Open Source Summit

Friday the Mass Software Council held its Open Source Summit and Open Source SIG Kickoff meeting at Babson College. (See the Dan Bricklin link for additional notes and links to the MP3s.)
Because of our Celtix announcement, Bob Zurek invited me to join a panel discussion on open source business models and strategies, along with Nick Carr of Red Hat, Al Campa of JasperSoft, Douglas Heintzman of IBM, and Bob Lefkowitz of Optaros.
The highlight of the day was Marc Fleurys keynote over lunch, during which he crossed swords with the audience, and in particular with Doug Heintzman.
Nat Friedman + Miguel de Icaza of Novell provided some very timely advice about how to create a successful open source project, since were just starting out.
You know, this open source stuff is really great. We should have made the jump a long time ago. And it really does seem like a community at least judging from this event like a group of people interested in cooperating toward a common goal. That feeling is not as present in Java, or Web services, or even the CORBA community for that matter.
Anyway, the day started with a session about open source licensing. Karen Copenhaver of Black Duck made the point that it is impossible in todays world to avoid open source. All of us, whether we know it or not, rely on open source software modules every day, such as the Apache Web server (with something like 75% market share) and open source components embedded within commercial software. Therefore licensing is critical to understand and deal with appropriately. She and Ira Heffan of Goodwin Proctor reinforced the importance of being careful about using open source in our commercial products, and why the LGPL is the best license choice for Celtix.
Dan Bricklin then asked my panel several questions about our business models and strategies. I answered, as did the guys from IBM and JasperSoft, that open source is one part of an overall business strategy in which we will continue to offer closed source products as well. It represents a new line of business for us, a way to reach out to the developer community, and to help drive the adoption of the ESB as SOA infrastructure.
One thing I was pleased to hear about from IBM was the importance of a pluggable architecture (mentioned in the context of Eclipse), which is exactly what we are creating in the Celtix project. This was also reinforced by Nat Friedman in the next session, because it is easier for developers to contribute and find a good place to add value above the commodity line.
Marc Fleury, on the other hand, despite having heard from other software vendors that the blended model can and does work, continued to argue that all software licenses should be free. Period.
This is actually a great and grand idea, and perhaps someday in the future we may see such a world. But in the current software business the licensing model is very well established, very widely implemented, and working well. Even if the world were to eventually adopt the license free model for all software (which seems unlikely), it will be a long time before that happens and for the foreseeable future the two business models are going to continue to co-exist.
At one point Marc asked, How will IBM compete with that? (Referring to the world in which software licenses are free.)
“By buying Gluecode,” said Doug from the back of the room.
IBMs more serious parry to the JBoss thrust, however, went essentially unanswered. IBM acknowledges the commoditization of certain aspects of software infrastructure while building added value up the stack. It was easy for Doug to tick off several added value features for Gluecode from the huge WebSphere family of products.
Marc said he agreed but he did not provide any specifics about the kind of innovations he might have in mind for JBoss (other than aspects, actually, which is not really an innovation at the next level).
All in all a great event and a great kick off for the Open Source SIG!


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