Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), San Francisco, Westin St. Francis.

This was a short 2 day conference with 4 separate tracks for Venture Capitalists, Lawyers [seriously, there was an Intelluctual Property track], IT managers, and open source geeks. But over all a strong business orientation prevailed [plus a lot of shiney shoes and wool suits].

There were lots of industry celebrities and many interesting presentations. None of the keynote or presentation materials, however, have been made available to conference participants, either on the web or by CD. This link describes the tracks:

A small expo with emerging open source firms rounded out the event. Included were firms like SugarCRM, Zend. ForJ, and SpikeSource. Most of the firms from the first OSBC in 2004 had merged or been acquired by larger fish.

Geof Moore's Keynote

Geoffrey Moore, visionary author of the influential book "Crossing the Chasm", spoke at a first day keynote and concluded that a variety of open-source projects are making the leap into the mainstream and wide adoption. He applied the technology evaluation methods of his book and workshops to the world of OSSw.

Moore said that key projects had, in his terminology, "crossed the chasm" into business acceptance and now appealed to a growing group of customers.

Among the projects he believes have crossed over to mainstream use are Linux on servers [and in embedded devices], the Apache Web server, and the MySQL database. That means companies can be confident using OSSw deeply within their businesses.

Moore concluded by borrowing from Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs and recast it for the Open Source movement (as a hierarchy of definition):

Kim Polese, new CEO at SpikeSource, gave a speech on "coping with commodity SW" which cited the benefits and risks of an open source approach. SpikeSource provides a certified stack of OSSw to customers along with support.

Besides the cost reductions, there are integration challenges. "With Open Source software, you don't know what works with what," she said. And this issue grows as more products go open source. This represents a business opportunity for companies like BlueGlue and now SpikeSource.

She cited interviews with some 50 CIOs showing big concerns with open source involve patching, versioning, and the need to develop compatibility test suites. The CIOs all say, she noted, that they "save 30% or more in vendor costs but worry they will waste 20% of their TCO" on component testing and troubleshooting problems.

This is the market that SpikeSource is pursuing with its LAMP software stack and Java varients. The value proposition for users is to go beyond the SW and build new products on the standardization open source brings.

Besides getting Kim Polese as CEO, SpikeSource announced the formation of an advisory board in March that includes open source community leaders Mitchell Baker, Brian Behlendorf, Dirk Hohndel, Robert Lefkowitz, Marten Mickos, Tim O’Reilly, David Stutz, Larry Rosen and Steve Weber.

SpikeSource is already testing and validating a number of components from ISVs and open source providers, including Apache Axis, Apache Geronimo, Business Objects, JBoss, Lucene, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Pramati, Sleepycat Software and SugarCRM across various operating system platforms. Open Source development projects can qualify for free SpikeSource testing and validation services.

Microsoft and Open Source

That's not a misprint. Jason Matusow, Director of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, spoke at length on Redmond's view of OSSw as an adjunct to commercial SW development. Not surprisingly, he suggested that customers preferred the services and support of a large commercial vendor [ natch :-) ] in development of Operating Systems and mission-critical platforms. What was interesting is that now Microsoft is experimenting with limited OSSw projects for utilities, including 20 offerings involving 1,500,000 developers worldwide. Matusow cited a SourceForge project for the Windows Installer XML: HTTP://

Among the slides and varied commentary, Matusow cited the complexity of a major OS which may require large companies [or a large community] for support, and pointed out that, historically, patch numbers go up over time and as versions progress [i.e., Linux patching will eventually become more like MS patching]. So the increasing patching "... demonstrates the amount of engineering effort from Novell and Red Hat." He demonstrated 2 graphs as supporting evidence -

- and added a slide showing the 10 top contributors to the Linux kernel, with 8 of those being engineers employed at major IT corporations. Finally, he pointed out a link on the MSDN web site summarizing Redmond's position on SSSw.

"Meet the Community"

At the close of the conference, the panel "Meet the Community" featured active open source luminaries answering questions from the audience. The line-up was impressive: Christian Enfeldt from Digital Tipping Point [and the Mad Penguin column] as moderator, Brian Behlendorf of the Apache Foundation [and also CTO of Collabranet], Larry Wall, self-defined Perl Architect [and chief developer], Josh Berkes from the PostgreSQL development team, Chris Hoffman of Mozilla, and Doug Wheeler, lead developer of the Bricolage Project [content management using Perl, Apache, and PostgreSQL - also President of Kineticode], addressing a range of questions.

Many in the audience wanted to know how companies could best get involved but stay clear of legal hurdles. All said that contributors were always welcome.

Josh cited support from Sun and IBM and noted that Red Hat and Fujitsu have salaried engineers working on Mozilla. He said he'd like to develop a more formal process for the involvement of corporations.

Brian Behlendorf explained that the Apache Foundation sees only the individual contributors but, as a 501-C3 non-profit, Apache does get corporate donations, mostly hardware from IBM and Sun. "But some of our most creative output comes from people," he said, "who are not involved in this work for their day jobs. They have nothing to lose, no professional investment... so they can reach further."

This was a conference for OSSw principals. That would include geeks that want to or are trying to start an OSSw business. It seemed good for networking and info sharing; it was also a showcase for corporations interested in sharing their OSSw experiments and experiences. And the boxed lunches weren't too bad.

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