Rules of the Conference
• Panelists limited to 10 minutes up front
• No overt bashing or flaming
• Interactive discussion of at least equal length after the presentations
The Business Panel
Graham announced The Open Group’s Open Source Project, chaired by Walter Stahlecker of the Hewlett-Packard Industry Standards Program Office. Founding members of the Project were the impetus behind this Open Source event. The Open Group has about 200-300 organizational members of varying sizes and 2,000-3,000 regular participants in conferences, working groups, and related activities. This conference is designed both to energize and to educate that membership about Open Source, as well as contribute to the activities of the Open Source community.
Graham posed questions that set the stage for the Business panelists:
Andrew Aitkin, Managing Partner and Founder of the Olliance Group, began with his view of the commercial ecosystem that surrounds Open Source. In surveying the audience, he found that one-third of the attendees represented technology vendors. The balance represented users with an even split between active contributors to the community of Open Source and people who are new to Open Source.
The growing popularity of Open Source is having a profound effect on many technology vendors. The issue that they’re going to face is that the adoption of Linux on the desktop is coming much faster than they realized.
The issue with application vendors—and this is the core to adoption—is that many large vendors understand Linux and are beginning to understand Open Source. But their smaller partners, such as vendors serving vertical markets, do not understand the space. They don’t have a sense of what it will cost them to enable a product to run on Linux, to invest in sales and marketing to reflect a new strategy, how much they will have to invest in support and training, and so on. The other component of the ecosystem that has a challenge is the resellers and integrators, who are in a spot similar to the partners.
The issue for end-users therefore is, where do you go for support? Certain major vendors provide it, but it is not yet universally available. Robust Open Source solutions currently available are Apache, JBoss, Sendmail, OpenOffice, Linux, Zope, Samba, and MySQL; behind each one is a company providing skilled support services.
Andrew concluded his presentation with an overview of the process of developing and deploying a solution, with an emphasis on the most important ones if the solution is Open Source, including identifying gaps in architecture, and estimating total cost of ownership.
From Cargill’s perspective, there are six big issues that must be resolved before the company goes much further with Open Source. At the top, Loren put education to ensure that management understands the benefits of Open Source. The other five issues are mind share in the market—to Cargill management that means that more approved vendors support things like Linux—version control, the fact that there are so many players in the space of varying degrees of stability, licensing, and legal concerns.
Stormy Peters, of Hewlett-Packard’s Open Source Program Office made the case for Open Source acceptability in business. HP uses Open Source throughout the company—in IT, R&D, and other places internally—and ships Open Source solutions externally.
The proliferation of Open Source use within the company provoked HP to create an Open Source Program Office, which took shape with three major parts:
In addressing “is Open Source acceptable in business,” Stormy answered firmly that it is, and cited the billions of dollars generated each year by Open Source products.
Given that Open Source is here to stay, the issue becomes how to make it work effectively. To know “what are you really buying?” means being savvy in at least six areas: Copying, support, media/manuals, licenses, bundles, and indemnification.
Carolyn A. Kahn of The MITRE Corporation is focused on the business case of Open Source software. MITRE received a Leadership Award from the Potomac Forum for investigating the technology and economics of Open Source software in its project “Open Source Software in Military Systems;” available on both the MITRE and The Open Group web sites. The primary conclusion was that, in many instances, Open Source is acceptable as a long-term, viable solution, but there are risks that must be mitigated.
Specific determinants in choosing Open Source software over COTS software are project-based. Open Source tends to be a good option for products relevant and interesting to a large community with many developers working on it. Open Source often compares favorably for server and embedded systems that may require customization. Open Source can provide a lot of advantages for long-lived embedded systems because of its life cycle licensing and support savings. But Open Source software generally doesn’t fare better than COTS for typical desktop applications.
Carolyn advised that the economic benefits and costs of Open Source usage and maintenance must be evaluated over the full life cycle, and she recommended ways of doing so. It involves a system of weighted variables in which twelve attributes are ranked from “very strong” to “very weak”; the list includes such items as ability to customize, interoperability, and availability of applications.
In looking at “Buy versus Build,” a couple of key points surfaced beginning with the assertion that pure COTS can be analogous to an unmodified Open Source scenario. In both cases, it’s important to assess the reliability and functionality of a product, licensing restrictions, and so on. On the build side, consider the costs of acquisition and support.
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