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.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2012.06.22

Topics for this podcast:

*Sauce Labs grows with fast Selenium application testing
*MySQL, NoSQL, NewSQL survey results and analysis
*Microsoft’s Linux love leaves out Red Hat
*Hadoop roundup with Cloudera, Hortonworks and VMware
*2012 Future of Open Source Survey highlights

iTunes or direct download (28:28, 5.1MB)

Got open source cloud storage? Red Hat buys Gluster

Red Hat’s $136m acquisition of open source storage vendor Gluster marks Red Hat’s biggest buy since JBoss and starts the fourth quarter with a very intersting deal. The acquisition is definitely good for Red Hat since it bolsters its Cloud Forms IaaS and OpenShift PaaS technology and strategy with storage, which is often the starting point for enterprise and service provider cloud computing deployments. The acquisition also gives Red Hat another weapon in its fight against VMware, Microsoft and others, including OpenStack, of which Gluster is a member (more on that further down). The deal is also good for Gluster given the sizeable price Red Hat is paying for the provider of open source, software-based, scale-out storage for unstructured data and also as validation of both open source and software in today’s IT and cloud computing storage.

This is exactly the kind of disruption we’ve been seeing and expecting as Linux vendors compete with new rivals in virtualization, cloud computing and different layers of the stack, including storage (VMware, Microsoft, OpenStack, Oracle, Amazon and others), as covered in our recent special report, The Changing Linux Landscape.

While the deal makes perfect sense for both Red Hat and for Gluster, it also has implications for the white hot open source cloud computing project OpenStack. There was no mention of OpenStack in Red Hat’s FAQ on the deal, but there was a reference to ongoing support for Gluster partners, of which there are many fellow OpenStack members. OpenStack was also highlighted among Gluster’s key open standards participation along with the Linux Foundation and Red Hat-led Open Virtualization Alliance oriented around KVM. Sources at both Gluster and Red Hat, which point to OpenStack support being bundled into Red Hat’s coming Fedora 16, also reiterated to me Red Hat is indeed planning to continue involvement with OpenStack around the Gluster technologies. I suspect Red Hat is looking to leverage Gluster more for its own purposes than for OpenStack’s, but I must also acknowledge Red Hat’s understanding of the value of openness, community and compatibility. Taking that idea a step further, Gluster may represent a way that Red Hat can integrate with and tap into the OpenStack community by blending it with its own community around Fedora, RHEL, JBoss, RHEV and Cloud Forms and OpenShift.

The deal also leads many to wonder whether or what may be next for Red Hat in terms of acquisition. We’ve long thought database and data management technologies were areas where we might see Red Hat building out. This was also the subject of renewed rumors recently, and we believe it might still be an attractive piece for Red Hat given the open source opportunities and targets around NoSQL technologies such as Apache Hadoop distributed data management framework and Cassandra distributed database management software. We’ve also believed systems management to be a potential place for Red Hat to further expand. Given its need to largely stay within open source, we would expect targets in this area to include GroundWork Open Source, which joins Linux and Windows systmes in its monitorig and management, and Zenoss, which works with Cisco and Red Hat rival VMware in monitoring and managing systems with its open source software. Another potential target that would increase Red Hat’s depth in open source virtualization and cloud computing is Convirture, which might also be an avenue for Red Hat to reach out to midmarket and SMB customers and channel players. Red Hat was among the non-OpenStack members we listed as potential acquirers when considering the M&A possibilities (451 subscribers) out of OpenStack.

Given its recent quarterly earnings report and topping the $1 billion annual revenue mark, Red Hat seems again to be bucking the bad economy. We’ve written before in 2008 and more recently how bad economic conditions can be good for open source software. Red Hat is atop the list of open source vendors that suffer as traditional, enterprise IT customers such as banks freeze spending or worse, fail. However, the company’s deal for Gluster is yet another sign it is thriving and expanding despite economic difficulty and uncertainty.

You don’t have to just look at Red Hat’s earnings or take our word for it. On Jim Cramer’s ‘Mad Money’ this week, we heard Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst praised for Red Hat performance and traction where most companies and many economists are throwing the blame: financial services, government and Europe. Cramer credited Red Hat for a ‘spectacular quarter’ and allowed Whitehurst to tout the benefits of the Gluster technology and acquisition, particularly Gluster’s software-based storage technology that matches cloud computing. It was quite a contrast to the news out of Oracle Open World, where hardware was a focal point.

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.

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.

Hypervisor fight good for customers, good for FOSS

There have been many changes in the market and technology since Citrix acquired XenSource and a major stewardship stake in the Xen open source hypervisor four years ago. Red Hat’s 2008 Qumranet acquisition and subsequent push behind the Linux-integrated Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor has added to the disruption. One thing, though, remains the same: the intense competition among these open source hypervisors in the enterprise market.

Read the entire article at LinuxInsider.

New Linux landscape emerging

Recent news that Linux vendor Red Hat is changing the way it releases code, described as ‘obfuscating’ or worse by some FOSS advocates, brings up an important discussion of complying not only wiith the letter of open source software licenses, norms and practices, but complying with the spirit of open source.

However, I’m going to leave that debate to others while I focus on another matter that is highlighted by Red Hat’s recent move: the changing enterprise Linux landscape. Red Hat’s move shows an intensifying competition in the Linux market, with Red Hat seeking to thwart or slow the copying and reselling of its code. It also highlights the change in positioning of Linux distributions, which are expanding beyond a couple of main distributions to a number of other possibilities, driven primarily by virtualization and cloud computing. Of course, there is also an impact from unpaid, community Linux distros, including CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu, as covered in our special report The Rise of Community Linux.

Indications are that the Linux market changes are continuing, with a greater impact from the unpaid community distributions, which are often ideal for stripping out or adding components for various virtualized and cloud computing deployments. Based on customer and vendor conversations, we also see Ubuntu as a much more important Linux distribution in the clouds, compared to the traditional enterprise server market. In fact, most polls and surveys indicate Ubuntu as the top Linux OS used for clouds, including our own. Finally, there is yet another Linux distribution that is not necessarily an ‘official’ Linux, but is certainly well-used in cloud computing: Amazon Linux. While the company does not promote its own Linux version, wide use of Amazon’s Linux AMI are, in effect, Amazon Linux. The same might be said for OpenStack, which is being described by Rackspace and other backers as a ‘cloud operating system.’

Given we have described 2011 as the year of Linux in the clouds, we will be watching closely to see how the market, the use of Linux and the various distributions and their backers continue to evolve. This will also be the focus of a new special report from The 451 Group that is coming soon.

DMTF highlights demand for cloud license management relief

The emergence of license management as a primary issue among enterprise cloud computing users, customers and providers was reinforced this week when the DMTF announced its plans to study and address a need for software licensing standards in virtualized and cloud computing IT environments.

We first saw the prominence of license management in today’s enterprise IT when we asked in December 2009 more than 1,700 open source users and customers to rank the sources of cost savings from open source. About 83% said software licenses, meaning royalties, provided cost savings. The next most prominent answer was license management, which was identified by more than 54% of respondents as a source of cost savings from open source. Other sources of cost savings included: maintenance contracts (which is similar and related in regards to this blog post), hardware, support, productivity and development.

Still, concerns and cost pains associated with license management are part of a theme that has been resonating among both customers and providers, and I believe it is among the primary drivers of open source in cloud computing. Open source is not only associated with cost savings, it is associated with greater ease and simplicity in licensing. After all, if you’re concerned about figuring out and paying for the cloud computing resources you use instead of taking advantage of those resources, you can always just use the free, unpaid software if it is open source. While there may well be similar licensing headaches awaiting customers of commercial open source software, the fact of the matter is open source does provide more flexibility and open source is no-doubt associated positively with cost savings, license management savings and general user empowerment.

We also discussed the importance of license management and related open source advantages when we highlighted the year 2011 for Linux. In addition, the work of the DMTF and the issue of license management also plays into our recent take on the pillars of openness in today’s enterprise IT landscape.

It also makes sense that license management and keeping track of what you are paying for in cloud computing would be a major concern for customers who need elasticity in pricing and instant ability to scale up or down without calling in the lawyers and accountants each time. Thus, vendors are walking the line between generating as much revenue from their technology and services as possible, but aso providing users and customers the ability to utilize cloud computing resources in a way that matches the technology – with agility, flexibility, speed, scalability and stability. Basically, if you’re gearing up for the tax deadline, or Superbowl or Valentine’s Day or whatever, you don’t have the time or staff for a license audit. At the same time, your cloud computing providers cannot simply allow you to use as much bandwidth and other resources as needed without keeping a tab. Just as the DMTF, we will continue to watch this issue and we are hopeful that the prominence and significance of open source software in today’s enterprise IT drives more open cloud standards, including those for license management.

Is cloud computing opening up?

We’ve already identified the significance of open source software to cloud computing, based on the cloud stacks from large IaaS, PaaS and other providers, on the most popular projects used for public, private and hybrid clouds and on the traction of key open source pieces such as Linux, Xen, KVM, Apache Tomcat, Hadoop, PHP, Ruby and many others. We’ve also discussed how open source is playing a role not only in the technology, but in the discussions, debates and overall evolution of cloud computing. While we believe the continued use and growth of critical open source pieces in cloud computing will contribute to a more open cloud ecosystem and market, we actually saw some evidence of this recently with word that the next Ubuntu Linux from Canonical will support not only the Eucalyptus cloud framework, but also the ever-popular OpenStack technology, project and community.

We wondered recently about the impact of a cloud partnership between Red Hat and Eucalyptus Systems, which also works closely with Canonical for its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. In a recent discussion, Marten Mickos told me Eucalyptus Systems fully expects and supports Canonical’s moves toward another cloud framework, OpenStack. While Canonical’s strategy probably has as much to do with customer demand, particularly for cloud flexibility, as it does with responding to rivals’ moves and deals, I believe that both the Red Hat partnership with Eucalyptus Systems and Canonical’s support for multiple, open source cloud computing frameworks signal a more open cloud computing market that is evolving. Customers are prioritizing flexibility and portability, and open source represents both perceived and real mechanisms for providing it. We’ve seen similar support from rival vendors on the operating system and hypervisor, most notably with Red Hat and Microsoft on virtualization, and I expect we’ll see this repeated with other vendors and technologies in cloud computing.

Sure there is still the question of how open is open enough, but the latest activity is truly good news for users of open source software and customers of open source vendors, who will benefit from this cross-project, cross-cloud platform support, collaboration and perhaps, community.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2010.11.12

Topics for this podcast:

*Our latest CAOS Special Report – Control and Community
*Red Hat releases RHEL 6
*Symbian and Oracle highlight community challenges
*The latest on government adoption of OSS from GOSCON
*Open core issue continues, now with Linux and evil twins

iTunes or direct download (31:02, 8.5MB)

HP leverages Linux, less known for contribution

The 451 Group has published another open source strategy Spotlight report, this time turning our attention to longtime Linux server vendor Hewlett-Packard, which continues to dedicate resources to Linux and other open source software communities, but which also has a lower profile than others known for their open source contributions.

HP has long been a big supporter of Linux and other open source software, particularly through its testing, certification and support of Linux on its ProLiant x86 and now Integrity IA-64-based servers. But despite its top market position, the company has also historically been overshadowed by others similarly supporting Linux and open source.

HP’s work with Linux centers on enabling, qualifying and supporting Linux on hardware and with its management software, and this may help explain why its open source contribution is sometimes viewed as more self-serving than for open source community. Still, with its contributions to the Linux kernel in architecture, virtualization, security, filesystems and hardware device drivers, the company’s support and contribution have a significant impact.

In addition to numerous printer drivers contributed and embedding open source in more than 200 of its own products, HP is responsible for initiating more than 3,000 open source projects, providing more than 200 open source tools, utilities and libraries, paying 300 Linux developers and supporting some 2,500 Linux and other open source developers. The company also works with Intel and Yahoo on the Open Cirrus cloud testbed and partners with other open source players, including Cloudera, which bases business on the Hadoop data management framework and Canonical, distributor of Ubuntu Linux. Although HP cannot support every flavor of Linux (it estimates there are more than 700 of them) the company offers arguably the largest range of enterprise Linux support, spanning from unpaid community Linux such as CentOS to enterprise subscription versions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

HP recognizes that users and customers – in financial services, insurance, telecommunications, healthcare, and among other early adopters – no longer need to be convinced on Linux. What they need now is guidance on adapting their strategy and effectively incorporating Linux and other open source software.

More is available in the HP Spotlight report, which is available to existing 451 Group clients. Non-clients, as always, may apply for trial access via the same link.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2010.05.28

Topics for this podcast:

*Licensing buzzes with Google, OSI, virtualization and the cloud
*Open source barometer Black Duck sees growth in mobile, healthcare, government
*New life for LinuxCare shows renewed vigor for Linux in clouds
*Apache Hadoop support old and new with IBM, Datameer

iTunes or direct download (27:13, 7.5MB)

Licensing matters again in open source or not, virtualization and the cloud

Just when you thought open source and its licensing were getting a bit dull (okay, that will probably never happen) … Sure, the GPL is giving up some of its dominance. OEM, embedded, mobile and other expansion areas for open source are keeping open source licenses relevant, as are virtualization and cloud computing, and these are all areas where open source licenses such as the AGPLv3 hold both promise and burden, depending on who you ask. It’s clear open source licensing is heating up again as a topic and as we assess what is really open and what is really not.

Matt recently asked about Google’s recently announced WebM, whether it is open source and what this tells us about the open source license definition and approval process. WebM, a Web video format that is available for free, is intended as open and even open source, but it is not actually licensed under an OSI-approved open source license, thus making it fall short of the definition of open source.

We may see Google get that OSI approval. It’s certainly not out of the ordinary, and even Microsoft has successfully lobbied and certified some of its own licenses as open source. However, for the time being, WebM falls under the category of ‘not open source,’ and I believe reflects Google’s challenge of getting open enough. On the other hand, Google’s Android OS, which is also backed by a broad consortium of other software, hardware, wireless carrier and other players, is sometimes criticized or questioned on its openness, particularly amid its recent progress. The fact of the matter is the kernel and core of the OS is based on Linux and the OS itself is licensed under the Apache 2.0, one of the top open source licenses we discuss in our report, The Myth of Open Source License Proliferation and one we see gaining use and prominence.

‘Open enough’ is another topic we’ve discussed on the CAOS Theory blog before, but I believe we are seeing cases of non open source software, such as Amazon’s APIs for EC2 and its cloud computing services, being open and available enough in many regards. Yet the fact these are not open standards and not open source brings persisting concerns about what the future might hold. This also highlights how lock-in, which we saw fade to some extent as a factor driving open source, is becoming more significant again. Although there has been an evolving acceptance of some lock-in, particularly as the debate has moved to open data, many early and established cloud computing users are worried if they have a single source for their infrastructure and services (vendor and product shutdowns, consolidation and rigid roadmaps are among the legitimate customer fears). In response, many are looking to ‘alternative’ software pieces and stacks for their private and hybrid cloud computing endeavors, and this is frequently, if not mostly open source.

Back to the licensing matter, we’re also seeing some friction on software licensing from virtualization and cloud computing, where the wants and needs of suppliers and consumers do not necessarily align. In terms of open source, this dilemma shows how flexibility and leverage — either with the vendor or with the software itself given the ability to access source code and build on it or influence its development — can help set open source apart as users contemplate their licensing and deployment strategy. Still, there are also challenges that come with open source software licensing, such as requiring the sharing of code and modifications and limited use of the open source code in combination with other software and in other products.

All of this highlights the ongoing need and importance of the OSI and broader industry definition of open source and its licenses, particularly as open source continues to blur and blend with non-open source in mobile and other electronic devices, virtualization, cloud computing and elsewhere.

LinuxCare relaunch reveals cloud lift for Linux

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

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

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

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

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

As the hypervisor turns, Red Hat leaves Xen

With its recent beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Red Hat is taking its most pronounced step away from the Xen hypervisor in favor of KVM, which it sees as a step forward for performance, flexibility and support, particularly for virtualization and cloud computing.

It is interesting to watch how Red Hat and Linux rival Novell are moving forward regarding hypervisors. Back a few years ago when Xen, and the hypervisor for that matter, were relatively new to the scene, particularly if it wasn’t VMware’s hypervisor, there was far different positioning from the big Linux vendors Novell and Red Hat. Novell was eagerly incorporating Xen into its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server software, ready to take advantage of the move to virtualization to consolidate servers and support, which was particularly popular with Linux. Contrast this to Red Hat, which was still holding off on actually incorporating Xen into its Red Hat Enterprise Linux, in large part based on RHEL’s key verticals and customers such as financial services and telecommunications companies that were more committed to stability than to jump into Xen. We also saw a little bit of this story repeating itself on real-time Linux a couple of years ago.

Now contrast this to today’s situation, where Red Hat is eagerly and rapidly moving its support, resources and customers to KVM, which it sees as advantageous all around with performance, manageability and other benefits of being integrated into the Linux kernel and being newer. Novell, meanwhile, isn’t being quite as reluctant on a move to KVM, since it benefits from the same integration on SLES (Novell contributes to the Linux kernel and KVM and also supports KVM for customers in a service pack to SLES 11). However, Novell is likely in no hurry to see Red Hat’s $107m Qumranet acquisition and KVM support pay off, and it is likely more than content to continue to support and work with Xen and the many customers using it.

So while Red Hat can rightfully claim the lead on KVM development and pushing it into the market, Novell may benefit from spreading its support more evenly among the various hypervisor and virtualization management technologies that continue to get customer and cloud use, including KVM and Xen and VMware. Regardless of where these and other vendors are placing their hypervisor, virtualization and cloud computing bets, it is certainly intersting drama to watch.

Cloud monitoring keeps open source in cool crowd

One of the first special reports I wrote for 451 Group was an analysis of the open source systems management vendors on the scene — GroundWork, Hyperic, Zenoss, OpenNMS Group, Nagios Enterprises and some others. These named ones are those that made it and while there was some reckoning in the market and there have been changes, it is interesting to see these players still plugging away, pushing into new markets and powering open source for systems, network and application monitoring and management, including cloud computing environments.

When acquired by SpringSource a year ago, there was some question as to the real value of open source systems monitoring and management company Hyperic, which had taken the most pronounced and aggressive move toward the cloud. Flash forward to VMware’s latest SpringSource tc Server release and we see VMware, at the very least, still sees technical and market value in Hyperic, which continues to be its cloud appliation and infrastructure monitoring technology and brand. Hyperic and its acquisition by SpringSource also served as an early milestone in the devops trend.

As for GroundWork Open Source, the company just made an announcement for monitoring private clouds created with Eucalyptus Systems, which continues to gain buzz and attention itself with its recent hiring of former MySQL CEO Marten Mickos. The GroundWork-Eucalyptus joint offering, intended to provide one point of control for datacenters and cloud computing environments both private and public, is also intended for channel partners (which represent about half of GroundWork’s revenue) to offer Eucalyptus-based private clouds with monitoring as well.

Zenoss is another vendor that continues to leverage open source for systems management that is finding continued interest and traction in large part thanks to emergent models and strategies in cloud computing. In its case, Zenoss announced it will provide service assurance monitoring for private and public clouds based on Cisco’s Unified Computing System. The beta service promises enterprises and service providers fast and cost effective deployment of a unified operations console for UCS services, which could include physical, virtual and/or cloud computing environments.

There are also others that are still growing in the enterprise systems monitoring and management space with open source software: Nagios Enterprises and OpenNMS Group in particular. Nagios Enterprises, which shares the same name as the popular open source monitoring project, continues to grow its enterprise and cloud presence despite a fork and check on its development last year.

OpenNMS Group, among the most community and project-oriented of the open source commercial plays in systems management, is part of an interesting effort toward a cloud service broker (CSB), aimed at enabling service providers to connect to various cloud providers, along with British Telecom and others.

Given much of the efficiency and rewards of cloud computing center on driving greater utilization and efficiency, it is not surprising that monitoring is a big part of it. Given the trend toward using open source pieces for cloud computing, particularly as we consider the current wave of investment and building of private cloud infrastructures where open source is very well-suited, it is not surprising to see open source a big part of it, too.

VMware on open source track to cloud

I have to admit, I was somewhat skeptical of VMware’s interest and outlook with regard to open source software when the enterprise vendor acquired SpringSource in August 2009. Basically, I thought VMware was more focused on cloud strategy and SpringSource’s subscription business in application development and deployment than on its open source nature. However, after its second open source acquisition of Zimbra messaging and collaboration from Yahoo! and talking further with VMware, it is clear the company — once widely known as the proprietary virtualization option juxtaposed against Xen open source virtualization — is an open source believer.

Of course, much of this occurs as Linux and open source dive further under the covers, winning placement but not notoriety in a range of consumer and enterprise uses. Nevertheless, VMware makes no secret its belief that open source software represents the fastest way to reach the widest audience, whether it’s developers in the case of SpringSource, or service providers and other cloud computing users with Zimbra. Similar to our findings for a recent report about customer and user views on open source, VMware sees primarily cost and complexity mitigation benefits from open source software. The company also cites open source as the reason Zimbra has managed growth and popularity, even in the face of Microsoft’s popularity via Exchange and SharePoint.

This is not to say VMware will be making only open source acquisitions and deals going forward as it builds its vCloud stack and story. In fact, in this regard, VMware is in a more flexible position than Red Hat, which is practically more obligated to stick to open source targets or acquire with the intent to open, as we’ve seen with some of its acquired Qumranet technology.

VMware calls the Zimbra acquisition its move ‘up the stack,’ and while additional pieces will not necessarily be open source, I expect the same cost, complexity, flexibility, developer, speed, strategic and other factors that drove the SringSource and Zimbra acquisitions will continue VMware’s focus on open source.

Updated 1/20/2010: VMware has already taken further open source steps with this announcement of vCloud SDKs supporting open source languages.

2010 kicks off era of hidden Linux

For something as open as Linux — the open source operating system developed by thousands of individuals and dozens of companies — you wouldn’t think it would be so hidden, but that’s exactly what Linux will be in 2010 and beyond. We’ve already discussed progress for non-desktop Linux and the layered pervasiveness of Linux. Now let’s consider what might happen as Linux quietly finds its way into even more consumer and enterprise use.

The most prominent yet most hidden place this is happening is in embedded devices — which range from consumer electronics such as media players, set-top boxes and televisions to automotive infotainment to industrial control technology to aerospace and military technology. We’ve seen some consolidation and M&A around embedded Linux, particularly the Android OS backed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance, with deals such as Intel-Wind River, Mentor Graphics-Embedded Alley and most recently, Cavium Networks-MontaVista. In addition, processor players including ARM Holdings and MIPS Technologies are supporting Android and embedded Linux. Soon behind the current cavalcade of Android-based smartphones hitting the market, we can expect even more various devices running Android and other forms of embedded Linux. What we shouldn’t expect is to see or hear the word ‘Linux’ in any advertising, packaging or campaigning.

Of course, there’s a whole lot more Linux and other open source software in mobile devices today — Android, Nexus One, WebOS, LiMO, Moblin, Ubuntu Netbook Remix and more — but we’re not really hearing or seeing it as ‘mobile Linux.’ Obviously there continues to be some degree of fragmentation, but given Google and the many Android-based devices that continue to come to market, there is also consolidation here, too. Linux may be stronger than it ever has in mobile devices in 2010, but don’t look for Linux by name. It’s unlikely you’ll see it from the handset manufacturers, software vendors, wireless carriers and others who are pushing it.

Next up, there will be much more virtual Linux, particularly in Microsoft and Windows shops that are enjoying greater integration and support of Linux from Redmond. This — along with the growing base of enterprise Linux users leveraging virtualization and additional commercial support from Red Hat, Novell, Canonical and others — will help fuel more virtual Linux traction and growth. However, don’t expect Microsoft to talk too loudly about virtual Linux options and keep in mind we are still, even now in 2010, relatively early on in the enterprise adoption of server virtualization.

Moving on, what better place for Linux to hide inconspicuously than in cloud computing? We’ve covered the significance of community Linux in the enterprise and also community Linux in the clouds. With more support for community software and growing desire to build private and hybrid clouds, Linux (both commercial and community) figures prominently into the equation as a basic, flexible yet scalable building block. The end result is both use of Linux to build cloud infrastructure and availability of Linux in the clouds, even though it is likely to be labeled or branded something other than ‘Linux.’

So while we can expect major market gains and new inroads for Linux, the further the open source OS spreads, the less likely we are to really see how far.

Red Hat’s organic growth opportunities

We reported recently on Red Hat’s revenue growth and deferred revenue. One of the things I have been looking at recently is the slowdown in Red Hat’s growth in recent years, and the opportunities that the company has to improve that growth.

For some perspective it is worth noting that while Red Hat’s revenue has been growing steadily:

The rate of growth has been in decline for some time:

We have also noted (451 Group clients only) that the company will in all likelihood have to invest in inorganic growth if it is to meet its ambitious targets (such as 50% of server operating system market share by 2015, and growing to $1bn in revenue over three years – from February 2008).

Unfortunately for Red Hat its opportunities for inorganic growth in its core Linux market are limited since its dominance of the enterprise Linux market means that very few vendors would help it gain serious Linux market share. While there are multiple opportunities for the company to expand into new markets one problem that the company has is that would-be acquisition targets (MySQL, Hyperic) keep getting snapped up by its rivals.

(This isn’t a post about inorganic growth opportunities, but given our suggestion that open source can serve as an on-ramp to the cloud I would suggest that Red Hat could do a lot worse than look at Eucalyptus Systems as a long-term growth opportunity).

Fortunately for Red Hat the two major acquisitions that it has made in recent years (JBoss and Qumranet) both provide the company with opportunities to drive organic growth. Indeed, looking at the company’s business it is interesting to note quite how many opportunities for organic growth are at its disposal:

* JBoss – Red Hat’s middleware business continues to grow faster than the Linux business, albeit still not as a reportable segment of the company’s revenue. The company noted that 30% of its largest deals involved a middleware is fiscal 2009, there is still a lot of opportunity for greater cross-selling. The acquisition of systems integration and consulting firm Amentra was designed to help it deliver better value to JBoss customers. That and the JBoss MASS migration tools should start to deliver.

* The channel – 61% of deals came from the channel in Q1, up from 56% Q4. Red Hat more than doubled channel partners to 4,500 in 2009. Advanced Partners – VARs/SIs – grew from about 100 to about 350 in 09. Additionally the company has noted that while its renewal rates for its biggest accounts are close to 100% (“I think the only one that didn’t in the last couple of years was Oracle itself”, noted Jim Whitehurst in June) renewal rates from channel deals tend to be lower. It has put a program in place to rectify that.

* Increased penetration into existing accounts – Red Hat had 40,000 new customers in FY09. As the Eclipse Foundation’s Donald Smith noted, that means the company has a low revenue per customer. However, it also suggests huge opportunity for increased penetration into existing customers.

* Up-selling to Advanced Platform – traditionally, 70% of Red Hat’s Linux users have been on what was Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES. However, 50% of renewals in FY09 upgraded to the higher price Advanced Platform, rather than going for the standard Enterprise Linux Server.

* Virtualization – One of the drivers for AP is that it includes the advanced virtualization capabilities. Interest in virtualization is not only generating demand for the higher-priced RHEL variant but also helps Red Hat to avoid spending freezes on new hardware by de-coupling RHEL adoption from new hardware spending.

* Free to fee – Matt Asay noted recently that “nonpaid usage of Red Hat’s software that may well pose a bigger risk” to Red Hat than its chief rival Novell. That is something that the company is aware of, and it has been auditing customers to ensure that the amount of RHEL systems they have running is suitable for their subscription level. The company also sees a significant opportunity in converting users of community Linux distributions – such as CentOS or Ubuntu – to RHEL subscribers, and in 4Q09 landed a multi-year, multi-million dollar free-to-paid deal.

Will those be enough to help the company achieve its ambitious goals? Possibly not, and we do believe that Red Hat needs to expand its addressable market, but it is clear that even without acquisitions Red Hat has multiple opportunities for growing revenue in the next couple of years.

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.