July 29, 2004

OSCON day three: A new, network world for open source, a Java compromise, and convincing the boss

Author: Jay Lyman

As open source programmers and entrepreneurs think about what it means to
be open source on 100,000 computers, and move deeper into the business world
and infrastructure, OSCON organizer Tim O'Reilly warns that data and
networking, not hardware or standards, are the lock-in liabilities.

Delivering his keynote to a standing-room-only audience of open source
developers and business folks, O'Reilly pointed out the competitive
advantage achieved by companies such as Amazon using not only open source
solutions, but using customers' input, data, and networking to power ahead of
competitors such as Barnes & Noble.

"(Amazon) has 10 million user reviews," O'Reilly said. "It's not really
software, but part of the paradigm shift where added value is the data.
Whether it's proprietary or open source, it's important to realize that data
is becoming the frontier of what makes value."

O'Reilly, a publisher of open source books and other materials, also
asked where the industry will find a complete open source stack. "The big
question is who's going to be the Dell of open source and put it together?"
O'Reilly asked.

However, O'Reilly came back to the transforming landscape and said the PC
will no longer determine the software, nor the value.

"It's part of this, 'Let's get out of the PC model and into the network
metaphor,'" O'Reilly said.

O'Reilly was followed by AT&T Wireless Vice President of Enterprise Data,
Systems and Architecture Robert Lefkowitz, who covered the difference
between the definition of open source -- "the past meaning of the term," --
and the connotation of open source -- "the future of the word."

Lefkowitz discussed the value of reusable software that instead of
depreciating, can actually increase in value over time in the open source
world.The AT&T wireless executive urged less thought about the legal
ramifications of software and called for more discussion and reflection on,
of all things, accounting.

Lefkowtiz said developers and companies should think of developing
software as "creating assets," making sure that code is capitalized whenever
possible and discovering value in what may have depreciated into
worthlessness on the books by accountants' standards.

Rehashing the argument regarding the openness of Java, panelists Bruno
Ferreira de Souza, a programmer with Brazil-based Summa, Eric Raymond, and
Sun chief software evangelist Simon Phipps made familiar arguments for
opening or not opening Java.

Raymond laid out what he called "the open source position" on the matter,
telling panel attendees, "We don't trust tools that someone else controls,
ever."

Phipps complained that he is the subject of stone throwing from both open
sourcers who want Java opened up and from others who fear the loss of
value and years of investment in Java.

"The issue here is we are bound between two worlds," Phipps said. "The
difficulty is Sun has got to cater to both worlds."

But instead of the discussion delving into the usual -- how open, not
open enough, too open type of talk -- the contribution of a potential
compromise came from BEA's CTO Scott Dietzen, who proposed an allowance for
derivative works that simply require Java namespaces. Dietzen, who said he
was attending the session personally and not professionally, declined to
elaborate on the idea. However, there appeared to be agreement among the
previously arguing panelists, including impromptu panelist Brian Behlendorf
of Apache, that the idea may just solve the Java open source riddle.

"It sounds good," Phipps said, adding that he could not officially
endorse the deal.

As word of bagged lunches spread throughout the conference, some open
source attendees were daring each other to bite into sandwiches and wraps
provided courtesy of Microsoft. The food was actually quite good, but there
was no free preview copy of Longhorn inside the brown bag.

During his talk on the state of and future of the Mono Project,
criticized by some as catering to Redmond's plans, Novell's Miguel de Icaza
also referenced a free lunch of sorts from Microsoft.

"You can take all of those marketing dollars and transfer them to Linux,"
de Icaza said regarding Microsoft's marketing power that may end up
benefiting the .Net-focused Mono frameworks.

Advising another couple hundred or so OSCON attendees on how to convince
their bosses to use open source, HP Open Source Program Manager Stormy
Peters said proponents must work carefully to consider all of the potential
downsides or points of argument.

"It's going to take a lot of energy to get change in an organization,"
Peters said, telling attendees not to go it alone and not to avoid company
lawyers.

"My advice is to keep it simply to your [own] group at first," she said.
"Don't try to save your entire company."

Other advice included: never telling supervisors that open source is
free, "because they never believe it," looking into the risks and working
toward company-wide open source policies which make it easier for all
departments to use it.

Some of the announcements from Wednesday included a scheduled
O'Reilly-MySQL users conference for April 18-21 next year in Santa Clara,
Calif. MySQL also launched a new service with Rackspace called MySQL Hosting
to offer sites and other MySQL database hosting with commercial
MySQL licenses and support.

"People are really looking for an easy way to host MySQL," said MySQL AB
vice president Zack Urlocker. Rackspace co-founder and chief technology
evangelist Dirk Elmendorf said the deal would allow his company to reach new
markets.

BEA announced its Beehive Code would now be available in Apache, XMLBeans
and was an official Apache project.

BEA vice president of developer marketing Cornelius Willis said the play
is important to the creation of service oriented architectures (SOAs),
adding that usability barriers to the growth of Web services, such as
security, are being overcome. Willis said what is still lacking is multiple
id support, which is going to take another six to eight months to emerge.

Other Wednesday sessions at OSCON included a crash course in database
design, more Perl, XML, Mac OSX, PHP, HTTP Caching, Python, SQLite, Zend and
other sessions.

Category:

  • Open Source
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