According to Barry Klawans, OSA spokesperson and chief technology officer at one of OSA's founding members, JasperSoft, the alliance was formed to address a need in the marketplace that is currently lacking adequate representation. Klawans says that while most open source advocacy groups concentrate on licensing and legal issues, OSA plans to cater to businesses with complex IT and data management needs and encourage them to adopt open source solutions.
"There are barriers to the adaptation of open source," says Klawans. "First, there's a lack of awareness about open source. Second, it's hard to build a solution with open source because business solutions need to do a lot of things -- but businesses don't want point solutions, they want complete solutions."
That's where OSA steps in. Its diverse group of members will work with independent software vendors (ISV), system integrators, and members of the open source community to develop comprehensive open source solutions that will be readily accessible and more economical than proprietary solutions, something that Klawans says is "seriously lacking" at the moment.
The non-profit group began with a budget of approximately $100,000 that went toward the OSA's legal fees, a PR firm, and other startup costs. Klawans says the organization is vendor-neutral but "members must be an ISV or have a product that is based on open source." The OSA's Web site states that "membership is open to organizations that provide high-quality, business-ready open source solutions," but Klawans acknowledges that exactly what licenses a member business may or may not use is rather vague. "We didn't take a stance on it so we could get the launch done," he says, "but we do know that a business has to be supporting the open source project that their project is based off of. They should be contributing code and effort back into the project and moving it forward."
It's unlikely that companies that aren't entirely open source will be barred from joining the OSA since one of it's founding members, EnterpriseDB, itself offers several proprietary products. Klawans is quick to point out, though, that EnterpriseDB also contributes significantly to the open source PostgreSQL project on which many of their products are based. The OSA plans to revisit the topic of membership and licensing in the upcoming weeks for fine-tuning, but Klawans admits, "the whole issue gets tough."
Still in its infancy, the OSA has chosen to home in on three main goals. First, it has planned a heavy "education marketing" campaign aimed at raising the awareness of open source software stacks as a proven alternative to proprietary suites. Next, because the OSA doesn't want to just be another standards organization, it plans to develop sets of guidelines, recommendations, and best practices designed to help businesses make decisions about what tools will best meet their needs. Last, the OSA plans to create "meta-communities" that will pull resources from throughout the open source community to collaborate on specific projects designed to meet specific business needs.
Klawans says the idea to form a new advocacy group was conceived last November when representatives from several of the founding companies were discussing the ongoing challenge of getting noticed by businesses normally drawn to proprietary software solutions."No one person came up with the idea," he says. "It's something we all deal with and we've certainly all run into the same problems. We've all run into the ignorance and FUD. At one point, a bunch of us were at a trade show and we said, 'We shouldn't just talk about this, we should do something about this.'"
After several months of planning, the OSA garnered 10 founding members who run the gamut from Centric CRM, an open source customer management database, to Hyperic, a vendor of assorted IT operations management tools. Other founding members include CollabNet, Openbravo, EnterpriseDB, and SourceForge.net (SourceForge.net and Linux.com are both owned by parent company OSTG). Word of the alliance began to leak last week. It was formally announced today at the Open Solutions Summit in New York City.
Companies interested in joining the alliance can visit the OSA Web site or contact the organization via email. There are three levels of membership to choose from, based on type of business and the level of involvement a company wishes to have. ISV membership dues are $10,000 and require a predetermined amount of volunteer man-hours to be donated to the alliance. Membership for system integrators costs $5,000 and no volunteer commitment is required. ISV members are eligible to sit on the board, while system integrators may only serve as officers. Open source community members may join for free but hold no standing in the structural rank of the organization.
Another option for participating in the OSA without becoming a member is to become a Friend of the OSA. "It's for people who want to publicly back the OSA, yet don't want to commit in larger ways," says Klawans.
Tony Barbagallo, vice president of marketing at San Francisco-based GroundWork Open Source, says the decision to become an ISV member of the alliance was easy. "As a company that both develops open source projects and unifies existing best-of-breed projects into a single solution, we thought that OSA was ideal in that it is bringing together both ISVs and systems integrators," he says. "We feel there is much to gain among the synergies and unique skill sets of each of the member organizations."
Barbagallo says GroundWork plans to specifically help reach the OSA's goals by taking "a leadership role in helping to define open software communication protocols among the various business applications. The ability to seamlessly couple applications like business reporting and application monitoring has far-reaching benefits throughout an enterprise."
When asked if GroundWork considered teaming up with other organizations with similar goals, Barbagallo said, ""We really didn't uncover any existing organizations that were focused both on open source and on fostering such a diverse community of business applications as are included in the OSA membership."