Archive for October, 2009

Why COMmunity+COMpany is a winning COMbination

There is an interesting debate, partially moved by Matt Asay, with sound responses from Matthew Aslett, that centered on the reasons for (or not) moving part of the core IP asset of an open source company towards an externally controlled group, like a consortia. Matthew rightly indicates that this is probably the future direction of OSS (the “4.0″ of his graph), and I tried to address this with a few friends on twitter- but 140 chars are too few. So, I will use this space to provide a small overview of my belief: the current structure based on open core is a temporary step in a more appropriate commercialization structure, that for efficiency reason should be composed of a commuity-managed (or at least, transparently managed) consortia that manages the “core” of what now is the open source part of open core offerings, and a purely proprietary company that provides the monetization services, may those be proprietary add-ons, paid services and so on.

Why? Because the current structure is not the most efficient to enable participation from outside groups- if you look at the various open core offerings, the majority of the code is developed from in-house developers, while on community-managed consortia the code may be originated by a single company, but is taken up by more entities. The best example is Eclipse: as recently measured, 25% of the committers work for IBM, with individuals accounting for 22%, and a large number of companies like Oracle, Borland, Actuate and many others with percentages that go from 1 to 7% in a collective, non-IBM collaboration.

Having then a pure proprietary company that sells services or add-ons also removes any possibility of misunderstanding about what is offered to the customer, and thus will make the need of a “OSS checklist” unnecessary. Of course, this means that the direction of the project is no longer in the hand of a single company, and this may be a problem for investors- that may want to have some form of exclusivity or guarantee of maintaining the control. But my impression is that there is only the illusion of control, because if there is a large enough payoff, forks will make the point moot (exactly like it happened with MySQL); and by relieving control, the company gets back a much enlarged community of developers and potential adopters.



2020 FLOSS Roadmap, 2009 Version published

Having contributed to the new edition of the 2020 FLOSS roadmap, I am happy to forward the announcement relative to the main updates and changes of the 2020 FLOSS roadmap document. I am especially fond of the “FOSS is like a Forest” analogy, that in my opinion captures well the hidden dynamics that is created when many different projects create an effective synergy, that may be difficult to perceive for those that are not within the same “forest”.

For its first edition, Open World Forum had launched an initiative of prospective unique in the world: the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap (see 2008 version). This Roadmap is a projection of the influences that will affect FLOSS until 2020, with descriptions of all FLOSS-related trends as anticipated by an international workgroup of 40 contributors over this period of time and highlights 7 predictions and 8 recommendations. 2009 edition of Open World Forum gave place to an update of this Roadmap reflecting the evolutions noted during the last months (see OWF keynote presentation). According to Jean-Pierre Laisné, coordinator of 2020 FLOSS Roadmap and Bull Open Source Strategy: “For the first edition of the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap, we had the ambition to bring to the debate a new lighting thanks to an introspective and prospective vision. This second edition demonstrates that not only this ambition is reached but that the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap is actually a guide describing the paths towards a knowledge economy and society based on intrinsic values of FLOSS.

About 2009 version (full printable version available here)

So far, so good: Contributors to the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap estimate that their projections are still relevant. The technological trends envisioned – including the use of FLOSS for virtualization, micro-blogging and social networking – have been confirmed. Contributors consider that their predictions about Cloud Computing may have to be revised, due to accelerating adoption of the concepts by the market. The number of mature FLOSS projects addressing all technological and organizational aspects of Cloud Computing is confirming the importance of FLOSS in this area. Actually, the future of true Open Clouds will mainly depend on convergence towards a common definition of ‘openness’ and ‘open services’.

Open Cloud Tribune: Following the various discussions and controversies around the topic “FLOSS and Cloud Computing”, this opinion column aims to nourish the debates on this issue by freely publishing the various opinions and points of view. 2009’s article questions about the impact of Cloud Computing on employment in IT.

Contradictory evolutions: While significant progress was observed in line with 2020 FLOSS Roadmap, the 2009 Synthesis highlights contradictory evolutions: the penetration of FLOSS continues, but at political level there is still some blocking. In spite of recognition from ‘intellectuals’. the alliance between security and proprietary has been reinforced, and has delayed the evolution of lawful environments. In terms of public policies, progress is variable. Except in Brazil, United Kingdom and the Netherlands, who have made notable moves, no other major stimulus for FLOSS has appeared on the radar. The 2009 Synthesis is questioning why governments are still reluctant to adopt a more voluntary ‘FLOSS attitude’. Because FLOSS supports new concepts of ’society’ and supports the links between technology and solidarity, it should be taken into account in public policies.

Two new issues: Considering what has been published in 2008, two new issues have emerged, which will need to be explored in the coming months: proprietary hardware platforms, which may slow the development of FLOSS , and proprietary data, which may create critical lock-ins even when software is free.

The global economic crisis: While the global crisis may have had a negative impact on services based businesses and services vendors specializing in FLOSS, it has proved to be an opportunity for most FLOSS vendors, who have seen their business grow significantly in 2009. When it comes to Cloud-based businesses, the facts tend to show a massive migration of applications in the coming months. Impressive growth in terms of hosting is paving the way for these migrations.

Free software and financial system: this new theme of the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap makes its appearance in the version 2009 in order to take into account the role which FLOSS can hold in a system which currently is the target of many reflexions.

Sun/Oracle: The acquisition of Sun by Oracle is seen by contributors to the 2009 Synthesis as a major event, with the potential risk that it will significantly redefine the FLOSS landscape. But while the number of major IT players is decreasing, the number of small and medium-size companies focused around FLOSS is growing rapidly. This movement is structured around technology communities and business activities, with some of the business models involved being hybrid ones.

FLOSS is like forests: The 2009 Synthesis puts forward this analogy to make it easier to understand the complexity of FLOSS through the use of a simple and rich image. Like forests and their canopies – which play host to a rich bio-diversity and diverse ecosystems – FLOSS is diverse, with multiple layers and branches both in term of technology and creation of wealth. Like a forest, FLOSS provides vital oxygen to industry. Like forests, which have brought both health and wealth throughout human history, FLOSS plays an important role in the transformation of society. Having accepted this analogy, contributors to the Roadmap subsequently identified different kind of forests: ‘old-growth forests’ or ‘primary forests’, which are pure community-based FLOSS projects such as Linux; ‘cultivated forests’, which are the professional and business-oriented projects such as Jboss and MySQL; and ‘FLOSS tree nurseries’, which are communities such as Apache, OW2 and Eclipse. And finally the ‘IKEAs’ of FLOSS are companies such as Red Hat and Google.

Ego-altruism: The 2009 Synthesis insists on the need to encourage FLOSS users to contribute to FLOSS, not for altruistic reasons, but rather for egoistical ones. It literally recommends users to only help when it benefits themselves. Thanks to FLOSS, public sector bodies, NGOs, companies, citizens, etc. have full, free and fair access to technologies enabling them to communicate on a global level. To make sure that they will always have access to these powerful tools, they have to support and participate in the sustainability of FLOSS.

New Recommendation: To reinforce these ideas, the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap in its 2009 Synthesis added to the existing list of recommendations:
Acknowledge the intrinsic value of FLOSS infrastructure for essential applications as a public knowledge asset (or ‘as knowledge commons’), and consider new means to ensure its sustainable development


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All the possible errors, in a single slide.

I found this slide deck, from a very large and visible software company (that I will not name, leaving it as an the exercise for the reader); I believe that it was created to provide a clear response to many popular misconceptions on open source software. Unfortunately, it seems to collect in a single slide most of the myths and false assumptions that I have already mentioned in our past work within FLOSSMETRICS.


First of all, “zero cost” is something that may be true or not- it simply is not the defining attribute of open source software. At the same time, saying that proprietary software has “lower ongoing cost” is not overall true (and I have tons of independent confirmation of that), claiming that proprietary has more features is (as before) not universally true, saying that proprietary software maintains backward compatibility generated substantial laughter across the poor people here in the office that has to provide support to our commercial customers, claiming that proprietary is “more secure” recalled the recent attack against DNS claiming that it was poorly protected freeware.

Should I continue? Open standards, anyone? And the last one, implying that only proprietary software is based on managed development? Any commercial OSS vendor would happily dismiss this claim as untrue. Commitment on support? I believe that my fellow three readers would not encountering any difficulties in thinking about proprietary products that got bought and buried underground, or that simply got scrapped altogether.

Ah, I would happily send my guide to this fellow slide author, but I believe that probably this would not change this company views a single bit.


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