Amazon Sells GNU/Linux down the River

From @glynmoody:

Here’s a particularly stupid move by Amazon:

Microsoft Corp. today announced that it has signed a patent cross-license agreement with Amazon.com Inc. The agreement provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio and covers a broad range of products and technology, including coverage for Amazon’s popular e-reading device, Kindle™, which employs both open source and Amazon’s proprietary software components, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers.

Microsoft has consistently refused to give any details of its absurd FUD about GNU/Linux infringing on its patents, which is not surprising, since they are likely to be completely bogus and/or trivial. So Amazon is showing real pusillanimity in making this unnecessary deal. Shame on you, Jeff.

The official press release is here. Is Microsoft out to once again start using FUD against Linux? The Financial Times seems to think it’s a possibility:

Late on Monday, it announced a patent cross-licensing deal with Amazon. Among other things, this will cover the e-commerce company’s use of Linux in its servers. That is a big deal: given Amazon’s ambitions to become one of the biggest operators of public computing “clouds”, this amounts to a major endorsement of Microsoft’s claims over some of the core IP in Linux.

There is a caveat, though: the announcement was short on detail. And that is sure to bring accusations that the software company is once again using FUD to scare other Linux users into submission.

It’s easy to predict how this will be received. Once again, Microsoft will be accused of using underhand methods to advance its claims against Linux. Remember the anger in open source circles when Linux distributor Novell reached its own deal with the devil? But the agreement still stands, and other big Linux users will be forced from now on to factor that in to their assessments of the IP risks of using the software.

As FT notes, details at this point are pretty scarce. Large companies enter into deals like this all the time though, and while it’s disappointing to see Amazon do this I can’t say it’s a huge surprise. What I do find surprising is that Microsoft decided to make a large press release about the deal. For its part, Amazon doesn’t seem to be releasing any additional comments. So is this a sign that Microsoft may once again try to get the patent FUD against Linux going? Will this force other companies to capitulate into signing similar deals? It’s too early to tell, but I hope not. I’m hoping additional details become available soon, which may help us glean some of the motivations behind the deal (which does specifically mention the Linux-based Kindle). As more details become available, I’ll post an update.

Additional Reading:
TechFlash
Financial Times
Jim Zemlin
Microsoft-Amazon IP deal dusts up old ‘target Linux’ story

–jeremy

Oracle Sun Merger Closes

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Oracle acquisition of Sun has closed. From MySQL and Java to OpenSolaris, OpenOffice.org and more; it’s difficult to understate the potential impact this will have on the Open Source community. Many people are skeptical of Oracle. This perception, correct or incorrect, may have the ability to negatively impact some of the communities that this acquisition affects. One point that is difficult to argue with is that Oracle is maniacally focused on profitability. That wasn’t always the case with Sun and I’d expect there to be some immediate changes as a result of this. Shortly after the deal closed, Oracle had a five hour webcast discussing Oracle’s plans. As Stephen O’Grady notes, “Between Ellison, Kurian, Phillips and the rest, we got our share of answers yesterday. But as is almost always the case in such situations, there was as much left unsaid as said”. A few tidbits from his very good Q&A:

Q: What’s the big picture of this transaction?
A: What was old is new again? A couple of years back, some of the best and brightest Solaris engineers began blurring the lines between what was hardware and what was software. This skunkworks project was called Fishworks, for Fully Integrated Software and Hardware…works. Basically the project was a storage device that blended features of Solaris (DTrace, ZFS, etc) with some impressive analytics, and an interesting storage hybrid incorporating both disk and flash storage elements. It’s hardware like this, I think, that is the future for Oracle.

Q: How do you figure?
A: As Cote covered in his excellent quick take, Ellison, in planning for the future, is looking to the past. Specifically, IBM’s past. “Our vision for the year of 2010 is the same as IBM’s for 1960,” as he says, meaning that you buy a single machine that has everything you want on it, preintegrated.

Will Oracle still sell you their database if you’re running on, say, Dell servers? Certainly. But will they also be telling you how much faster it runs on their integrated appliance, and how that appliance – through the magic of ZFS and storage pooling – will give you better performance at a lower cost, and real time performance analytics via DTrace? You bet.

Q: Which stated plans are those?
A: In talking to the Journal, Ellison said the following:

“We are not cutting Sun to profitability,” Mr. Ellison said. “We think that this business will be profitable immediately.”

He went on to say, however, that he would be leaving certain non-profitable lines of business:

Mr. Ellison said that Sun will add $1.5 billion to Oracle’s bottom line in the first year, largely because he will get out of “businesses that don’t make money.”

Q: Which businesses are those?
A: Exactly.

Q: Meaning we don’t know?
A: It’s certainly less than obvious. Likely candidates like NetBeans or OpenOffice.org were explicitly mentioned on yesterday’s call, which presumably wouldn’t be the case if the plan was to immediately retire them. No, the Sun Cloud and OpenSolaris were but a few of the obvious product lines that were MIA on Wednesday.

Q: What is Oracle going to do with OpenOffice?
A: Apparently continue to invest in it, and marry it to that which Ellison hates most in a product referred to as “Cloud Office.”

Q: MySQL is getting its own salesforce, though, right?
A: MySQL will maintain an independent sales and development staff, yes, though organizationally it will be grouped with Oracle’s open source GBU. You could argue that this is because MySQL’s more of a competitive threat, that it’s natural given the differing markets served by the products, or that it’s at the behest of the EU. Or all of the above. Either way, it means that MySQL – at least for now – has some room to move.

Q: Back to the operating system question for a second. When the acqusition was announced, you said the following:

The betting here is that Solaris will continue to be supported, but not as a frontline option, with the possible exception of cloud offerings where the quirks of the operating system are rendered invisible by the platform. Think IBM with AIX, HP with HP-UX, and so on: there is ample precedent for the (successful) continuation of two competing product lines, and as Oracle itself acknowledges above, there’s an awful lot of Oracle running on top of Solaris.

You further speculated that some of the Solaris assets might be candidates for relicensing. What do you think now?
A: That that view is wrong. We’ll see, of course, how things play out, but it would certainly appear that Oracle is committed to the Solaris platform indefinitely. Personally, I think that will be difficult to manage over time, but it’s pretty clear that the above guess was off. As some Sun folks were kind of enough to tell me when it was published.

If anything, Oracle advantaged Solaris vs Linux during yesterday’s presentation. When discussing them both, Solaris came first and had bullet points like Secure, Scale, and so on. Linux? It was described as the most “widely used” operating system.

I remain convinced that Oracle will have a tough time maintaining and messaging two competitive products, but given the depth of their appliance ambitions they may see that as a short term problem only.

As you can tell, in the short term there are probably going to be more questions than answers. While it seems MySQL is safe for now, how the developer community reacts to the Oracle ownership of the product remains to be seen. Will people stick with MySQL? Will Percona or MariaDB be the ones to benefit? Or will it be a completely different DB such as PostgreSQL that gains as a result.

While it’s clear that Oracle is going to kill some products, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on exactly what will survive. That uncertainty could be extremely detrimental to some projects. One of the biggest questions for me is what will become of OpenSolaris/Solaris and how that decision will impact Linux support within the company. Sun had a mixed history with Linux, but Oracle has been a big proponent recently. Will they switch gears and go with a product they have more ownership over, or will they stick with Linux which is doing much better in the marketplace.

I have quite a bit of other commentary on this topic, but I’ll attempt to break that into separate posts in the near future as more information becomes available.

Additional Reading:
* Sun & Oracle’s impact on open source acquisitions
* Best of luck to Jonathan, who is stepping down.

–jeremy

75% of Linux code now written by paid developers

In what should come as no surprise to those who have been watching, 75% of Linux code is now written by paid developers. From the article:

Forget lofty ideals about the open-source community: most Linux kernel code is written by paid developers at major corporations.

The Linux world makes much of its community roots, but when it comes to developing the kernel of the operating system, it’s less a case of “volunteers ahoy!” and more a case of “where’s my pay?”

During a presentation at Linux.conf.au 2010 in Wellington, LWN.net founder and kernel contributor Jonathan Corbet offered an analysis of the code contributed to the Linux kernel between December 24 2008 and January 10 2010. (The kernel serves as a basis from which individual distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian or Red Hat are developed, though these will often add or remove specific features.)

A massive amount of coding went on in that period: 2.8 million lines of code and 55,000 major changes were contributed to the kernel, which evolved from version 2.6.28 to 2.6.32 over that time. “The development process is clearly quite alive and quite active,” Corbet said, noting that this amount to more than 7,000 lines of code added every day.

I’ve seen this presentation (well, an earlier version of this presentation – I was not at Linux.conf.au) by Jonathan before and I think the article changes the tone of it in an unintended way (specifically the “Forget lofty ideals about the open-source community” bit). First, Open Source has never been about unpaid labor. The fact that people conflated the meaning of free in “Free Software” long ago is something we’re still dealing with today unfortunately. Next, we’re talking about 25% of 2.8 million lines of code that were contributed by volunteers in a roughly one year span. That’s 700,000 lines of code. It’s not just a matter of how much it would have cost a company to write those lines of code, either. How many bugs fixed in those lines would never met a companies threshold for needing to be fixed? How many features added by those lines would have never made it past a managers cost-benefits analysis? In closed source software, a single unaffiliated person with extra time and the appropriate skills is never able to commit code to address these issues. That’s one reason Open Source software has been so successful.

There another point in the presentation though:

“75% of the code comes from people paid to do it,” Corbet said.

Within that field, Red Hat topped that chart with 12%, followed by Inte (sic) with 8%, IBM and Novell with 6% each, and Oracle 3%. Despite the clear commercial rivalry between those players, central kernel development worked well, Corbet noted.

So the top 5 companies, many of them direct competitors contributed 35% of the code. Unlike in some other competitive landscapes, when it comes to OSS people and companies can all be part of the same community or ecosystem. Yes, Red Hat and Novell have marketing materials and presentations on why you should choose their commercial offering. At the code level however we are all working toward the same goal… realizing that a rising tide lifts all boats. We’ve learned how damaging a monopoly can be in the software world. Having multiple viable companies with Linux offerings based on the same kernel should be seen as a strength; as a way to limit vendor lock-in. We’re far from perfect in this community, but forgetting our “lofty goals” isn’t something I think we should do just yet ;)

–jeremy

OpenSource.com Launches

Red Hat has recently launched OpenSource.com. This isn’t a site where Red Hat will simply extol the virtues of its products, but about Open Source in general… even outside the technology context. We already know that Open Source has the ability to definitively produce better software. Red Hat is now asking a bigger question: where else can the principles we’ve learning in building OSS be applied. From the about page:

opensource.com is where we explore what happens when the Open Source way is applied to the world. What problems can we solve? How would it affect the way we learn? Work? Run our governments?

We want to shine a light on the places where the open source way is multiplying ideas and effort, even beyond technology. We believe that opensource.com will be a gathering place for many of the open source stories we’d like to share–through articles, audio, web presentations, video, or open discussion.

The term open source began as a way to describe software source code and the collaborative model for how it’s developed. Red Hat used this model for developing technology and built a business model around open source and its principles: Openness. Transparency. Collaboration. Diversity. Rapid prototyping.

The open source way is more than a development model; it defines the characteristics of a culture. Red Hat and other open source thought leaders want to show you where open source is headed next. Tell you how to get involved. Help you apply it to your life and the world around you.

The open source way is about possibility.
Open source presents a new way to solve old problems. To share ideas and effort.

The open source way opens doors.
Open source offers a new perspective. Open, not closed. Collaboration, not isolation.

The open source way multiplies.
Knowledge. Effort. Inspiration. Creativity. Innovation. The impact is exponential.

And it’s already happening:

CHANGING OUR SOCIETY…

The open source way thrives on broad collaboration and shared effort. Wikipedia is one of the world’s most extensive collections of information. Its rapid, exponential growth arose from a very different model and philosophy from the traditional encyclopedia. Anyone can contribute, and entries are subject to peer review.

CHANGING HOW WE WORK…

Two key characteristics of the open source way are transparency and accountability. With natural and organic foods market Whole Foods, they pass accountability to the employees that can most directly impact their individual areas throughout each store. Wages, staffing decisions, even choosing what items to stock–these activities are all done in the open.

CHANGING OUR GOVERNMENT…
US President Barack Obama came to office with the promise of change. His campaign encouraged participation, and his administration has pledged to create a new environment of openness and participation in government.

CHANGING HOW WE LEARN…
Education is all about an exchange of knowledge. MIT took the lead in sharing knowledge and chose to try and change the world in the process. They make the materials used in the teaching of almost all of its undergraduate and graduate subjects available on the web, free of charge, to any user in the world. With nearly 1,800 courses available, MIT OpenCourseWare is delivering on the promise of open sharing of knowledge.

It will be interesting to see what kind of participation they get outside the RHT ecosystem and what kind of ideas and actions they’ll be able to evoke. IMHO it was a clever move tying this site to the Open Source name. It both furthers Red Hat’s image as a leader in the Open Source brand and looks to expand awareness of that brand. I’m sure they hope both add to their bottom line.

–jeremy

Happy New Year & Browser and OS stats for 2009

First, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year. 2009 was another great year for LQ and we have a ton in store for 2010. You may have noticed this blog has been quiescent lately. While I have been twittering regularly, the terse and off the cuff nature of twitter is markedly different than most blog entries here (the conference based live-blogging entries aside). I’d like to resume regular blogging in 2010, even if the frequency isn’t what it once was. 2010 looks to be another interesting year for Linux and Open Source, so finding material to blog about shouldn’t be too onerous.

I’ll finish this post off with the browser and OS statistics for the main LQ site for all of 2009, which I like to post after the conclusion of each year. Here’s the post from 2008, for comparison.

Browsers
Firefox 64.28%
Internet Explorer 18.23%
Mozilla 4.80%
Chrome 4.30%
Opera 3.75%
Safari 2.88%
Konqueror .98%

Note that Firefox is actually down .16% while Chrome passed Opera, Safari and Konqueror in its first year. Firefox versions are once again all over the map, with 3.0.10 being the only version above 10% of FF users at 10.70%. No version of 3.5 comes in the top five, but 3.5.3 is the most used in that branch at 6.48% (with 3.5.5 hot on its heels at 6.37%).

Operating Systems
Windows 52.73%
Linux 40.94%
Macintosh 5.43%

That’s right; both Windows and Linux are slightly down from last year, while Mac is slightly up. The most used mobile OS is the iPhone at .12%, with Android coming in at .02%.

–jeremy

LinuxCon: Let's Get Together: Coordinated Software Releases, The Linux Ecosystem and the Impact on the Global Marketplace (liveblog)

Keynote – Mark Shuttleworth

* Open Source has the power to “end up defining the experience that the average person has when they turn on their computer”
* For every 1 Ubuntu alpha user there are about 10 beta users and then about 100 final release users.
* There’s a disdain about marketing for some in Open Source… but if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t be seen as “marketing”, but talking about something you’re passionate about.
* We’ve seen many high profile projects move to time based releases – Mark calls this project cadence.
* For an enterprise Linux distro, Ubuntu research seems to indicate that a 2 year release cycle makes the most people happy.
* It turns out that for the most part, distro’s do not compete on which has the latest version of product $X. I can see some major exceptions here though.
* Automated testing should be seen as critical. Mark sees a clear difference in projects that fully support a make check and those that don’t.
* There are at times a huge chasm in Open Source projects between in the inside “cabal” of trusted contributors and people who are new and interesting in contributing code. Mark sees automated test suites as a potential way to mitigate this.
* As Open Source becomes more mainstream, the gap between “users” and “developers” is going to continually widen. Automated crash reporting integrated into source management can help here.
* We have to ensure the software we create can compete with the best of breed solutions, proprietary or otherwise.
* Note: The Linux sound subsystem has really been taken a beating at LinuxCon
* Cadence, Quality and Design are the points Mark wanted to drive home.

This keynote wraps up the event. I’ve really enjoyed LinuxCon and look forward to attending the event again next year (in Boston). Kudos to the Linux Foundation.

–jeremy

LinuxCon: Beyond the Hype: The True Cost of Linux and Open Source (liveblog)

Moderator: Matt Asay
Panel: Noah Broadwater (Sesame Workshop), David Buckholtz (Sony Pictures), Anthony Roby (Accenture)

* Open Source was the number one answer for what kind of software executives are planning to implement in the next year
* roughly 4 of every 5 programmers have used some kind of Open Source. Even for .NET programmers, the number is 3 of every 5.
* Forrester has seen multiple demonstrable million plus dollar savings via Open Source implementations, including a 100M savings by Sabre.
* Accenture: Open Source allows you to tackle problems that were previously economically just not viable.
* Sesame moved to Open Source to reduce licensing costs and allow them to compete with companies like Disney while being a non-profit. They only have two developers since moving to Open Source; they previously had 10.
* Mid-sized shops that don’t look at development as a core competency is currently a place where Open Source is perceived as weak and can improve its uptake and success rates moving forward.

–jeremy

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,188 other followers