“Dont Fear the Penguins”

The above screenshot is a snapshot into the Linux community and its take on the Microsoft/Novell deal
. Where did I go to get that view – slashdot.org.

And one thing I noticed while there, slashdots motto – “dont fear the penguins”. But that is precisely the problem in the commercial software world, from the Microsoft tip to the tiny toes of Xara software. Linux, and by fiat the Open Source community, is rapidly reaching maturity such that complete Open Source stacks can replace commercial software systems anywhere and anyplace in systems development and delivery. LAMP is a complete web development stack. RedHat+JBoss+OpenLaszlo is a complete Web or client server development stack. Pentaho+SAMBA+NFS is a complete BI solution stack. And I could easily go on and on for many pages.

And so now the old 80-20 rule applies. Many of these Open Source stacks supply well beyond 80% of the features of their commercial counterparts. So then when the 80-20 rule gets applied – what do 80% of our users need ? Nothing more than what LAMP or Open Office or JBoss have to offer with the added benefits that the software is more reliable and that we dont have to suffer the EULA barrier for getting problems and bugs resolved. And the cost, even with full support contracts, are considerably less than commercial software vendors be they Adobe, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle or tiny Xara.

So many IT shops, especially with virtualization making it dirt simple and safe to tryout Open Source software stacks, are on the brink of accepting and embracing Open Source. And the commercial vendors who have read Tom Friedmans book The World is Flat (heck they are not just reading the book, its their template for implementing globalization and out sourcing/offshoring their businesses) – they know the irresistible force of great disruptors on their operations and how they do business. And so commercial vendors are acutely aware of an Alvin Toffler-like Third Wave of Open Source software sweeping over their operations.

Sun has tripped off the problem by throwing in the commercial towel on two brilliant pieces of software and Open Sourcing both: Solaris the OS and Java the universal platform development and delivery engine. But when RedHat bought JBoss – this move finally tripped commercial vendors fear and antipathy of Open Source. The damn … uhh dam of fear that Open Source would take over big chunks of their business was breeched.

Oracles Larry Ellison was not miffed that JBoss Fleury had rejected his merger advances (well maybe he was). Rather he was concerned that RedHat+JBoss linked up with a buy of say PostgreSQL or EnterpriseDB would provide an Open Source application development stack more comprehensive than his own. And he has bet the farm on Linux+Oracle+Fusion being his ticket to Server side dominance in development.

So its no surprise that Larry attacked the new Redhat where they are weakest – their revenue streams. He did 1/2 of the Microsoft attack on Netscape. 1/2 price for Linux RedHat support – this is the bulk of RedHats revenue streams. What is Oracles gain? Half cost for their own substantial RedHat Linux development – Linux is Oracles primary OS for its development teams. It will allow him to make a RHEL-like offering. And it may drive down the stock price of RedHat such that in the end he can buy them out.

Is there any other evidence that Oracle and the bigboys “fear and loath” Open Source. Well return to Oracle -why is Larry buying InnoDb, SleepyCat software, and any other promising Open Source database? Partly because Larry is trying to make sure that there are no Open Source database properties out there that could 80-20 challenge his database engine in the near term.

Any other evidence of commercials fear of Open Source? Well read the complete transcript of Steve Ballmers commentary on the Microsoft-Novell deal which produced this admission:
“Weve had an issue, a problem that weve had to confront, which is because of the way the GPL (General Public License) works, and because open-source Linux does not come from a company — Linux comes from the community — the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders. We spend $7 billion a year on R&D, our shareholders expect us to protect or license or get economic benefit from our patented innovations. So how do we somehow get the appropriate economic return for our patented innovation, and how do we do interoperability.” And of course the Microsoft Novell deal sparked great counter fear and loathing in the Linux community and some telling fallout picked up by ZdNets Mary Jo Foley. This is probably justified because Steve has linked Linux and Open Source to Cancer.

What will really be interesting in the coming weeks is the reaction of that stalwart commercial protector of Linux, Apache and many things Open Source – IBM. IBM has just garnered the investment Brass Ring – a cover story with a positive review in the December 4th, 2006 issue of Barrons which cites IBMs growing software portfolio and softwares outsized profitability in IBMs earnings. How will IBM accommodate the looming impact of Open Source software on the IT scene ?

So dont let Gartner or eWeek or Forrester or Rob Enderle tell you that the major trend for 2007 is WiFi or Vista or SOA 2 and Deja Vu – the ongoing concern for all IT stakeholders in 2007 is if and how commercial software vendors resolve the issue of “dont fear the penguins”.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006
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