Thursday, April 30, 2009

Apache better than GPL for open-source business?

I have spent years advocating the GNU General Public License as the optimal open-source license for commercial open source.

Roughly nine years after I first became a fan of the GPL, I think I've been wrong.

My admiration for the GPL mostly stemmed from its ability to mimic, but then invert, proprietary licensing. The GPL is like opening a cannister of radioactive waste: while your competitors can touch it, you're dead certain that they won't.

Given that openness is increasingly a winning business model--if not the winning business model, as Red Hat executive Michael Tiemann argues--one has to wonder if pretending to be open through the GPL accomplishes as much as fully opening up through Apache-style licensing would.

Open-source luminary Eric Raymond is pretty clear on this point:

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Just how strong is Red Hat's open-source business?

Red Hat stands alone as the only significant public open-source company. Is this a testament to its execution, or is it a hint that open source is not well-suited to big business?

While I believe that open source will increasingly be the heart of many big technology businesses, it will almost certainly feed new entrants to markets, not incumbent vendors.

Looking at Red Hat's report on its most recent fiscal year (FY 2009), however, suggests that for these new entrants, open source can be a very profitable business indeed. I've already reported on the high-level financial results.

What is particularly intriguing is the data behind those results:

  • Red Hat is forecasting $720 million to $735 million in FY 2010, an annual growth rate of 10 percent to 13 percent over 2009.
  • 40,000 new Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers in FY 2009, the "vast majority of which are...customers that are starting off small." Lots of room to grow, in other words.
  • Nearly half of Red Hat's top-100 renewal customers upgraded to or increased the number of RHEL advanced platform servers in their Data Centers. (In its fiscal Q4 2009, Red Hat renewed each of its top-25 contracts up for renewal at 132 percent of the prior year's value.)
  • 30 percent of Red Hat's largest 30 deals included a Middleware (JBoss, usually) component.
  • Average contract lasts 23 to 24 months, with pricing remaining "consistent for the last several years."
  • Channel bookings grew 23 percent in FY 2009, while Red Hat more than doubled its number of partners to 4,500.
  • In fiscal Q4 2009, Red Hat closed two large deals, one of which was a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal that represented its largest conversion from free-to-paid (a key initiative for FY 2010) as well as a six-figure conversion deal with another customer.
  • 57 percent of bookings came from the Americas, 28 percent from EMEA, and 15 percent from APAC.
  • The recession has not "changed the length of [Red Hat's] sales cycle in any meaningful way."
  • Subscription gross margin improved 60 basis points over the year to approximately 94 percent while training and services gross margin improved approximately 280 basis points from Q4 last year, driven mainly by better utilization and higher gross margins from the Amentra business.
  • Red Hat ended its fiscal year with $846 million in cash and investments and is now debt free.
One of Red Hat's big initiatives for FY 2010 is to increase the rate of adoption of its for-fee products from prospects still using for-free versions of its software (Fedora, CentOS, etc.), a process it only started in late 2008. As Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst notes in the earnings call, enterprises often find it "very expensive" to support themselves. As the data above suggests, Red Hat is getting better at convincing them to move to Red Hat's subscription offerings.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oracle faces culture shock in Sun's open source world

Larry Ellison is a famously activist exponent of competitive strategy. An avowed student of Sun Tzu's Art of War, the Oracle chief executive has long followed an approach that sets Oracle's interests against those of its main rivals, with Microsoft, IBM and SAP cast as the enemy.

With the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, however, he is about to walk on to new terrain where some of the methods that defined Oracle's traditional approach to strategy no longer apply.

Sun's main software assets - and the jewels for which Mr Ellison said this week that he had agreed to pay $7.4bn for the company - are all closely tied to the open source world: the Java programming language and development tools, which are partly open source, as well as the Solaris operating system and MySQL database.

That makes them unlike the roughly 200 software properties that Mr Ellison has acquired in the past. They are made freely available, and rely partly on the efforts of a wider group of developers to extend and support them. Their future success, in fact, relies on a technology community that stretches well beyond Oracle - and includes companies such as IBM, which also relies on Java as a core technology

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Red Hat, Synnex Enlist Open-Source ISVs for Midmarket Channel Push

Red Hat wants a bigger piece of the midmarket, and it's enlisting the channel expertise of Synnex (NYSE:SNX) to help open-source software to gain more traction in this lucrative market segment.

On Tuesday, Red Hat introduced the Open Source Channel Alliance, a group of 9 open-source ISVs that have signed distribution deals with Synnex to bring a wide range of applications to market through the distributor's network of VARs and integrators.

Roger Egan, vice president of North American Channels for Red Hat, said the goal of the alliance is to extend the flexibility and cost savings of open-source software to a broader audience, as well as to move from a point-product focus to one more attuned with what he defined as "solution stacks."

Founding members of the Open Source Channel Alliance include: Alfresco (content management), EnterpriseDB (database), Ingres (database), Jaspersoft (business intelligence), Likewise (identity management), Pentaho (business intelligence), Zmanda (backup and recovery), Zenoss (network and systems monitoring) and Zimbra (e-mail and calendar groupware).

"We've come to learn that we have jewels in the relationships we've nurtured with open-source ISVs," Egan said. "We're trying to take our relationships and knowledge of channel and extend that to them."

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

wikiHow Launches Open Source iPhone App

From the folks at and Keishi Hattori comes a new application for the iPhone. wikiHow is ‘the world’s how-to manual’, and thanks to this new free app, you can load up a plethora of helpful articles and how-to’s no matter where you might be. Search, browse or store more than 50,000 how-to articles for online or offline viewing. There’s a ‘how-to of the day’, a bookmarking feature, and the app will even let you view YouTube videos that accompany some articles.

wikiHow comes complete with a bonus ‘wikiHow Survival Kit’, to get you through some of life’s most difficult situations… Including life saving techniques, medical treatment tips and how-to’s, how to build a fire, how to navigate without a compass, and my personal favorite… How to regain control of a spooked Camel. You never know when you might need such info, and heck, it’s just solid info everyone should know anyway!

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Reaping the benefits of Open Source

A few months ago, a Gartner report, The State of Open Source 2008, mentioned: “By 2012, more than 90 percent of enterprises will use Open Source in direct or embedded forms.” The report added: “Open Source is a phenomenon with a broad impact. Chances are, if you do not think you use it, then you use it; and if you think you do use it, then you use lots more of it than you know.”

Why is Open Source becoming so pervasive? The reason is that we are now entering an era of Collaborative Innovation. Open Source Software (OSS) is the leading example of this trend, but the Open Source development model based on collaboration, community and the shared ownership of knowledge is rapidly expanding to other areas like content (Wikipedia), medicine (Open Source Drug Discovery), scientific publishing (Public Library of Science) and other areas of society.

With 1.5 billion people online, the Internet, which is the largest collaborative platform that mankind has ever seen, has enabled OSS like Linux, Apache, Mozilla Firefox, Open Office and others to flourish. In the next couple of years another 600 million people will join the Internet. Thus the trend towards increasing collaboration is only set to grow and this is reflected in the explosive growth of Open Source projects on websites like and other collaborative websites.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

CIOs committing more to Red Hat, open source

Like begets like, and in the software world, open-source purchasing begets even more open-source purchases.

At least, that's the lesson I take from a recent Piper Jaffray report that suggests JBoss customers plan to invest heavily in Red Hat technology.

Not only are JBoss customers more likely to buy deeply into Red Hat, which is not surprising (though for Red Hat, it must be gratifying), but they're also more likely to buy MySQL and less likely to buy from Microsoft.

This can't be good news for Microsoft, and it probably is one reason the company has become so aggressive with its intellectual-property portfolio.

The data also underscores IT's natural inclination to buy into open source in ever-increasing degrees. Once an enterprise has one good experience with open source, it wants to have many more, as this chart from IDC suggests:

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Friday, April 3, 2009

The future of open source Java development under IBM

If IBM owns Java ...

The Sun-IBM merger hasn't been finalized but there's little doubt this week that the deal is coming together. Many are looking for clues as to how open source, Java-based development will change -- and change it will -- under the Big Blue Sun.

In the last few years, Sun Microsystems has warmed up to open-sourcing its software. In 2006, Sun opened up Java, and in 2007 it open-sourced most of Solaris under the GPLv3. Smaller, side projects, like NetBeans, the Java-based IDE were open-sourced as early as 2001. Sun has also long allowed developers at least some say in the progress of Java, through the Java Community Process. Historically, though, Sun has had a well-documented love/hate relationship with open source.

IBM has had a closer relationship with open source, but it wasn't always that way. In December of 1998, IBM realized that it needed to take a closer look at open source thanks to its customers beginning to pick up Linux. Before that, according to Peter G. Capek of IBM Research, IBM handled open source on a case-by-case basis.

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Microsoft Open to Open Source?

That's what one Redmond exec says. Plus, Microsoft hits Apple on its price tag, certification as a game, and more.

When it comes to open source, Microsoft has a balancing act that would be tough for Philippe Petite. Redmond must pacify shareholders by hanging onto commercial licensing, but it can't totally irritate open source-friendly IT pros. If Microsoft is too much of an open source enemy, IT can turn their backs and move to Linux, MySQL and Apache in droves.

Microsoft argues that it's on the right open source track. It believes that open sourcers should respect Microsoft patents, and conversely Microsoft should interoperate with key open tools.

Recently, Microsoft exec Robert Youngjohns took to the podium at the Open Source Business Conference to argue Redmond's case. Youngjohns pointed to support of open file formats and PHP on Windows as examples of the new open source d├ętente.

Mac Attack
I am a fan of the Mac for its stability, elegance and sheer fun factor. But there's one thing I hate: the price. I can buy an Acer netbook for around 300 bills -- less than a third of the price of the cheapest mobile Mac.

This reality is not lost on Microsoft, which recently launched an ad attacking the economics of Apple ownership. I haven't seen the commercial yet, but apparently Lauren, a young woman, wants a laptop with a 17-inch screen. She goes to the Apple store and quickly finds the only screen she can afford is four inches too small. Instead of uttering the words I might ("$6%%8&!!!!") she deadpans that she's "just not cool enough" for the Mac. Instead, she buys an HP for $700.

My daughter is a young woman named Lauren. She had an HP but ditched it for a MacBook, and so far my Lauren has never looked back. Somehow, I just couldn't talk her into that $300 Acer netbook!

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

ASP.Net MVC 1.0 now open source

Rails-like .Net Web system can now be used on Linux with Mono

According to Scott Guthrie, ASP.Net MVC 1.0 has now been released as open source code under the Microsoft Public License (MS-PL). Whoo-hoo!

For those of you who may be baffled by my enthusiasm, it is twofold. First, ASP.Net MVC brings much of the spirit of Ruby on Rails development to ASP.Net. Second, open-sourcing ASP.Net MVC means that it can easily be used on Linux with Mono.

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