Open Source Update

Last week Darryl Taft asked me to comment on IONA’s open source announcement, for his eWeek article on open source SOA.

I am always glad to hear from Darryl. He’s one of the best in the business. And it’s not unusual for him to pick out a few sentences or paragraphs that best fit the story, and omit some other things I say. There’s no way I can complain about what he included, and I think he did a great job on the story. But this time something interesting got left out.

I told Darryl that we thought of the LogicBlaze guys as having been more successful at open source than we were (the part about open source being a challenge for a commercial software company did make it into the story), although we have of course made excellent progress with CXF and STP.

The concern after the acquisition – and I think it’s fair to say this was felt on both sides – was that the larger, commercial license oriented company (IONA), might try to direct the LogicBlaze folks and therefore somehow diminish or interfere with their success. I am very pleased that this did not turn out to be the case – things have gone as well as I could have hoped in that department.

By coincidence we held an extended management meeting this week, and prior to it our CEO forwarded for background reading an article by Cayton Christensen and Michael Overdorf (sorry but I could not find any good link for Michael) entitled “Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change.”

(I looked for a free link to the article but could not find one.)

The article describes the challenges that established companies face embracing disruptive change (like, for example, open source SOA). One is organizational – how an organization that institutionalizes a capability in one area (say commercial software) typically creates a corresponding disability in another, perhaps related, area (say open source), that inhibits its ability to embrace necessary change.

One of the solutions involves gaining new capabilities through acquisition, which is exactly what we’ve just done. But, Christensen and Overdorf say, this does not work if the acquiring company tries to integrate the new folks into the existing organization’s practices. So the trick is to take on board the new capabilities and enhance, rather than inhibit, their successful characteristics.

What we did was work through our new, combined strategy together (this strategy is described in the eWeek piece and on our website) and although there have been some inevitable compromises and difficult decisions, the result is something stronger than before.

All because of the synergy we’ve managed to establish in a short time following the acquisition, and one of the main reasons for it is that we managed to avoid telling folks what to do who already know what to do, and focused instead on establishing good synergy and cooperative spirit. This cooperative spirit is going to make IONA hard to beat in open source SOA.

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