February 3, 2007

New open source advocacy group's launch is shrouded in secrecy

Author: JT Smith

A new open source advocacy group, the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA), is scheduled to debut February 15 at the upcoming LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit in New York. But unlike most open source software launches and even open source association beginnings, OSA founders are unwilling to be quoted by name about their plans before their formal launch. Instead, they are only speaking to media representatives grudgingly, "on background," without attribution. The reason for this, says an OSA insider Linux.com interviewed by telephone on Friday, February 3, is that they "don't want to ruffle feathers of people we're still talking to about joining."SourceForge.net, owned by Linux.com parent OSTG, may end up as an OSA media partner, but not even SourceForge.net representatives were able to shed any light on the group's operations, funding, and expectations.

Our anonymous interviewee says "at least 10" companies have signed up, and that they are "talking to dozens more." While he refused to name any participants, Linux.com has confirmed that SpikeSource and JasperSoft are both involved.

According to our informant, the group can't name participants because it is "still finalizing membership, and still recruiting.... If we say anything now we might leave out some important members" who may still formally join up before the launch. Another reason for the close-lipped attitude, claims another person involved with the OSA launch, is that they have so few organizational details worked out at this point that "we really don't have much to say right now, and we don't want to be deluged with press inquiries until we have things firmed up a little more."

Linux.com found a Web site called OpenSolutionsAlliance.org but saw nothing there beyond a "coming soon" note. The domain name was registered on January 8, 2007, by "darkhorseventures.com," a URL that redirects to the CentricCRM Web site.

CentricCRM produces open source CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. While Linux.com failed to reach CentricCRM before this story was posted, it is likely that CentricCRM is another early OSA member.

CollabNet is apparently involved, too. There is a LinuxWorld panel discussion scheduled for February 15 titled Open Solutions Alliance Forms to Promote Interoperability Between Open Source Solutions, headed by CollabNet founder/CTO Brian Behlendorf.

Why does the world need yet another open source advocacy group?

During Friday's "on background" phone interview, our OSA insider told Linux.com that the group will be "focusing on business use of open source apps." He says other, earlier open source advocacy groups have concentrated on legal and licensing matters, and that even the ones that have done direct open source advocacy have mainly worked with "open source infrastructure, like Linux and Apache, rather than open source applications."

OSA hopes to be not only a direct advocacy group for open source solutions providers, but to work on "guidelines and best practices for interoperability," along with establishing a group brand, "not as a standards body, but more like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval thing." While some OSA members may compete with each other, our man says members can and should "pragmatically make things work together" so that open source applications, in general, become more attractive to commercial users.

In other words, OSA hopes to become a national -- possibly even worldwide -- trade association for commercial open source vendors, similar in many ways to the trade associations that serve proprietary software vendors.

Will OSA grow and prosper? Will it unveil dazzling plans and a knock-your-socks-off marketing program on February 15? Will Fortune 500 CTOs decide that OSA member companies are so wonderful that they'll turn to OSA for referrals when they're looking for low-cost, high-reliability applications?

At this point, we have no more idea than you do about how OSA will fare in the rough and tumble world of the software business and the cloud of industry associations that surrounds it. Like you, we're waiting with jaded breath to learn more, even though we have been told firmly that there will be no more OSA information released, and no interviews granted, until at least February 12 -- and that, even then, OSA "may talk to the press last, after our first presentation at the Summit, because we want to talk to prospective members first."

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