Friday, March 27, 2009

Sun's McNealy touts open source, bashes Oracle and IBM

BOSTON -- With rumors of a takeover by IBM swirling around him, Sun Microsytems' chairman Scott McNealy tried to pitch a room of customers this week on the idea that Sun is a wily innovator whose software and hardware are far less costly than proprietary solutions from Oracle and IBM. But McNealy had little to offer loyal customers with Sun's legacy Sparc hardware.

McNealy touted Sun's vision of cloud computing and the folly of "best of breed" to about 200 customers and partners. "Frankenstein was best of breed, and every time he keels over, IBM comes in with $100,000 shock paddles," McNealy said. Sun's goal "is to get you out of the kitchen. We build data centers; you do whatever you do," adding that "building a data center out of 40 different parts is last year's strategy."

Open source gets a plug

Like the man who succeeded him at the job of CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, McNealy also loudly beat the open source drum, but in his own inimitable style. Open source code is less buggy and more stable than proprietary code and insulates companies from the "shelf-life-of-a-banana problem" in which technology becomes obsolete 18 months after it was released.

And because the code is available for all to see, open source software such as Sun's MySQL offers a "low barrier to exit." Compare that with Oracle's database and applications. "We all know the first hit of heroin is free -- in fact, Oracle will probably pay you to roll up your sleeve," McNealy said. But sooner rather than later, your data is trapped in proprietary Oracle databases, and "contract negotiations become contract explanations."

Read More Article...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Open-source firms urged to go on legal offensive

Open-source software companies are missing out on a relatively inexpensive way to fight concerns about patent liability, according to an attorney who spoke at an open-source conference in San Francisco this week.

More open-source companies should be asking the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to re-examine patents that may pose a threat to them, as a cheaper, sometimes more suitable alternative to waging a patent lawsuit, said Van Lindberg, an attorney with Haynes and Boone LLP, who spoke at Infoworld's Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco.

Fears about patent litigation have plagued both open-source companies and their customers, and stem from patent trolls as well as competitors. Microsoft, for example, has claimed that Linux may violate hundreds of its patents. It is currently suing GPS maker TomTom, partly over TomTom's use of the Linux kernel in its products.

Filing a re-examination request involves arguing to the USPTO that a patent should not have been granted in the first place, often because the technology was too obvious or because prior art, or previous examples of the technology, existed. Some open-source groups are using this method already, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation with its Patent Busting Project. But the strategy is underutilized by the open-source community, Lindberg said.

Read More Article...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sun CTO Details Progress of Open-source Java

Sun Microsystems Inc. last week unveiled a portal that will detail its efforts to make its Java programming language available as open-source code. After the announcement, Bob Brewin, Sun's chief technology officer for software, talked to Computerworld about the state of the company's effort to make Java SE (Standard Edition) code available to the open-source community.

What is the goal for the new portal? The goal for the portal is transparency. We want to make sure that this is not just open-source, but an open community. There have been open-source projects in the past industrywide where it is just, "Here is our source, do what you want." The only way we can do that is to really engage the existing open-source communities out there and ask them for their advice, guidance and opinions.

Where does the effort to open the source code of Java stand today? We are currently planning to release significant pieces of our functionality in the fall. A Java programming compiler and the HotSpot Virtual Machine are examples. As we make sure the source is ready to go ... we'll begin releasing code over a period of time until we get the entire body out there.

What types of problems have you encountered so far in this effort? Identifying the various intellectual property encumbrances that might exist. An example is, within the graphics library, there are font rasterizers which allow you to represent characters on the screen. We have licensed those from other companies. We may ship other parts of the platform as open-source, and [the rasterizer] will ship as a binary. Once Java is open-sourced, the ideal situation is the community can help us create a replacement technology for it by developing it in open-source.

Read More Article...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Recession Is Driving Open Source Uptake, Says Novell

But some open source experts claim the software is about more than saving money

Companies are turning to community developed software in larger numbers as the recession continues to bite into IT budgets, according to open source specialist Novell.

More than half of IT managers plan to "accelerate Linux adoption" this year, according to a survey carried out by research firm IDC, and sponsored by Novell, the former proprietary software maker which acquired the Suse Linux distribution in November 2003.

More than 72 percent of respondents are planning or have already decided to increase use of Linux on servers, according to a report on the research, which surveyed 300 senior IT professionals from organisations with more than 100 staff.

Surprisingly, the survey also showed that around 68 percent of companies were also planning to increase their use of Linux on the desktop. However given that existing uptake of the open source OS on the desktop is extremely low, it is not clear what this would translate into in terms of market share - although the rise of netbooks has seen interest in open source notebooks increase.

Read More Article...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Microsoft Rubs Shoulders with Open Source

Microsoft and the Creative Commons turned up at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and released an Ontology Add-in for Microsoft Office Word 2007 so authors can add scientific hyperlinks as semantic annotations, drawn from ontologies, to their documents and research papers.

Ontologies are shared vocabularies created and maintained by different academic domains to model their fields of study.

The Add-in is supposed to make it easier for scientists to link their documents to the web in what Microsoft called "a meaningful way."

Microsoft remarks that "the nuggets of information necessary for science to progress are often hard to find, submerged deep within the web, or within databases that can't be easily accessed or integrated. As a result, many scientists today work in relative isolation, follow blind alleys and unnecessarily duplicate existing research."

Read More Article...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Microsoft Releases Open Tools for Scientific Research

Information necessary for science to progress can be hard to find. Addressing this challenge for researchers, Microsoft and Creative Commons have announced the release of the Ontology Add-in for Microsoft Office Word 2007 that will enable authors to easily add scientific hyperlinks as semantic annotations, drawn from ontologies, to their documents and research papers. Ontologies are shared vocabularies created and maintained by different academic domains to model their fields of study.

This Add-in will make it easier for scientists to link their documents to the Web in a meaningful way. Deployed on a wide scale, ontology-enabled scientific publishing will provide a Web boost to scientific discovery.

Science Commons, a division of Creative Commons, is incubating the adoption of semantic scientific publishing through creation of a database of ontologies and development of supporting technical standards and code. Microsoft Research has built a technology bridge to enable the link between Microsoft Office Word 2007 and these ontologies.

"The Web is broken for scientific researchers -- full of hyperlinks of scholarly articles, but it is nearly impossible for us to find what we need," said John Wilbanks, vice president for Science at Creative Commons. "The semantic Web tool will help bridge the gap between basic research and meaningful discovery, unlocking the value of research so more people can benefit from the work scientists are doing."

Read More Article...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Open source to help Android overtake iPhone by 2012

Google’s Android mobile platform will overtake Apple’s iPhone OS X within three years, Informa has predicted.

The analyst group said Android’s open source nature will give it a boost over Apple’s darling, but Nokia’s Symbian will maintain its lead over Android as well as challengers Linux and Microsoft.

“The decision to move the Symbian platform to open source is crucial in maintaining its leadership over Android, Linux and Microsoft,” said Gavin Byrne, a research analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, in a statement. This is largely because of the increasing importance of developers in the mobile industry, as the value in the market moves from handsets to software to now to applications.

Symbian’s fall in popularity from 65 per cent market share in 2007 to 49 per cent last year reflects a poor showing by Nokia’s smartphone lineup as well as the platforms of its rivals.

Read More Article...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stretching 2009 Budgets Using Open Source

Hybrid software development is producing results

With a global recession looming, software development managers are being asked to slash resource budgets in 2009 while maintaining schedules. When you need to deliver more features with fewer coding resources, there is only one answer: hybrid development. Hybrid software development involves the combination of internally developed code with external code from vendors, partners, and, especially, the open source community.

Stretching the Budget, Improving Productivity
In this new era of software development, companies will need to rely on development processes and procedures that institutionalize best practices around the integration of internal and external code. This core competency will become one of the ways that world-class software development teams attain competitive advantage. Excellence in managing hybrid development will flow straight to the bottom line, enabling development teams to deliver new applications and features with fewer resources.

It is hard to imagine that anyone would start a project in 2009 and plan to write it entirely from scratch. There are freely available open source databases, kernels, stacks, report generators, XML parsers, utilities, tools, platforms, and more. The list of available open source components, methods, classes, and algorithms is simply too numerous to mention. One customer that I recently spoke to reused open source components in 35% of a $3M software development project. This both reduced schedule risk and produced significant savings for that organization.

Managing Risk
The strategic reuse of open source software brings tremendous potential benefits, but also creates new risks and issues that must be managed: security vulnerabilities, conflicting license obligations, version control issues, code leakage, export regulations, and policy issues. These issues are only somewhat unique to the reuse of external software, but are especially challenging to manage for a code base in which there may be relatively less in-house expertise.

The introduction of an external component into a project needs to be managed as an integrated set of business processes involving software developers in partnership with purchasing, IT, security, legal, product management, the technology office, the open source review board, and any other internal groups that have a stake in the policy administration of software. This is important, because engineering can potentially produce functional code that is dysfunctional from a business and compliance perspective.

Read More Article...