Tuesday, December 18, 2007

JavaPolis, JBoss, and JSF

Catching up on news from this year's JavaPolis brought me to the results of the whiteboard votes that were conducted.

JBoss came out as top vote getter for the "which application server do you use?" whiteboard vote. The vote results were:

  • JBoss = 85

  • WebSphere = 47

  • WebLogic = 45

  • Just Servlet = 38 (I guess this is Tomcat?)

  • Other = 31

  • GlassFish = 24

Whiteboard photo for Application Servers and Web Frameworks

I especially like the almost apologetic comment in the WebSphere column: "but not my choice".

The results of "which web framework do you use" voting was also interesting in that the top 3 frameworks were:

  • JSF = 60

  • Struts = 60

  • Spring MVC = 58

Since the new JBoss Developer Studio provides Eclipse tooling for JBoss Seam, JSF, Struts, and Spring...as well as includes the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform...it's cool to see how our new offering hits the mark on the most popular application server platform and web frameworks out there.

Thanks to the folks at JavaPolis for sharing these whiteboard results. Pretty cool and easy way to poll the attendees!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Golden: Commercial Open Source - Can It Scale?

Bernard Golden of Open Source Maturity Model (OSMM) fame had a similar reaction as I did to the blog by Savio Rodrigues that asserts OSS business models don't scale.

I countered Savio's assertion with "Scaling a Software Business (open source or otherwise)".

Bernard Golden countered Savio's assertion with "Commercial Open Source - Can It Scale?" where he makes a range of worthwhile points:

"What this strikes me as is a failure to really come to terms with what open source means to IT, and, by extension, the software industry. It is judging open source by the standards of proprietary software business models and finding it lacking, instead of thinking through what business opportunities are made possible by the new mode of software distribution."

"His argument fails to fully comprehend the power of price elasticity, richly explored by Clayton Christensen; simply put, reduced prices don't mean less money is spent on a given item; reduced prices increase the customer base by more than enough to increase total market spend."

"What is important to recognize about all of these open source businesses is that they follow a publishing model and sell subscriptions. And, like all subscription-based businesses, they scale slowly, but are, nevertheless, able to grow to very large scale and can be phenomenally profitable... By contrast, licensed software companies can grow much faster, but tend to have problems later on when it becomes difficult to find new customers to fork over large upfront signing fees."

"The key to successfully scaling a software business (and this is true for both open source and proprietary software businesses) is to generate sufficient leads and to efficiently manage them well enough to create a viable business, defined as sufficiently profitable on a sufficient revenue base. An efficient sales process, applied to the very large lead base made possible by price elasticity, can certainly achieve success on even a 3% close rate."

"We haven't even begun to see the potential for commercial open source (or for that matter, community open source). It will so transform the IT landscape that, in the not-too-distant future, we'll look back on the bit-coercive proprietary software world and marvel that it existed at all - and that it was so small."

Mr. Golden states much more elegantly what many of us OSS vendors have been saying for a while now. And as he points out, the landscape is still changing...which should make the next few years a lot of fun.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scaling a Software Business (open source or otherwise)

OK, I've grabbed the bait Savio Rodrigues (of Big Blue fame) has cast for me. Savio's a good guy and we've traded opinions in the past, so here we go again.

Savio asserts "The OSS business model is great to grow from $0-$50M, but very difficult if you're trying to get to $100M.".

In my inimitable Philly style, my response is: Dude, that same statement can be made of most software companies, open source or not.

Let me use Princeton Softech (non open source) as an example. I was there before JBoss, and my focus was to help them grow to $50M and beyond. So I helped build and launch their database archiving solutions for Oracle E-Business, PeopleSoft, Siebel, and JD Edwards. In order to scale the business, we expanded our footprint beyond the generic archiving solution, to application-specific solutions. This scaled the business and increased valuation enough to entice your Big Blue to buy them recently...so be sure to treat my friends well! ;-)

So let me now use JBoss and Red Hat as examples.

To establish and build the business, you've got to start with great technology and A players. You then need to focus your business model on selling the right stuff. In the case of JBoss, we sold 75% subscriptions, 15% training, 10% consulting. Why? Because subscriptions have higher margins than training and consulting.

Once you've got momentum going on one product, you scale the business by:
  • Expanding your footprint (new products, product lines, solutions, etc.)

  • Expanding your reach (channel business, partners, geographies, etc.)
The focus when I joined JBoss in 2004 was to grow the footprint beyond the application server into a full middleware suite of products (Hibernate, JBoss jBPM, JBoss Rules, JBoss Portal, etc.). Add in our upcoming SOA Platform (based on JBoss ESB), and the fact we added MetaMatrix earlier this year, and you've got a nice footprint.

On top of that, Red Hat has a pretty cool strategy for the RHEL business, has a solid Channel focus that includes JBoss, and offers a global reach.

All of that adds up to a multi-product line company with decent reach. You take that into customer conversations and you're able to drive strategic decisions rather than single product discussions.

[Added on Dec 1]
To those who think “The support-only OSS business model does not scale.”. Uhhh…I disagree. It may take a while to build up a base, but once you do and you can keep renewals at a good level, it’s a very scalable model. It's actually quite similar to the maintence revenues traditional software companies treasure. The subscription model is the gift that gives day in/day out.

IBM is famous for its 10 year strategies, so I encourage you to visualize this over the long term and let me know if you're still having problems seeing the model scale.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Legitimate Open Source Strategy or All Wet?

Call me old fashioned, but I like reading the hardcopy version of the SD Times...and over the weekend, I caught up on some of the back issues.

One of the articles I read was Curl Opens RIA Tools to Community. I definitely scratched my head for a few minutes after reading it. Not to pick on Curl (since I don't really know them or their products all that well), but I cringe when I see statements like:
  • "We want to remove the concern that Curl is a proprietary platform," said Richard Treadway, vice president of product strategy at Curl. "We are releasing things above the platform that are fairly mature."
  • Curl will not release its runtime to the community, Treadway noted, because it's important that the runtime exist only in one version that is solid and can run anywhere.
Believe me, I realize that open sourcing previously proprietary software is a complex process, but it feels to me like Curl's strategy is to leave one foot on the [proprietary] dock and one foot on the [open source] boat...and firmly commit to neither.

My experience tells me that in situations like this...you get all wet!

I racked my brain for an example of a company that voiced a similar strategy and avoided getting wet.

Sun made similar statements. Their initial open source strategy excluded Java Standard Edition because they feared doing so would open the doors for competitors to fork Java.

I actually think Sun got a bit damp before they corrected their strategy by rolling out OpenJDK which put them firmly on the [open source] boat.

Bottom-line: Sun's a big company and can afford to get a little wet...but smaller companies that face credible open source alternatives need to get it right the first time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Microsoft's Open Source Strategy

Microsoft's Bill Hilf Reveals Its Open Source Strategy caught my attention, as well as July's Microsoft's Open-Source Strategy Coming Into Focus.

I found Dana Blankenhorn's response interesting, and I have to agree with many of his points.

Microsoft's stance on open source is pretty clear to me:

  • Microsoft has no plans on flipping any of its flagship products to open source. Period. The effort vs. reward equation just does not make sense since it would be a HUGE effort to make the code consumable by a community.
  • Microsoft sees some value in understanding open source; hence its investments in Port25 and CodePlex.
  • Microsoft sees some value in open source technologies that run on or interoperate with its platforms and products.
  • Microsoft sees some value in enabling people to see (but not touch) parts of their code; as evidenced by them Releasing the Source Code for the .NET Framework Libraries. This is not open source, but it does yield some benefit to developers targeting the .NET platform.
  • Microsoft will aggressively fight/compete with products (open source or closed source) that pose a threat to its core products. Hence, Bill's points re: Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Now, while I do work at Red Hat, I should also disclose that I know and respect Bill Hilf. We started working together a few years ago on the JBoss / Microsoft alliance. At that time, we agreed to set aside the Java vs. .Nyet (sorry Bill) debate and focus on better serving our developer and production users that target Windows. Among other things, we focused on interoperability (Web Services, etc.) and have participated in various plug-fest workshops over the years.

So, I have to admit that I'm disappointed to see Bill Hilf dance around the questions and hide behind such FUD as proprietary software "guarantees".

As much as I hate to say it, Microsoft could learn something from IBM's strategy. They make no bones about it: they work in the open source on piece-part components that they Bluewash into their closed-source products. While it's not a pure open source business model...it's clearly an open source strategy.

C'mon Bill, drop the FUD (that's Ballmer's shtick, not yours) and just say it as plainly as I have above.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Larry's Groundhog Day

I was reminded this week of one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day. It's the story of an egocentric man who finds himself repeating the same day over and over again.

What triggered this reminder was Larry Ellison's closing keynote at this year's Oracle OpenWorld.

But before we get to that, let's look back a year ago...at last year's OpenWorld where Larry's quotes are best summarized as:
"Red Hat...Red Hat....giggle giggle...Red Hat...Red Hat"

Bottom-line on last year's speech: Larry grabbed Red Hat Enterprise Linux...rebranded it Oracle Unbreakable Linux...and declared Red Hat, Inc. public enemy #1.

Fast forward to this year and the headlines read... "Larry Ellison levels guns at Red Hat". Sounds familiar...but with a year to prepare, I've gotta believe Larry's speech writers and product marketing folks have something special to share.

"Oracle has been in the Linux business for a year now. With the Red Hat code all we did for the first year was fix bugs". Hmmm...funny, this is not an issue that I've heard from customers...but Larry's a smart guy, so let's move to the next point.

"Now Oracle is growing a lot faster than Red Hat. Red Hat has been growing too because it is a growing market." I always think of Pierre Fricke's blog whenever a comparison like this comes up.

"Oracle VM takes on VMware". OK, OK, this sounds important since it's "one of the biggest software launches in the company's history". I'm almost giddy with anticipation....until I look at the product website. Is it just me or do the key features of Oracle VM sound an awful lot like...Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform which was released last March as I recall?

Anyhow, since I'm the middleware guy at Red Hat, I'll leave the details of how accurate my assessment of Larry's Groundhog Day moment is to the Linux and Virtualization experts out there.

Moving on to a topic of keen interest to me, you gotta love Oracle's interest in BEA. I can see it now, Oracle finally acquires BEA and Larry promises he will "fix" the BEA products. Soon after, Larry introduces the revolutionary OraLogic Server 11g and explains that he will raise the price on the product because BEA customers feel that the products have been priced too low for too long.

Now that's real innovation and customer value!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Prochain Arret Neuchatel

I write this from the Swiss Air Lines business center in Geneva...awaiting my flight back to the US.

I've been in Neuchatel the past few days for the quarterly meeting of the JBoss TBOD (Technical Board of Directors). Sacha Labourey chairs the two days of meetings of the JBoss technical leaders. We covered a wide range of business and technical topics (OpenJDK, Java EE 6, etc., etc.) over the two days. It's a good way to ensure that we synchronize our thoughts once a quarter. And it offers a great chance to generally catch up with folks face to face...during the meetings...after the meetings over food and drink....etc.

Speaking of food and drink, the meeting nicely dovetailed with the annual Neuchatel Wine Festival. It's 3 days of food, drink, and general partying into the wee hours. I took some time on Saturday to wander around the town and found myself at around 1:30 completely famished.

No worries there of course, since every kind of food and drink is right here for the asking. I kept it simple by ordering "la choucroute et une bier".

As I lifted the beer to my lips, I toasted another successful TBOD meeting...and then tucked into my dish.

Mmmmmm....sauer kraut with various sausages and a beer never tasted so good!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Who's the BOSS? JBoss Seam and JBoss Rules, of course

InfoWorld recently awarded the Best Open Source Software for the Enterprise (aka the 2007 InfoWorld Bossies).

Gavin King and the JBoss Seam community were given top honors as the Best Web App Server Framework in the Platforms and Middleware category:
"is a Java EE-based framework that helpfully combines Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) 3.0 and Java Server Faces (JSF), and delivers important new benefits that include handling the thorny problem of stateful page flows, simple construction of CRUD applications, AJAX and Web 2.0 interfaces on server-based applications, reporting enhancements, and an extensive business-rules capability."

And speaking of business-rules capability, Mark Proctor and the Drools/JBoss Rules community were given top honors as the Best Business Rule Management System in the Software Development category:
"Measured by enterprise-grade features including sophisticated tools for developers, graphical interfaces for business analysts, and fast runtime performance, lags only Fair Isaac's Blaze Advisor and ILOG's JRules. At the current pace of development it will not lag them for long."

Both of these communities have been quickly building out innovative features designed to simplify application development. When used together and along with JBoss jBPM for Business Process and Workflow, the speed with which a robust, AJAX-enabled, business process and rules-driven application with full CRUD capabilities can be created is mind-numbingly impressive.

Anyhow, kudos to the Seam and Drools communities for showing who's the BOSS...the Best Open Source Software.

Friday, September 7, 2007

What's in a Subscription?

So, it's been a busy couple of months of business travel. With lots more to come in September and October.

My travel has mostly focused on meeting with customers and partners to understand their needs, share our strategy, and discuss ways we might be able to help them.

In these discussions, I typically cover our strategic roadmap and development model for the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform and other JBoss Enterprise Middleware products.

Since the Red Hat / JBoss business model is built on selling subscriptions, the discussion leads to the definition of a Subscription.

Put simply, a Subscription is comprised of:
  1. Software bits
  2. Patches and updates to the bits
  3. Support in the use of the bits
  4. Legal assurance

While there's much more to say about each bullet point, that's basically the definition in a nutshell.

Since our products are open source, some people associate subscriptions with just support. In my Open Source Business Models: Definition of Support posting, I make the case that our customers need more than just support...which is why we are in the business of selling Subscriptions.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

When Was Your Last Giant Leap?

A few years ago, I participated in a two day session with Bill Treasurer of Giant Leap Consulting. Bill's focus is on helping people and organizations be more courageous.

Founders of open source projects and companies exemplify what Bill would call "purposeful risk-taking". It takes courage to put your passion and work out there for all to see.

Two recent events reminded me of taking Giant Leaps:
  1. My friend and prior coworker Ibrahim Abdelshafi is headed back to Egypt to be the CIO of one of their top financial services companies. Ibrahim has been at Primavera Systems for the past 15 years and has done a great job leading the development team there. He periodically considered a move back to Egypt to be closer to his family, but figured he'd seriously think of it in 3 or 5 years since he was really enjoying himself at Primavera. A conversation with an old friend from Egypt led him to more conversations....and bada bing....Ibrahim was faced with a Giant Leap decision. He leaves for Egypt on Tuesday.
  2. My daughter Liza will turn 16 this July but will not be home for her sweet 16th birthday. She is currently participating in the Experiment in International Living and is in Europe for the entire month of July. I have tried to raise my kids to be open to life's opportunities, and I feel the EIL program will open her eyes to the much bigger world out there. This is definitely a Giant Leap for Liza who has never been away from home for an extended period of time...and frankly...a Giant Leap for me as her parent who still can't believe it's been 16 years since she was born.

As they say, the only constant in life is change. Many of us are spectators for these waves of change. In my opinion, the best changes, the sweetest changes, the most impactful changes are those where you make a conscious and informed decision to "go for it".

So, when was your last giant leap?

Whether it's in open source, business, or life, I'd love to hear your giant leap story.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Open Source Business Models: Definition of "Support"

Interesting thread on InfoQ regarding open source business models:

Rod Johnson and Stormy Peters are engaging in the debate of which model is better: "Create & Support" vs. "Pure Support". This topic has gone round and round in the past, and I think the heart of the debate lies in the definition of "Support".

The "Pure Support" model should actually be called "Technical Assistance" since it focuses on helping people get over technical issues, find workarounds, etc.

Technical assistance is important, but what happens when the issue requires a bug fix...or a refactoring of some of the code? Then what?

The code can be changed...but who manages that change? And if that code is part of a complicated stack of open source technologies...who is managing all the patches and branches of all those changes?

Also...who ensures that change is committed upstream so that future releases of the technology benefit from the change? If the changes are not committed upstream...then who will maintain that fork for the X-years lifecycle that enterprise customers demand?

Let's be real. While enterprise customers need technical assistance, they also need patches and updates to the versions of the software they have deployed today...and they want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their fix today will still be there in future versions if/when they upgrade.

So, this explains why we at JBoss hire the key technical leaders from the projects that comprise our middleware portfolio. THIS is Professional Open Source.

Professional Open Source is not just Technical Assistance.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

So, How's Life After Marc Fleury?

I was at the Red Hat Summit in San Diego last week and we had a capacity crowd of attendees, with lots of press and analysts attending the event as well. There was a lot of interest in our Open Source Architecture and our Developer strategy.

A variety of people also asked the question: "So, how's life after Marc Fleury?"

My thoughts on Marc's departure remain unchanged from my JBoss Reloaded blog in March. "Marc was never shy to speak his mind, and that fact helped keep JBoss in the news as much as our great technology did. Marc's persona fueled love/hate feelings forever preserved on the Internet; if you Google "Marc Fleury", you will get hundreds of thousands of hits. Love him or hate him, you have to give Marc props for taking a huge risk in 1999 and creating a software business that was valued at $350M in June 2006."

The recent article by Tom Sanders accurately quotes me in some aspects but sums things up in a misleading way. I do not think that "Marc Fleury's oversised ego stood in the way of partnerships, according to JBoss vice president - product management. ". And I do not credit our continued growth to Marc's departure.

I believe my thoughts above are clearly stated in my JBoss Reloaded blog. Marc Fleury absolutely has a lightning rod personality, and that fact helped make JBoss the success it is today. As part of Red Hat, however, JBoss Reloaded is less about one person. Things are different because folks like Sacha Labourey and Bob McWhirter have their own way of doing things. The new look at JBoss.org is just one example.

While I am quite happy with the success JBoss is having as part of Red Hat, I do not credit that success to one person joining...or one person leaving. We've got a great team of folks focused on the success of JBoss.

So, how's life after Marc? Fast-paced, exciting, and in the eye of the open source storm. While some things have changed...other things remain the same.

Friday, April 27, 2007

JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 4.2 Beta is Available

On Tuesday, we announced our New Development, Distribution, and Support Model for JBoss. As followup to that announcement, we have released the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 4.2 Beta. Congratulations to the development team and community for helping us pull this Beta together!

You can access the Beta download from the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Downloads page.

JBoss Enterprise Application Platform integrates the following open source JBoss technologies for building, deploying and hosting enterprise Java applications and services:

  • JBoss Application Server 4.2
  • Apache Tomcat 6
  • JavaServer Faces 1.2
  • JBoss Clustering, Cache and Messaging
  • JBoss Transactions JTA
  • Hibernate
  • JBoss Seam

This Beta Release represents an opportunity to evaluate the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform before its widespread production release. It is intended as a technology preview in order to allow users to explore its capabilities and evaluate its suitability for their needs. Please deploy it in testing and evaluation environments only.

Your feedback on this technology preview is valuable to us, and is an integral part of making this the most stable Enterprise Application Platform possible. Please raise any concerns that you have or issues that you encounter by opening an issue in our JIRA Issue Tracking System at http://jira.jboss.com/jira/browse/JBPAPP. Please bear in mind that the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform Beta is a technology preview and will not have a support SLA until its final release.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Driving Developer Preference

JBoss' success has hinged on grassroots adoption by developers and users of our open source technologies. Thank you for your support over the years! With our relaunch of JBoss.org, we are hoping to fuel that innovative spirit further and keep our users informed and excited about our new technologies and directions.

There are many types of developers, of course. While many will download our open source components and tools and support themselves via our forums and wikis, many corporate developers just want a set of solid tools they can use and a well tested platform to develop and deploy on. While they may think innovation is cool...and will factor it into future applications...stability is what gets deployed today. They have a job to do and want vendors like Red Hat to make their lives simpler.

At Red Hat, we are focused on driving preference for our Open Source Architecture as early in the development lifecycle as possible. So, we are building on the grassroots relationship JBoss has with developers and consolidating our developer-related efforts into a single strategy across all of Red Hat.

Towards that end, we have launched the following new subscriptions:
  • Red Hat Developer Professional is designed for corporate developers and individuals.
  • Red Hat Developer Enterprise is designed for Independent Software Vendors, larger development organizations and mission critical development projects.
  • Red Hat Developer Studio is an Eclipse-based development tools environment that integrates tools for Linux, Java, and Web 2.0 application development.
The first two offerings provide full access and developer support for ALL Red Hat certified products (Red Hat Enterprise Linux, JBoss Enterprise Middleware, etc.) under a single subscription. We want to make it as easy as possible for developers to get access to any/all of our certified bits and support them in the use of those bits as they're developing their applications.

The Red Hat Developer Studio subscription is due out in the summer timeframe and will integrate all of our Eclipse-based tools, including the Exadel Studio Pro and Ajax technologies, into a development environment that works well with and includes our certified platforms. So, developers will not only get the tools but also access to our certified JBoss and Red Hat Enterprise Linux platforms.

This is a first step, of course, and as always, if you have cool ideas for other things we should be doing to help developers, just let us know.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

OFF TOPIC: Thank You Sir, May I Have Another

I had the pleasure of spring skiing with my family in Alta, Utah this past week. This was our first time skiing "for real"...meaning taking a lift that brings you up to 10,450 feet.

If you've never skied in April...do it! And if you are looking for a nice place to stay, check out Rustler Lodge in Alta, Utah.

Thank you Rustler...we look forward to our next trip to Alta.

Typical of any vacation, I returned to a ton of emails...but one email in particular caught my eye. The email was from Andy Oliver, longtime JBoss developer now doing his own thing at Buni.org.

Andy read the two blogs I posted on March 31 right before I headed out on vacation. Admittedly, those blogs could have used a bit more editing...but I had a plane to catch and slopes to conquer so I quickly wrote and posted them and put up my "On Vacation" sign.

Anyhow, Andy's email basically said: "Dude....write less!".

Good advice for bloggers in general...and I'd like to thank Andy for the Buni-slap...I really do appreciate the feedback.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Building A Great Open Source Architecture

For the past 3 years, we have been busy building out JBoss Enterprise Middleware as the Open Source Platform for SOA. During this time, we have been very consistent in our stance that SOA needs to be Simple, Open, and Affordable. We contend that SOA technologies should be available to all, not just the privileged few who can afford the HUGE license costs.

This approach delivers real value to our customers. And since joining Red Hat last June, there are more and more people around the world who want to understand our strategy, product roadmap, etc.

I use a set of 3 graphics to describe our product strategy. These are designed to illustrate how I see the open source market - one graphic for last year, this year, and next year. The color coding on the slides is meant to illustrate the level of pain (threat level) that proprietary vendors are feeling due to open source competitors.

Needless to say, Operating Systems a la Red Hat, Web Servers a la Apache, Developer Tools a la Eclipse, and App Servers a la JBoss are causing high and severe alert levels for the proprietary vendors. Portal, Business Process Management (BPM), and Integration markets have been gaining ground and should generate strong momentum into 2008 and beyond.

I actually use these graphics for two purposes: 1) to explain to people how open source is penetrating software market areas that are relevant to Red Hat / JBoss, and 2) as a radar screen, of sorts, that I personally use to help identify strategic areas of opportunity/expansion.

For example, looking at the pace of BPM, Portal, and Integration, I ask myself: what things can I do to accelerate those areas. This is why you have seen JBoss spend considerable time and effort over the past two years on building out technologies such as JBoss jBPM, JBoss Rules, JBoss Portal, and JBoss ESB.

So, mapping all of this back to the bigger Red Hat Open Source Architecture strategy yields a product map that looks something like this:
This architecture, from left to right, covers the typical lifecycle areas of Develop, Deploy, Secure, and Manage. I believe we have a pretty impressive array of open source technologies in our architecture today, and I point you to the the recent reactions of some of the major sofware vendors in the industry as proof positive that the threat levels I illustrate above are accurate and real.

In my Open Source Strategy: Freeing Great Technology blog, I outlined the different approaches we take towards expanding our base of open source technologies. With this in mind, I encourage you to stay tuned over the course of 2007 and beyond as we continue to rollout new technologies and services focused on driving real customer value. The fact that this will have the net effect of turning up the heat on our proprietary competitors is icing on the cake.

What areas will we expand into next? Well...you'll just have to wait and see, now won't you? ;-)

Then they fight you. Then you win.

Mohandas Gandhi's quote actually goes: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

This quote has been a rallying cry for many years at Red Hat, and is oh-so-appropriate given the shenanigans going on in the software market these days. Let's focus on two major proprietary software vendors shall we? In order to protect their identities, I will simply refer to them here as....Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Thing 1 says he will just take our technology and make it his own. He reasons that this will help him deliver more value to his customers. Hello!! The BIG COSTS for customers are in the layers on top. I suggest you read my Building A Great Open Source Architecture blog for an illustration of the technology areas I refer to and how open source is poised to deliver more value in those areas.

Now...let's talk about Thing 2. They offer an entry level product that is "based on open source" as an onramp to their complex, proprietary, and expensive stack of products that they are really focused on selling. And in the process....get this...this is the best part...they claim they are actually more open source than we are. Now THAT is great marketing folks! They have a tiny sliver of their stack "based on open source" and that makes them more open source than JBoss. Read my blog on Open Source Community for my thoughts on that topic.

Anyhow, the interesting news is that Thing 2 is spending time building and marketing what I call a bridge to the past. They have built some tools that help people move away from our innovative and fully featured open source platform for SOA to their low-end "children's edition" onramp. The problem is that their onramp only provides a thin sliver of the functionality that people need for their SOA initiatives....so....oh darn....I guess that means people will just need to buy the other complex proprietary stuff in their portfolio...for real license $$'s. This "bridge to the past" will truly be the gift that keeps giving....only their customers are not the ones receiving the gift, if you know what I mean.

So why are Thing 1 and Thing 2 fighting us so vigorously?
Because they are not happy that we are successfully building out a complete open source platform for SOA that not only encompasses the Operating System and Application Server...but also covers the market areas of Portal, BPM, and Integration among others.

They see our big picture. They see our great technology and services. And they will do whatever it takes to preserve the lock-in and huge license fees provided by their big proprietary stacks.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 are more focused on trying to slow us down, rather than on delivering increased value to their customers. And I believe customers and the market in general are smart enough to see that.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What Do You Stand For?

I've spent the better part of my career as a software developer, bouncing back and forth between Product Management/Marketing and Development since 2000, and programming since the mid-80's before that. In my transition to the Marketing "dark side", I have to admit that it took me a while to get what "Brand" really means.

Yeah, yeah, I know...it's simple stupid! Kleenex, Band-Aid, Google, and Coca-Cola are examples of good brands with well established trademarks. It's easy to spot good brands....but....how do you think they got to be valued brands in the first place? How much effort did it take for them to build real Brand Equity that fuels their business?

Red Hat spends a lot of time, money, and effort on establishing our brand. Red Hat has been named the industry leader in delivering customer value 3 years running. In order for our brand to maintain its value, we need to ensure our trademarks are used in a proper and consistent way. If not, then legally we can lose our trademarks. For example, "elevator" used to be a registered trademark but the owners allowed their trademark to be used unchecked as a generic name and ultimately lost their trademark protection. Band-Aid, on the other hand, has protected its trademark over the years and maintained its brand equity.

Red Hat and the proper use of the Hibernate trademark was a topic of debate in the news recently. Since I am not a lawyer, have no desire to be a lawyer, and want to avoid legal debates on this topic, I will simply point folks to the Red Hat Trademark Policies page which contains links to our detailed Trademark Guidelines document and Trademark Style Sheet/Usage document for the official details.

When you look at the details of the Hibernate issue closely, it really comes down to the importance of protecting the brand equity built up in the registered trademark. There are guidelines for how to properly use trademarks, such as Hibernate, and following these guidelines is really not an onerous task. Allowing people to not follow the guidelines is a sure path to losing your trademark and subsequent brand value.

Bottom-line: If you cherish the value of your brand, then every now and then you will need to defend what you stand for.

OFF TOPIC: Is Mode-F Aptly Named?

My kids have been complaining that the special Windows keyboard we have acts weird, forces then to scream at their friends when they are IM'ing, and at times, displays a series of never ending "/" characters or just refuses to display any letters whatsoever.

I'm an electrical engineer by education and have been in the software industry for 20 years, so I've ignored their complaints, assuming they are overstating the situation as kids sometimes do.

Well...as I was sitting at the family computer this morning, sipping my coffee, reading through the land of news and blogs....the keyboard starts getting a mind of its own. With no rhyme or reason, EVERY LETTER I TYPE IS IN ALL CAPS. Toggling caps-lock sorta helps but causes other issues.

I begin to search online forums for some help and I see mention of the "Mode F" button. I toggle the Mode-F button and get a stream of unending "///////////" across my screen. Hitting the Escape key about 1000 times seems to solve the problem, and things go back to normal...for a few minutes.

Then the fun just repeats itself over and over like a frustrating scene from Ground Hog Day.

Well as they say here in Philly....Mode-F me? Well Mode-F you.
I quickly called my uncle Tony...and needless to say there is one less keyboard in the world today. :-)

Friday, March 23, 2007

SCA, OASIS, and the JCP

My take on Mark Little's InfoQ post on the news that SCA/SDO go to OASIS is that the move makes a lot of sense. I'm actually amazed it has taken this long to happen. SCA/SDO are language/platform independent, not unlike a lot of the WS-* specifications on OASIS.

So, much like the JCP has implemented key WS-* specs within the Java platform, they should focus on doing the same with SCA/SDO as the specs work their way through the broader community review/input process.

On a related note, there's been way too much chest-thumping on SCA being a threat to Java EE, JBI, etc. Mike Edwards offers a perfect overview of the Relationship of SCA and JBI; lays out the similarities and differences nicely. SCA is from the tops-down user perspective; JBI is from the bottoms-up platform builder perspective. While they may share some similar patterns, those who pit SCA vs. JBI only demonstrate their inability to distinguish between the two perspectives.

Bottom-line: It is time to get the SCA/SDO specs out in the open and let the community process take it forward.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Open Source Strategy: Freeing Great Technology

At Red Hat, we are 100% focused on an open source business model and what we call the democratization of technology. Let me elaborate on what this means and how it fuels our strategy.

Having been with JBoss since 2004, our approach to expanding our base of open source technologies and accelerating innovation has been accomplished using one of the following approaches:
  1. Work within existing open source communities. Our work on a wide variety of Apache projects and Eclipse projects are examples here.
  2. Create and staff new JBoss projects. JBoss Seam, JBoss Portal, JBoss Messaging, JBoss Web Services, and JBoss ESB are examples of projects that fit this category.
  3. Identify complementary open source projects and recruit them to join our community. Hibernate, JBoss jBPM, and JBoss Rules are examples here.
  4. Free great proprietary/closed source technology. Let me use three examples to illustrate this further.

JBoss Transactions is an example of great technology that was previously proprietary. We worked with HP and Arjuna on freeing that technology so we could enhance our middleware technologies and open up technology to the benefit of the larger community.

Our partnership with Exadel is actually a blend of two approaches. We've added their open source technologies to our community as JBoss Ajax4jsf and JBoss RichFaces. And we are working with them on freeing their great Exadel Studio Pro technology at JBoss.org. Those who want to consume the individual Eclipse plug-ins will have that ability. Those interested in getting all of the Exadel, JBoss, and Red Hat Eclipse tools in an integrated and tested offering will be interested in the Red Hat Developer Studio.

Finally, our new Hibernate Shards project was developed by Software Engineers at Google who created some really cool technology built on Hibernate and then decided to free that great technology for the benefit of the broader community. Max Ross at Google describes the process in his Ode to Hibernate blog. Thanks Max, Tomislav, and Maulik and welcome to the community!

As I mentioned in my blog on Open Source Community, while I consider the open source projects and people who work directly on those projects as the core neighborhood within the "community", I do think the definition of community is broader and includes neighborhoods that extend beyond the core neighborhood.

I love working at a company whose core strategy is focused on constantly extending our community so we can free more and more great technology. It is much more difficult for proprietary closed-source sofware companies to follow suit since they are continually lured by the siren’s song of license sales and using “open source” as a marketing tick rather than as their raison d'etre.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Open Source Community and Barack Obama

So you are wondering what Barack Obama and the open source community have to do with eachother? Well I've been catching up on blogland recently and came across a few new posts arguing the definition of open source community and implying the way we do things at JBoss is less pure than it should be. The argument laid out by posts like these actually reminds me of the wave of press focused on the question: Is Obama Black Enough?

"Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan," Stanley Crouch recently sniffed in a New York Daily News column entitled "What Obama Isn't: Black Like Me." "Black, in our political and social vocabulary, means those descended from West African slaves," wrote Debra Dickerson on the liberal website Salon. Therefore....Obama is not black enough. Makes logical sense, right? Uhhhh.....I don't think so!

The definition of open source community isn't as singular in nature as some would like you to believe either. Definitions of open source community that focus on one way to do things or one way to interact and communicate are missing the bigger picture. Open source communities extend beyond those who interact directly on the open source projects, mailing lists and forums, and include the users, customers and partners in a wide variety of ways. In my opinion, there are neighborhoods within the larger community that have their own perspectives and ways of interacting with the larger community. So, yes, there is the core open source development neighborhood, but there are also neighborhoods for customers, partners, indirect users, etc. and they are all active community participants in their own ways.

In order to reach out to this bigger community, the Professional Open Source model we use at JBoss enables our developers to spend some of their time delivering services to our customers - via support, training, or consulting. This affords them the ability to interact directly with users who may not be subscribed to the individual project mailing lists, forums, etc. We also have Product Managers, Sales Engineers, Support Engineers, Trainers, and Consultants who spend a lot of time with customers and partners discussing and understanding their technical requirements and funneling that input directly into the open source process. At Red Hat, we spend a lot of time looking for new ways of serving, expanding, and recognizing our community including user conferences, roadshows, Innovation Awards, Red Hat Challenge, client advisory boards, web conferences, face to face meetings, etc.

The definition of open source community need not be so black and white.
Like the software these communities produce, the definition of community needs the chance to evolve and change in ways that we can't even imagine.