San Francisco last week featured many interesting announcements. However, the show was at least as noteworthy for its implications as for its actual news announcements.
IBM Corp.'s announced transformation of its
Cloudscape database solution into an Open Source offering follows
closely the announcement of a similar transformation for Computer
Associates International, Inc. (CA)'s Ingres
database solution. Between Cloudscape and Ingres, Open Source developers
now have multiple new and powerful options for building more
CA also announced actual availability of Ingres r3 as an Open Source
offering. The company also announced a million-dollar
challenge/inducement to developers who build tools that help users
migrate to Ingres from other proprietary and Open Source database
Other software vendors announced, discussed, and/or failed to deny or
dispute rumored plans to transform other proprietary solutions into Open
Source offerings. Clearly, the typing is on the display for many of
these vendors. They understand that they need to deliver Open Source
complements and alternatives to their proprietary solutions, or
complements and alternatives priced like Open Source offerings, to
remain competitive. No IT executive desirous of continued employment is
going to be able to justify paying proprietary-level prices for
applications without strongly compelling value propositions, when
supporting operating environments become increasingly cheap or free.
But no IT executive similarly incented is going to argue to "rip and
replace" all proprietary solutions with Open Source alternatives. The
enterprise software market, therefore, looks more and more like a
striated, multi-tiered arena, analogous in some ways to the current
market for broadcast content.
Today, there is "free" broadcast content subsidized rather speculatively
by advertising, the effectiveness of which is impossible to track
perfectly. There is partly subsidized content, paid for by combinations
of grants and subscriptions paid for by only a portion of all consumers.
Finally, there is completely subsidized content, for which consumers pay
via subscriptions or per use.
Soon, there are likely to be three similar tiers of the enterprise
software market. There will be free software, offered in the hopes that
it will generate follow-on demand for fee-based enhancements, services,
and/or support. There will be proprietary software, priced, sold, and
supported much as it is today. In addition, there will likely be a
rapidly growing middle tier of enterprise software solutions that are
priced aggressively and built atop free and inexpensive Open Source
foundations, including but not limited to Linux.
This likely means expanded choices for developers and enterprises alike.
However, environments made up of various combinations of solutions from
all three tiers will definitely require comprehensive, integrated
management. A key question is, therefore, from what vendors will such
management solutions come?
The ability of the leading traditional IT management vendors to answer
this question apparently varies widely. BMC Software, Inc., which won a
Best of Show award at LinuxWorld in 2003, announced no new solutions or
reaffirmations of its commitment to Linux support in San Francisco last
week. This is in marked contrast to CA, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), and IBM. CA, in addition to the
announcements discussed above, has repeatedly stated publicly that it is
encouraging eventual development of an entire Open Source IT management
suite. Regarding HP and IBM, there were no specific HP OpenView or IBM
Tivoli announcements at LinuxWorld. However, both HP and IBM were
prominent at the show, and very willing to discuss how their respective
management arms are committed to making Linux and Open Source solutions
safe bets for the enterprise.
Veritas Software Corp. , a vendor known
primarily for storage management, reminded LinuxWorld Expo attendees
that it had been shipping Linux solutions since 1999. The company also
reinforced its new position as a provider of solutions intended to
enable utility computing. Veritas also announced offerings intended to
enable rapid migration between Linux and other environments, and that it
had joined the Open Software Development Labs, Inc.
Veritas is transforming and expanding its core
mission by focusing specifically on making enterprise IT architectures
ready for Linux and Open Source solutions. IT executives should expect
to hear lots of other vendors tout similar strategies - and be prepared
to carefully separate promise from reality.
RFG believes IT management solution vendors must quickly and firmly
declare and demonstrate willingness and ability to help IT executives
build and operate infrastructures that embrace Linux and Open Source.
Furthermore, IT executives should work with their most trusted vendors
to ensure that architectures at those executives' enterprises become and
remain sufficiently flexible and elastic to support promising new Open
Source solutions as they appear. Such architectures will enable IT
executives to incorporate such solutions as they demonstrate the ability
to lower costs and deliver other business benefits, without disrupting
operations or enterprise elasticity.
Meanwhile, IT executives should ensure that
their leading incumbent management vendors have strategies and offerings
adequate to address growing enterprise Linux and Open Source support
requirements - or begin considering alternative solutions and vendors.
Michael Dortch is a principal business analyst and the IT infrastructure
management practice leader at Robert Frances Group (RFG). RFG provides
business-centric, timely advice, consulting, and research about the IT
marketplace to Global 2000 IT executives, their teams, and their senior
executive colleagues. More information is available online at
A version of this article originally appeared in the RFG Weekly Snapshot
available at rfgonline.com.