OSBC: Footnote with Brad Smith

You have to hand it to Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft. Last night he delivered the “footnote” address at the Open Source Business Conference 2008. Not only was the general counsel for Microsoft going to have a tough crowd, but he agreed to talk for 30 minutes, then get questioned by a panel [Mark Shuttleworth (Ubuntu), James Bottomley (CTO, SteelEye and Linux kernel maintainer), Andrew Updegrove (standards lawyer extraordinaire), and Stephen O’Grady (Redmonk co-founder)] for 30 minutes and then get questioned by the audience for 30 minutes. As you can imagine some of the questions from the audience were less than constructive, but overall I think things went well.

Some of the highlights (as I remember them).

* Brad stated definitively that in his opinion the general Open Source community does respect IP. This is the first time I have heard someone from Microsoft say this in such a pointed way.
* He admitted that Microsoft had some messaging problems around Linux and Open Source in the past (a cancer, for instance). In his opinion Microsoft has legitimately changed its opinion on the topic, fueled by customer demand.
* Microsoft is generally interested in wider interoperability with the Open Source community, but admits there are issues around both patents and other items. Also remarked that while Microsoft did not initially lead this effort, market leaders typically do not.
* When asked more specifically about the patent issue by James (and then an audience member), his answer was that “there’s no easy answer to this problem.” He did add that he and Microsoft were more than willing to continue a dialog, but that compromise would be needed on both sides. It was pointed out that on some of the issues the Open Source methodology will not allow compromise, which kind of left things up in the air.

I think it’s clear that some parts of Microsoft really are opening up to the idea of change. I still remain skeptical that real change is possible while Ballmer remains in charge, but I do think the beginning of the foundation can start to be formed. Whether this will go somewhere substantial or whether it’s just lip service remains to be seen, but time will make that quite clear.


OSBC: The State of the Open Source Database Market

An interesting panel in an area that is really heating up. The panel consisted of participants from 451 Group (moderator Matthew Aslett), EnterpriseDB (Andy Astor), Ingres (Roger Burkhardt), Oracle (Ken Jacobs) and MySQL (Zack Urlocker). This was the last panel I attended last night, so I’m going from memory this morning. This is clearly an area where Open Source companies are competing very effectively against their proprietary counterparts. It’s also an area where the Open Source participants are still figuring out both their long term business models and their niche within the Open Source database ecosystem. There is more inter-Open Source vendor competition here then in almost any other segment IMHO. It’s also clear to me that many of the proprietary vendors still don’t fully grok Open Source. They over estimate the importance of gratis and underestimate the importance of libre. I think that’s going to be a mistake long term.


OSBC: What Open Source Can Learn from Microsoft and the Proprietary World

Got a decent seat for this one, so am going to attempt a pseudo live blog. Panel: Stephen Walli (moderator), Jean Barmash (Alfresco), Neelan Choksi (SpringSource), Sam Ramji (Microsoft) and Jim Zemlin (Linux Foundation).

* Microsoft has more community around it than some in the Open Source community realize or give it credit for. –jean
* Need to learn from the Microsoft ISV “designed for Windows” program. LSB is a start. MSDN is also a good model. –jim
* Need more consistency in user experience. –sam
* Need better developer marketing in concert with traditional marketing. –neelan

* Products that solve real world problems create community really quickly.
* A community is as defined by the people it does not or cannot include as much as who is included. Proprietary models tend to have more defined rules as to who can and can not participate – should Open Source? –r0ml
* 96% of the $51B of Microsoft revenue last year came indirectly. –sam (this should underscore how important it is for us to get OEM’s and ISV’s involved)
* We need someone to pull a Ballmer-like monkeyboy dance. –andy
* What is Open Source doing to make IT easier for the non-IT savvy people? –matt

Note: not nearly as rowdy as I’d have anticipated.


OSBC: The Future of Open Source & The Future of Operating Systems

…were the two panels I chose to attend this afternoon. The Future of Open Source included reps from Ingres, MySQL AB, SugarCRM, Ubuntu and Acquia. It was standing room only and as such it was a bit difficult for me to take notes (the iPhone is really poor for this, another place I miss my Treo). A bunch of interesting topics were covered in this and it really got me thinking about where Open Source is going. While commercial Open Source was the main focus, it got me thinking about some non-commercial aspects as well. This panel included some audience participation via text message based live polls.

When you get reps from Intel, Sun, Novell and Vmware talking about the future of Operating Systems, you know it’s going to get interesting. The panel did not disappoint. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives these companies had, although representatives from companies like Google/Amazon would have added another perspective that was probably under-represented (although certainly discussed). One thing that I think is clear is that there are a number of possible futures for the Operating System space, and a lot is going to come down to implementation, timing and probably a bit of luck. Virtualization is going to be somewhere, but whether that is in the CPU/BIOS/firmware, in the operating system itself or as now as a distinct layer remains to be seen.

There seems to be a bit more energy in the hallways this year and a lot of inter-vendor discussion is definitely happening. More after lunch…


OSBC Opening Keynotes

The Open Source Business Conference opened this morning with keynotes from Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO or Red Hat, and Steven Pearson, VP Advanced technologies at CBS Interactive. Matt Asay started the morning off with a video based on his “fighting a rising tide riff”. The audience at OSBC this year is by percentage much less lawyer dense, with many more CEO’s, CIO’s and CTO’s. I’d guess this is just another indication of that fact that Open Source is becoming more and more mainstream.

If there were any remaining doubts about the selection of Jim as the new CEO of Red Hat, I think his opening keynote should help put them to rest. He gets it. He plans to focus Red Hat on enterprise infrastructure and also has plans to get more clients engaged with the Open Source communities that comprise the suite of products that Red Hat supports. He admits that’s something Red Hat has been “lousy at”. Admits that he’s still learning at lot, which is refreshing coming from a CEO. His IT budget at Delta was more then then $500M in yearly revenues at Red Hat. I think it’s clear that under Jim, Red Hat will almost certainly become the first $1B/year pure play Open Source company.

Steven underscored the massive amount of Open Source that CBS Interactive uses. “Every bit of what we do touches Open Source in some way”. Allows them to easily scale things like March Madness and fantasy sports up and down as season change. Covered some of the biggest challenges he sees with companies such as CBSi giving back to OSS (it’s not about competitors getting a hold of the code, but the work involved with cleaning it up/packaging it and the time involved finding the correct committers and getting it accepted).


Open Source Business Conference

I’ll be in San Francisco for the next few days to attend the Open Source Business Conference. I was considering attending the Microsoft “Open Source ISV Forum”, but it seems they declined my application to attend :) If you’ll be in the area and would like to meet up, drop me a line.


OSBC Slides Posted

If you weren’t able to attend OSBC, Matt has already started posting some of the keynote slides.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. The following is what happened to the performance of the E*Trade platform as they switched to Linux. They did the roll out in 2 phases, which accounts for the bump in the dip. In addition to the performance benefit, they saved roughly $16 million dollars. Not too shabby. It should be noted that during the recent February market dip, E*Trade was one of the only online brokerage sites that did not have performance issues. Lee directly attributed that to the use of Open Source.

Picture 7