spending for databases and data warehousing favoring Red Hat with Linux over Oracle with either Linux or Solaris. Out of more than 165 server professionals interviewed by TIP, 67% are planning to spend more with Red Hat on database/data-warehousing, and only 6% plan to spend less. The positive figures for Red Hat mirror negative spending intentions for Oracle, with 55% planning to spend less and only 9% planning to spend more. Spending continues to decline strongly for all of the primary Unix providers in the study, which in addition to Oracle includes IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

We may also see further expansion for Red Hat, which may be eyeing key acquisitions, and other Linux and open source vendors as they continue building their channels and wade more into midmarket and SMB customers.

In smartphones and mobile software, I also expect Linux will do quite well in 2012 with continued Android strength, diminished FUD and possibly an open source boost from a newly-open sourced WebOS. We also see Ubuntu arriving on the mobile and converged device scene, including ‘concept’ appearance at CES.

We’re also likely to see Linux in automobiles, health care and other electronics even more in 2012, though you may never hear Linux or open source. Don’t be fooled though, Linux is expanding its already impressive, wide presence and 2012 looks to be another year of significant gains.

451 CAOS Links 2011.11.11

B&N asks DoJ to investigate Microsoft patent tactics. Fedora 16. And more.

# Barnes & Noble asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Microsoft’s patent-licensing tactics.

# The team behind Strobe is moving to Facebook. Sproutcore will continue as an independent project.

# The UK government’s Cabinet Office dispelled concerns about the security of open source software.

# The Fedora Project announced the availability of Fedora 16.

# Google offered support to Android firms in lawsuits.

# HStreaming updated its scalable continuous data analytics platform built on Hadoop.

# Dell is releasing its Apache Hadoop Crowbar barclamps as open source software.

# ActiveState added new management and monitoring features to ActiveState Stackato.

# Talend provided information on all contributions made by Talend to open source community projects.

# StackIQ announced the availability of Rocks+ 6.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2011.10.28

Topics for this podcast:

*Opscode Chef extends to Windows for more enterprise devops
*Black Duck continues growth, gains new funding
*Cloudant expands NoSQL database focus, customers
*New open source Web server and vendor Nginx arrives
*The downside of Microsoft’s Android dollars

iTunes or direct download (27:35, 4.7MB)

451 CAOS Links 2011.09.30

Microsoft’s Android revenue. Tizen formation. And more.

# As Microsoft announced its latest Android-related patent agreement with Samsun, Goldman Sachs estimated that the company will make $444m in revenue from Android patent deals for fiscal year 2012.

# LiMo Foundation and The Linux Foundation announced the formation of Tizen to develop a Linux-based device software platform.

# Karmasphere raised $6m in a series B round of funding, led by new investor Presidio Ventures.

# Citrix Systems announced the availability of XenServer 6.

# 10gen announced the general availability of MongoDB Monitoring Service, a free monitoring service for the MongoDB database.

# Percona announced the release of Percona Server version 5.5.15.

# Hortonworks became a Gold sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation.

# The developers behind PhoneGap have applied to contribute their open source mobile development framework to the Apache Software Foundation.

# Piston Cloud Computing is set to launch its PentOS enterprise operating system for the cloud and put OpenStack on a memory stick.

# The Free Software Foundation announced the re-launch of its Free Software Directory.

# Rhomobile announced availability of RhoConnect 3.0.

# Nokia is reportedly working on a new Linux-based operating system for mass market phones called Meltemi.

451 CAOS Links 2011.08.05

Google and Microsoft trade patent claims. Actuate announces Q2 results. And more.

# Google accused Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies of organising a hostile patent campaign against Android. That prompted Microsoft executives to claim that Microsoft invited Google to be involved in the CPTN purchase of Novell’s patents. However, Google explained that joining CPTN might have decreased its ability to defend itself against potential patent claims.

# Actuate announced its Q2 financial results, including BIRT-related license business of $5.3m, up 130% year-over-year.

# Dell and Cloudera announced a combined hardware, software, support and services offering for Apache Hadoop.

# France and Tunisia have signed a joint declaration on governmental cooperation on open source software.

# Mitchell Baker explained the Mozilla Foundation’s Gecko project.

# VisionMobile published a report assessing the relative openness of Android, MeeGo, Linux, Qt, WebKit, Mozilla, Eclipse and Symbian.

# Sandro Groganz published an article on the benefits of the community for partners of open source vendors.

# Twitter announced plans to release its Storm distributed stream processing software as an open source project.

# Georg Greve discussed his perspective on freedom in the cloud.

# MySQL performance specialist Percona celebrated its fifth birthday, now with 50 employees and 1,200 customers.

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.

451 CAOS Links 2011.07.12

Citrix acquires Cloud.com. Funding for Piston and Zettaset. And more.

# Citrix acquired Cloud.com, reportedly for $200m-$250m.

# Piston Cloud Computing raised $4.5m to fund its efforts to commercialize OpenStack.

# GOTO Metrics re-launched as Zettaset with a Hadoop-based data management platform and $3m in funding.

# Red Hat launched JBoss Application Server 7

# The Document Foundation provided an update on its efforts to establish as legal entity.

# Google’s rivals have been accused of colluding against Android.

# Carlo Daffara explained how it could have been so different.

# Opengear hired Rick Stevenson as CEO.

# rPath announced the launch of its OpenStack Compute Appliance.

# DataStax launched version 1.2 of DataStax OpsCenter for Apache Cassandra and Hadoop.

# Facebook banned Open-Xchange’s OX.IO export tool.

# Nuxeo announced that Nuxeo Document Management is available in the Ubuntu software partner catalog.

# Richard Fontana continued his explanation of the problem with the Harmony project.

# Debian and SFLC published patent advice for community distributions.

# Mandriva appointed a new president of its executive board.

451 CAOS Links 2011.05.13

Google orders an Ice Cream Sandwich, hold the Honeycomb. Funding for WSO2 and Typesafe. And more.

# Google introduced Ice Cream Sandwich, attempted to defend the non-release of the source code for Honeycomb, and announced the launch of the Chromebook

# WSO2 closed $6.5m in growth financing provided by Quest Software and Intel Capital.

# Typesafe, formed to build a commercial company behind the Scala programming language, launched with $3m-backing from Greylock Partners.

# Yahoo won a jury verdict that it does not infringe a Linux-related patent.

# Canonical and Ubuntu developers decided to focus solely on OpenStack as the foundation for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud.

# Mark Webbink provided his impressions of Oracle vs Google.

# Matt Asay encouraged Oracle to hurry up and embrace Hadoop.

# Talend became a sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation.

Canonical has reportedly joined the GENIVI Alliance and is creating a GENIVI-compliant Ubuntu IVI Remix.

# The Outercurve Foundation added a sixth project to its ASP.NET gallery.

# Openbravo claimed over two million downloads of its open source ERP software.

# Qt Labs provided a progress update on Qt 5.

# Royal Pingdom provided a list of the top 20 Linux desktop strongholds.

451 CAOS Links 2011.05.03

Novell sold to Attachmate. Barnes & Noble throws the book at Microsoft. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca, and daily at Paper.li/caostheory
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Novell closed its acquisition by Attachmate and its patent sale to CPTN.

# Attachmate’s CEO discussed the company’s plans for SUSE Linux.

# Barnes & Noble accused Microsoft of misusing its patents to undermine Android.

# Acquia increased its revenue 300% in the first quarter compared to last year.

# Actuate announced Q1 BIRT-related license revenue of $6.1m, total revenue $32.1m.

# Google lost a Linux-related patent suit.

# Yahoo is reportedly considering spinning off its Hadoop-related interests in a new company.

# OpenStack launched Project Red Dwarf, its database-as-a-service incubator project.

# CloudBees announced RUN@cloud Private Edition for OpenStack and vSphere.

# Nokia announced that it is outsourcing its Symbian software-related activities, including 3,000 employees, to Accenture. Meanwhile, it appears that Nokia is one of the most active Android contributors.

# Puppet Labs announced its Faces API and relicensed Puppet to Apache 2.0.

# OpenGamma announced the first public release of its technology stack.

# German Insurance company LVM Versicherung is converting 10,000 corporate desktops to Ubuntu.

# Sandro Groganz discussed the distribution model for open source-related software vendors.

# Google launched a WebM video patent cross-licensing initiative.

# Liferay is offering a special bundled version of Liferay Portal Enterprise Edition preinstalled with MuleSoft Tcat Server.

451 CAOS Links 2010.10.05

Microsoft sues Motorola. Oracle says no to LibreOffice. Time to fork Java? And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca, and daily at Paper.li/caostheory
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Microsoft is suing Motorola over alleged Android patent infringements.

# Oracle confirmed to SJVN that it will not be working with the Document Foundation on LibreOffice.

# Sean Michael Kerner reported that Red Hat has settled an alleged patent infringement case with IP firm Acacia Research.

# Greg Luck asked if it is time to fork Java. As did Sacha Labourey.

# Black Duck Software acquired Ohloh.net from Geeknet.

# Samsung confirmed that it is dropping support for Symbian.

# xTuple introduced email integration via Feature Mob sponsored feature offering.

# Dana Blankenhorn reported on the rise of business communities.

# Cloudera is building a two-way connector for high-speed data movement between CDH and Aster Data nCluster.

# Ascensio System announced an AMI of its open source project management and collaboration platform TeamLab.

# Percona launched worldwide 24×7 support for MySQL.

# The Software Freedom Conservancy appointed Bradley M. Kuhn as its full-time Executive Director.

# The Register reported that Canonical is adding OpenStack APIs to Ubuntu.

# An overview of the Linux Foundation’s open compliance program.

# Alfresco released Alfresco Community 3.4 with new tools and services for Spring developers.

# Bernard Golden discussed cloud computing, open source, and the next generation of applications.

# Kitware received an $11m contract from DARPA as part of its Video and Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool program.

# Citrix released XenClient version 1.0.

# Peter Ganten said open core is over.

# Dirk Riehle presented his thoughts on the current state of open source business research and future directions.

451 CAOS Links 2010.04.27

VMware and Salesforce.com launch VMforce. Red Hat provides Cloud Access. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# VMware and Salesforce.com launched VMforce, a platform for developing and deploying Java cloud applications.

# Red Hat Cloud Access enables enterprises to use their Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription on Amazon Web Services.

# Canonical announced Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Server Edition, Desktop Edition and ISV support.

# Novell claimed 5,000 certified applications for SUSE Linux Enterprise.

# Nokia released the first device based on the fully open source Symbian^3 OS.

# Canonical claimed 12,000 active deployments of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, prepares LTS release.

# The Ruby Association joined the Open Invention Network as a licensee.

# Nearly 20% of SMBs plan to begin using open source software in the next 12 months, according to CompTIA.

# Microsoft released its StyleCop source code style and consistency tool as open source, using the MS-PL.

# LinMin supports the provisioning and imaging of systems running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

# Puppet Labs launched Puppet Dashboard 1.0.

# Microsoft signed the Joomla! Contributor Agreement and contributed code to the 1.6 trunk.

# eWeek reported and Schooner declared that Gear6 is in liquidation.

# What was Microsoft doing at DrupalCon? Brian Swan answered his own question.

# The Apache Hadoop project was granted a license related to Google’s MapReduce patent.

# InformationWeek reported on the formation of Riptano , a support provider for the Apache Cassandra database project, while Jonathan Ellis explained his plans for the company.

# xTuple grew Q1 revenue by over 20%.

# CIGNEX Technologies Inc and AGS Technology Group merged to form CIGNEX Holding Corporation.

# Robert Hodges of Continuent shared his thoughts on the present state and potential future of MySQL.

# The final version of the Procurement and Open Source Software Guideline has been published on OSOR.eu.

451 CAOS Links 2010.04.06

Absolutely nothing about the iPad. Seriously – nothing at all.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Glyn Moody and The H reported on IBM’s use of pledged patents in its spat with TurboHercules.

# Advice on licensing Eclipse plug-ins using the GPL (or not) from the FSF and Eclipse Foundation.

# Open Invention Network added Ooma as a licensee.

# Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst called for more openness in automobiles: why Toyota should go open source.

# Zenoss began beta testing monitoring for clouds deployed on the Cisco Unified Computing System.

# WANdisco delivered certified Subversion binaries and support.

# Brian Proffitt wondered whether Oracle’s Solaris licensing change might actually be good for OpenSolaris.

# Miguel de Icaza argued that for open source to win, “we do not need Microsoft, Apple or proprietary software to lose”.

# Songbird decided to discontinue support for the Linux version.

# Please, no more ‘Open Source Company’, pleaded Ian Skerrett.

# Stephen O’Grady discussed forking, the future of open source, and Github.

# The VAR Guy reported that Red Hat is preparing a private cloud pitch for Wall Street.

# Nuxeo CEO Eric Barroca provided his thoughts on the open core licensing model.

# Miriam Tuerk interviewed Larry Augustin on the intersection of open source and cloud.

# Krishnan Subramanian discussed making money with open source, asking “does it matter”?

CAOS Theory Podcast 2010.03.05

Topics for this podcast:

*Novell gets unsolicited bid
*More deals and drive for devops
*Dual licensing debated
*Patent and IP deals, fights involve open source

iTunes or direct download (32:56, 9 MB)

451 CAOS Links 2010.02.06

Matt Asay joins Canonical. Paula Hunter joins the CodePlex Foundation. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Matt Asay joined Canonical as chief operating officer.

# Paula Hunter was named executive director of the CodePlex Foundation.

# Actuate recorded $6.5m in BIRT-related business for Q4; annual BIRT-related business of $18.2m up 18%.

# Glyn Moody outlined The Great Oracle Experiment.

# The Symbian Foundation confirmed the 100% open source Symbian platform.

# Zarafa’s Collaboration Platform is to be packaged for Ubuntu and Fedora.

# Jaspersoft 3.7 Community release is now available.

# Oracle updated its Oracle Enterprise Pack plug-ins for Eclipse.

# CBR published an interview with Novell CEO on the company’s new strategy.

# Nuxeo released its open source Digital Asset Management offering Nuxeo DAM.

# Oracle is discontinuing access to Project Kenai, Sun’s open source project-hosting site.

# Jonathan Schwartz explained his departure from Sun: “Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more.”

# Funambol released version 8.5 of its mobile data sync and collaboration platform.

# Sauce Labs added a number of Python and Jython core committers to its team.

# OSOR.eu is offering public administrations access to more than two thousand free and open source applications.

# INSIDE Contactless is making its Open NFC protocol stack available using the Apache License.

# Bradley M Kuhn provided his views on copyright assignment.

# Black Duck Software was awarded a patent for automatically resolving software license obligations and conflicts.

# Greg Kroah-Hartman published Android and the Linux kernel community.

# Monty Widenius’s view on what to expect next from Oracle-MySQL. Parts one and two.

# Facebook released HipHop, a source code transformer for PHP.

451 CAOS Links 2010.01.21

EC approves Oracle-Sun. Google patents MapReduce. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

EC approves Oracle-Sun

The European Commission cleared Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems. While Larry Ellison is set to unveil Oracle’s Sun strategy on January 27th, Monty Widenius said he will go to the Court of First Instance to appeal the decision.

# Pro-open source political party formed in Hungary.

# Google patented MapReduce, but GigaOm argued users have nothing to fear.

# The London Stock Exchange began a twelve-month migration to its new trading platform, based on Linux.

# Sauce Labs announced Sauce IDE for Selenium tests and raised $3.1m Series A.

# Zenoss partnered with Lina Software for open source monitoring for Microsoft Windows.

# Digium launched AsteriskExchange, a community marketplace for the open source telephony project.

# Sangoma expanded its sponsorship of the FreeSwitch open source telephony project.

# Jeremy Allison warned of patent traps in Mono.

# Mark Hinkle named eleven open source cloud computing projects to watch.

# Jedox is now offering support for the open source versions of Palo for Excel and Palo Suite.

# Liferay reported 80% customer growth and 50% revenue growth in 2009.

# Jonathan Corbet said 75% of Linux code is now written by paid developers.

# Millennium Global Investments (MGI) standardized on Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Middleware.

# SugarCRM appointed former SAP and Salesforce exec Chuck Coulson as VP of business development.

# VMware announced Java and Python open-source SDKs for the VMware vCloud API.

# GroundWork Open Source released GroundWork Monitor Enterprise 6.1.

# EnterpriseDB was selected by Genscape for energy industry inventory database.

# The H reported that Mozilla’s Bespin cloud IDE project is getting a re-boot.

# Fonality named Dean Mansfield as CEO.

# SendMail unveiled its new Sentrion Application Store.

# Matt Asay explained why Novell is never going to be a better Red Hat than Red Hat and should focus on being a better Novell.

451 CAOS Links 2009.08.28

Novell reports Linux revenue up 22%. GPLv2 in decline. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Novell reported Q3 Linux platform revenue of $38m, up 22%. Total Q3 revenue was $216m, down from $245m, prompting Matt Asay to note that Novell’s use of Linux as a loss-leader to promote proprietary products is not working.

# GPLv2 usage has dropped below 50% of all OSS projects tracked by Black Duck.

# “On licenses, communities, business models”, an excellent post from Carlo Daffara on the debate about GPL usage.

# DotNetNuke acquired Snowcovered, an online market for DotNetNuke modules, skins, services and related products.

# Cray acquired SiCortex’s PathScale compiler assets. The PathScale technology is to be open sourced via partnership with NetSyncro.com, which is rebranding itself PathScale.

# AdMob plans to release acquired AdWhirl assets as open source ad mediation product for mobile platforms.

# Nokia unveiled its Maemo-based N900 handset due for release in October.

# Tuxera, NTFS-3G file system provider, signed a patent agreement with Microsoft and joined exFAT driver program.

# Opengear announced revenue growth based on its open source-based console server and KVM over IP products.

# Linux Pro Magazine published a series of interviews with women in open source.

# OSOR.eu now offers federated search of national and regional public administration open source forges in Austria, France, Italy and Spain.

# Groklaw reported that SCO Group’s Chapter 11 trustee has been appointed and approved.

# rPath announced support for The RackSpace Cloud.

# Gear6’s distribution for Memcached is now available on VMware.

# The H Open reported that Microsoft has released an open source SDK to create Bing apps on Mac OS X and iPhone.

Microsoft contributes to Linux kernel: a CAOS Theory Q&A

Microsoft has announced that it is to contribute code to the Linux kernel development effort under the GNU General Public License (GPL) v2. What on earth does it all mean? Here’s our take on the situation. With thanks to Jay Lyman for his contribution to the following:

Flying Pig

Q. This is a joke, right?

A. Not at all, although if any announcement is better suited to the image above, we can’t think of one. Microsoft has announced that it is going to contribute code to Linux under the GPLv2.

Q. What code is Microsoft contributing?

A. Microsoft is offering 20,000 lines of its own device drivers to the Linux kernel that will enable Linux to run as a guest on its Hyper-V virtualization technology. Specifically, the contributed loadable kernel modules enable Linux to run in ‘enlightened mode’, giving it efficiencies equivalent to a Windows virtual machine running on Hyper-V.

Q. Why is Microsoft doing this?

A. Red Hat and Novell’s Linux distributions already support enlightened mode, thanks to the development work done by both in partnership with Microsoft. One benefit for Microsoft of contributing to the kernel is that it reduces duplication of effort and the cost of supporting multiple, unique implementations of Linux. Once the code has been accepted into the kernel, Microsoft will use the kernel tree code as the basis for future virtualization integration development.

It also means that community Linux distributions will be able to use the code, which opens up more opportunities for Microsoft in the hosting market, where adoption of community Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian and CentOS is significant. It also therefore slightly strengthens the challenge those community operating systems can make to Red Hat and Novell, which are more direct commercial challengers to Windows.

Make no mistake about it, Microsoft’s contribution is driven by its own interests. While it must serve and respond to enterprise customers that continue to drive the use of multiple operating systems and mixed environments, Microsoft also benefits by differentiating its Hyper-V virtualization technology from virtualization leader VMware. We believe Microsoft sees an opportunity to make virtualization with Windows more Linux-friendly than VMware.

Q. What’s in it for Linux?

A. The interoperability benefits previously reserved for ‘approved’ Microsoft partners will now be available licensed under the GPLv2, and available for all Linux distributions – commercial or community – without the need for a formal partnership.

The contribution of device drivers to the Linux kernel as been a sticking point for the Linux development community in the past as developers have struggled to encourage vendors to contribute driver code to the kernel. Microsoft is therefore setting something of a precedent and could encourage other vendors that have been reticent to contribute their drivers to do so.

The seal of approval Microsoft has given to the GPLv2 is also not to be overlooked. If Microsoft can find a way to contribute to Linux projects, many other organisations may also be encouraged to do so.

Q. I guess Linux is no longer “a cancer” then?

A. Exactly. Back in 2001 Steve Ballmer told the Chicago Sun-Times* “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That’s the way that the license works.”

Reviewing the statement in the context of today’s announcement demonstrates how much progress Microsoft has made in the intervening years to understand open source licenses. Contribution to Linux, or to any other project under the GPL, would have been unthinkable at the time, and is still barely believable today. The announcement is likely to challenge perceptions of Microsoft’s strategy when it comes to open source, Linux and the most popular open source license.

*The original article is no longer available online. Plenty of references are still available, however.

Q. What does this say about Microsoft’s overall strategy towards open source?

A. The contribution is a significant sign that Microsoft is now prepared to participate with open source projects on their own terms by using the chosen license of that project and making contributions directly to the chosen development forge of that project. Microsoft continues to use its own CodePlex project hosting site for code releases, but if an existing open source project uses SourceForge then Microsoft has acknowledged that the best way to engage with that community is on SourceForge. Don’t expect this to be the last contribution Microsoft does under the GPL.

Microsoft is now becoming more proactive in how it engages with open source under a strategy it describes as ‘Open Edge’ (which we have previously mentioned here and here. Whereas Open Core is used by commercial open source vendors to offer proprietary extensions to open source code, Open Edge is Microsoft’s strategy to encourage open source development and application deployment on top of its suite of commercial software: Windows, Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, SQL Server etc.

The Open Edge strategy is rooted in attempting to ensure Microsoft’s commercial products continue to be relevant to the ecosystem of developers and partners that the company has attracted to its software platform. It is also a continuation of the realization that if customers and developers are going to use open source software, Microsoft is more likely to retain those customers if it helps them use open source on Windows et al.

For more details on Microsoft’s strategy towards open source, its partnerships with open source vendors, and its contributions to open source projects, see The 451 Group’s formal report on the contribution to Linux (the report will shortly be available via this link ).

Q. How is the contribution to the Linux kernel being handled?

A. The contribution is being made via an alliance with the Linux Kernel Driver Project and its maintainer, Greg Kroah-Hartman, who will steward the contribution into the Linux kernel code base. (Greg has a post up about it here).

Q. What are the intellectual property issues?

A. The copyright for the code will remain with Microsoft, with the contributor credit going to its engineering lead, Hank Janssen, group program manager at Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center.

Q. And patents?

A. If we were putting money on the most likely conspiracy theory to emerge in response to this news it would be that this is a Trojan horse and Microsoft is contributing code to Linux that it will later claim patent rights over. Whether that is even theoretically possible depends on your understanding of the GPLv2.

The GPLv2 contains an implicit patent promise that some would say makes a Trojan horse impossible. However, the FSF obviously thought it necessary to introduce a more explicit patent promise with the GPLv3 to remove any doubt.

Ultimately this is a question for a lawyer, or an eloquence of lawyers (yes it is ironic, apparently). In the meantime, it is our understanding that Microsoft’s understanding is that contributing code using the GPLv2 includes a promise not to charge a royalty for, or assert any patents covering, the code being contributed.

Q. What about Microsoft’s prior claim that Linux infringes its patents?

A. Microsoft really dropped the ball on its communication of the suggestion that free software infringes over 200 of its patents, and tensions with free and open source software advocates are likely to continue to be tested by Linux-related patent agreements, such as the one struck with Melco Holdings last week, which have driven scepticism and mistrust of Microsoft among some key open source supporters.

Absent the company giving up on software patents altogether, we believe that in order to convince those FOSS advocates that it is serious about co-existence, Microsoft needs to find a way to publicly communicate details about those 200+ patents in such a way that is not seen as a threat and would enable open source developers to license, work around, or challenge them. We also believe that the company is aware of this, although finding a solution to the problem will not be easy. But then neither was contributing code to Linux under the GPLv2.

UPDATE – It has subsequently become clear that there were two important questions that were not answered by our Q&A. Those have been covered by an addendum – UPDATE.

Do not confuse Microsoft IP with Linux

Microsoft’s latest intellectual property (IP) licensing agreement is once again raising eyebrows among Linux and open source software fans, prompting some to wonder what Microsoft may be doing with regard to Linux and open source software. However, let us consider how possible, or perhaps even whether possible, it would be for Microsoft to bring licensing or litigation to or against another company, whether a vendor or user of enterprise IT, that did not in some way involve Linux and open source software. The latest Microsoft IP deal, while indeed cause for some concern, is also further evidence of how pervasive and entrenched Linux and open source software is in all of IT, from smartphones and consumer electronics to enterprise servers, HPC and virtualization, to key verticals and cloud computing.

Linux and open source played a small, if not insignificant role, in the recent TomTom case, which was settled, but continued to concern open source supporters. Still, that issue may become irrelevant since the advent of a workaround to Microsoft’s patented and dated File Allocation Table (FAT) technology. Furthermore, as we saw following the TomTom lawsuit and subsequent settlement with Microsoft, there has been no impact on Linux in the embedded devices space. If anything, momentum for Linux and open source continues to accelerate here considering devices such as Google Android and Palm Pre smartphones, Intel’s $884m bet with acquisition of Wind River and continued strength for embedded Linux players.

I must admit, I was not familiar with Melco Group or Buffalo NAS technology, the vendor and product involved in the latest Microsoft IP announcement, which admittedly does make several mentions of Linux. Still, I cover Linux and open source software pretty closely, and neither were on the radar. Is it truly accurate to consider Melco Group a ‘Linux vendor?’ To me the term connotes a vendor of the Linux OS, or perhaps even stretching to a specialty provider that relies or focuses heavily on Linux. Melco Group seems no more a Linux company than any hosting company, telecommunications company, set-top box manufacturer, satellite TV service operator, printer maker, navigational device manufacturer, server performance vendor, HPC clustering specialist or cloud computing player.

This indicates it would be folly for Microsoft to attack Linux or open source software. In doing so, it would shut itself out of virtually all of the key IT markets — smartphones, navigational devices, automotive industry application, healthcare, telecom and other verticals, servers, HPC, virtualization, cloud computing, etc.

I would never say that Linux and open source software vendors, or anyone else, should not be cautious, judicious and pragmatic when dealing with Microsoft. I continue to have my own skepticisms and concerns about the company. However, I think we need to consider the idea that Microsoft is more interested in monetizing its intellectual property by licensing than it is in harming or fighting open source. There will be times that its intellectual property crosses over with open source software projects and vendors, which have evolved and matured to the point they are present in all layers, sectors and corners of our industry. There will also be times when there are no connections to any Linux or open source software.

Microsoft’s legitimate support of Linux and other open source software continues to grow, and there are certainly rewards to running on Windows. Supporters of Linux and open source should be able to take the compliment, the validation and the opportunity without alarms going off every time an organization that touches Linux or open source is involved in IP licensing or litigation. After all, tell me, what enterprise organization doesn’t touch open source software in some way today? This is further validation that Linux and open source have arrived and are here to stay.

451 CAOS Links 2009.03.31

Microsoft and TomTom settle patent claims. Alfresco makes progress and shifts its strategy. The Open Cloud Manifesto is published. Support for free software. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory

Quietening the patent drums
Cnet’s Ina Fried had the scoop on the news that Microsoft and TomTom had reached a settlement in their patent dispute. The news story was quickly followed by Microsoft’s official statement, as well as a note from the Software Freedom Law Center that the situation is not completely dealt with. Jay Lyman delivered the 451 CAOS assessment of the situation as it stands.

Outside the box
It was a busy week for enterprise content management vendor Alfresco, which announced 103% revenue growth, 270 new enterprise customers, 90 new partners and 19 new OEMs in 2008 and also launched version 3.1 of its Enterprise ECM software.

As John Newton later explained, version 3.1 involved something of a shift to the Open Core model as the company changed the balance between the community and enterprise editions:

    “We started with Alfresco 3 to put extensions to proprietary databases such as Oracle or SQL Server into the enterprise release only, while extensions to MySQL, Ingres and other open source databases were available in open source. Now with the Alfresco Enterprise 3.1, we will be adding system monitoring capabilities and easy clustering administration that will only be available as part of the enterprise version. This does not prevent the open source version from being a very usable or even scalable system. However, we believe it provides an incentive for those large enterprises that have not chosen the enterprise system to do so, because it significantly reduces their costs of deployment and scalability, as well as providing them the help and support they need for deployment.”


Best of the rest

# The Open Cloud Manifesto was published. Make of it what you will.

# Digium launched support services for open source Asterisk, which sounds initially like a non-news event. Glyn Moody explained why the move is important.

# JBoss CTO Sacha Labourey confirmed his departure from Red Hat.

# Black Duck software analysis of open source revealed reuse of code representing 316,000 staff years.

# Ross Turk, Director of Community at SourceForge, provided his view on whether the downturn will be good for open source.

# Red Hat heathcare: Economic Stimulus Brings Opportunities for Open Source.

# MySpace and Microsoft announced that they will launch open source kit for Silverlight developers.

# ComputerWorld noted that 25 highly anticipated open-source releases coming this year.

Microsoft, TomTom settle, issues do not

Microsoft and TomTom announced a settlement to their patent dispute, and while part of me was gearing up for a SCO-like saga, it just didn’t materialize. Actually, this settlement is the real-world scenario that was probably most likely from the start. It may be the end of the matter from a legal perspective, but in the world of Linux and open source, Microsoft-TomTom and its issues will live on.

The settlement does not necessarily back up my earlier contention that the suit was not aimed at Linux and open source. Still, the fact that TomTom’s countersuit did not involve the patents relating to Linux might be considered further reinforcement that the heart of the matter was the vehicle navigation technology and Microsoft’s strategy there. There is no question this is a market where Microsoft competes vigorously with Linux, but as noted recently, it appears there is no slowdown in embedded Linux adoption, whether it’s in mobile devices and other consumer electronics, institutional and industrial use, government and military or other markets.

I also think it is interesting to look at Microsoft’s messaging, which reflects a more conciliatory, respectful approach to Linux and open source. Consider its most recent statements in the TomTom case to what the company was saying following its partnership with Novell, when there were both subtle and not-so-subtle insinuations and implications about Linux users needing patent protection. Compare the TomTom-era Microsoft with a legal team in Redmond that two years ago actually gave a number of patents supposedly infringed by Linux and other open source software.

Not with the TomTom case. We heard no vague warnings for enterprise Linux users, no numerical outline of supposed infringement issues, at least not against Linux or open source software. In fact, the change in Microsoft messaging continues all the way through to the statement on the TomTom settlement, where there is recognition of GPL licensing requirements:

The agreement includes patent coverage for Microsoft’s three file management systems patents provided in a manner that is fully compliant with TomTom’s obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2).

However, the statement also tells us that in order to achieve settlement and GPL compliance, TomTom will actually drop FAT-patented parts of its products:

TomTom will remove from its products the functionality related to two file management system patents (the ‘FAT LFN patents’), which enables efficient naming, organizing, storing and accessing of file data. TomTom will remove this functionality within two years, and the agreement provides for coverage directly to TomTom’s end customers under these patents during that time.

This is sure to continue the warranted attention, concern and caution around these patents. The fact that Microsoft is passing patent protection to TomTom’s ‘end customers,’ similar to the scheme of the Microsost-Novell patent pact, will probably prompt the most objection from Linux and open source supporters focused on the broader implications.

There are those who want very much for Microsoft to specify the patents and the places where Linux supposedly infringes Windows or anything else. The thinking is that one, this might give the courts and patent review process a chance to rid the world of some troll bait. Two, if there are actual IP infringements, Linux kernel hackers will quickly and happily move away to something new, different and legitimate. Perhaps, as suggested by Larry Augustin, Linux and open source developers should use this as a lesson to be particularly cautious when dealing with software that leads back to the wrong patent holders, and there is wisdom in this. Still, I don’t think we will ever know specifically which or how many patents may be at issue in Linux, if there are any.

In the end, I would reiterate my point that Microsoft sued TomTom, not Linux or open source. Some commentors have been quick to point out that it is not theoretically possible for any company to sue Linux or open source. That’s exactly the point.