Open source blooming in new field

Open source blooming in new field

Summary: Ex-software executives from Lawson, Hyperion, Oracle, SAS and other companies in the analytics field are heading up a new open source community and company, the Pentaho BI Project. (The Pentaho Indians were responsible for domesticating the West Indian Manatee.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Ex-software executives from Lawson, Hyperion, Oracle, SAS and other companies in the analytics field are heading up a new open source community and company, the Pentaho BI Project. (The Pentaho Indians were responsible for domesticating the West Indian Manatee.) It's part of the growing trend of former executives of proprietary software companies bootstrapping new firms in application categories by leveraging the open source model. SugarCRM, for example, was formed by a three founders whose career stops including E.piphany, BroadVision, Aurum Software, Octane Software, Hewlett Packard and Symantec. The founders of JasperSoft, which has a commercial open source reporting application, did time at Sybase, Actuate, Business Objects and Oracle. 

Pentaho doesn't have distribution yet. The company said it will deliver an Alpha release using the LGPL (Lesser General Public License) in the next few months and ship the completed set of components later this year. The company states its mission as follows:

  • Building components for the Open Source community.
  • Enhancing components developed by others.
  • Integrating components into cohesive and flexible building blocks that Java developers can use to rapidly assemble custom solutions.
  • Using these building blocks to create complete out-of-the-box products and a comprehensive BI Platform for End-Users.
  • Providing comprehensive technical support, release management, quality assurance, and enterprise services.

The project will include components for reporting, analysis, dashboards, data mining, workflow and frameworks.

Like SugarCRM CEO John Roberts, the Pentaho team believes that its model of community development and free software; competing on implementation and services; and not spending a high percentage of revenue on sales and marketing activities like commercial companies is a recipe for disrupting the incumbents.

They also claim they can deliver higher quality software compared to proprietary/commercial companies because of the number of developers and end-user testers. There is some truth to that notion, but many of these more commercially oriented open source projects have a core team of developers who create the vast majority of the code. SugarCRM has 18 developers who create most of the code, and open source database developer MySQL develops its own code. Open source has an advantage is that the ecosystem, which is far more than customer test sites, can make significant contributions.  Roberts claims 450 code contributors to the SugarCRM project and 250,000 downloads of the software to date. 

The open sorcerers like to talk about tearing down the walls of traditional commercial software with free software. But it's not free software to the open source vendors or to their customers. Most open source vendors have a staff of developers who do the vast majority of productizing coding for a project, just like commercial vendors. Both open source and commercial vendors have staff for maintenance, support, training and consulting services--that's where open source vendors make their money. Open source lets customers look at and modify the code--but how important is that to most companies who just want the software to work as advertised. Open source vendors claim that the cost of commercial software is heavily weighed down with sales and marketing expenditures and R&D costs of commercial vendors. In theory, if the applications are of similar quality, open source applications should be less costly to deploy than commercially developed software and the open source vendors should be able to garner decent margins on their services. 

A challenge for the open source vendors is to maintain their happy and engaged communities, which can become increasing difficult as the vendors have more financial success. Yes, contributions are available to anyone who wants to use them, depending on the particular open source license scheme, but what's the incentive if a Red Hat or an IBM is getting all the financial fruit from the effort and you need to eat. Not every open source developer has an enlightened attitude about the relationship between code sharing and how the community is legitimately leveraged for corporate profits.  And, as the number of open source projects increases, the pool of developers attached to any particular community can be diluted.  That said, it's not lost on commercial developers like SAP or Microsoft that building communities and ecosystems are critical to success. But the success is more of a financial measure--eking out a profit in the ecosystem--whereas open source is based on sharing and egalitarianism.

The two are not mutually exclusive, and they will be blended as the models for commercial and open source software evolve. For now, many of the commercial vendors will be looking over their shoulders at these upstart open source projects, and figuring how fast they need to run...and in what direction.

Topic: Open Source

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24 comments
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  • Why Microsoft still Wins...

    Great article, BTW! You made great points about what open source really is about and the problems and advantages to using open source products and software.

    I would say open source would have taken over the world by now if it was as wonedrful as so many people say it is in the business world. The fact of the matter is open source will never equal the products and work that companies like Microsoft provide simply because the too many people have their hands in the fire. What I mean is....the very thing that makes the Open Source model great is the exact same thing thats hurting it. When I say "hurting" I mean keeping businesses (the guys with the big bucks!) from adopting open source products world-wide.

    Its great to have all kinds of crazy developers all over the world sending you their changes to your software, all for the purpse of making it "better", but it doesnt quite work that way. Its an "unmanaged" model for software development, meaning, garbage in, garbage out!

    What I feel ends up happening is you get innovation and fast and free returns in terms of people in those communities making a product better (ie Mozilla, Rainbow, etc.) But that doesnt improve quality, testing, consistency, security, reliability, and most importantly, documentation and support....the key incredients for success. Thats what Microsoft has done, despite all the negative feelings in the open source community. Smart businessmen in open source would do better to look carefully at Micrsoft and SAP and ORACLE's models for success in the busienss world with their products and services and learn from it.

    If you own a business, would you rather have a carefully tested and widely adopted and supported product, or some code some crazy 16 year old kid "hacked together for you" while sitting in his underwear in front of his computer late at night?...hmmmm
    wildranger
    • agree, also adding that

      open source is legitimate now, because IBM put their weight behing Linux with marketing such as they would spend $10 billion in 10 years.
      According to me its a castle in the sky. Today they can make money of Linux, they support it. If they cannot make money of it they will no longer endorse it.
      Today the open source model is I give you the product for free, but the client ends up supporting the consultants.
      I think companies are much better off if they buy the product but they save in the long run because their development costs are less.
      zzz1234567890
      • Disagree about IBM

        The bigger open source projects were legitimate before IBM threw their wieght behind linux.

        Samba and apache were two of the main reasons I started using open source platforms, and they have existed long before IBM got into the mix with all their hooplah.

        My prespective is that Linux belongs in servers, so I could care less about what IBM has done to bring linux to the desktop.
        ibabadur1
    • crazy 16 year old

      A lot of software that is free is written by professional
      programmers either in their spare time, or, they get paid to write
      it by a corporation or other organisation.

      You said:
      "would you rather have a carefully tested and widely adopted
      and supported product, or some code some crazy 16 year old
      kid "hacked together for you" while sitting in his underwear in
      front of his computer late at night?"

      Frankly, it depends on how well the two pieces of code match
      my needs. Many times I've seen "carefully crafted and tested"
      giant pieces of software made that are totally unusable, where
      masses of effort has been spent on features no-one wants.

      The 16 year old kiddie will probably write the code to perform
      something he wants to do, and therefore it will perform that
      function well. If that function is the function I need, hell yes I'm
      going to use his program rather than non-functioning
      bloatware.
      hipparchus2000
      • 16 year old kiddie

        I dont think there are 16 year old kiddies writing valueable code. Its just a myth. Script kiddies are present but not developers doing valuable code.
        Wonder who has the the time to go through a lot of unuseful stuff (junk) to find something that meets one needs. Most people have better things to do.
        zzz1234567890
        • That's assuming there is not search methode

          that can be used to find what you want/need? It assumes that it's just this big hay stack of projects and you arelooking for the mythological needles with no better methode than to pick through it bit by bit.

          Pagan jim
          Laff
    • 16 year old kid?

      Maybe we didn't read the same article...

      'They also claim they can deliver higher quality software compared to proprietary/commercial companies because of the number of developers and end-user testers.'

      If you own a business, and you're looking at some open source software, it's most likely that it wasn't written buy some 'crazy 16 year old kid'. And it's even most likely that it was not carefully tested.

      Now, on the other hand if you're looking for some open source software to rip your cds into mp3s there is a higher percentage of chance that it was written by a 'crazy 16 year old kid'
      TLG_z
    • Yes it is true that one's greatest strenght is often

      their greates weekness. Butt that also stands true for the likes of MS.

      Pagan jim
      Laff
    • ok, maybe the '16 year old kid' thingie was over the top, but...

      Ok, I'll agree with you guys that there are some awesome open source systems and software out there....and no doubt written and tested by some great programmers and communities. And there are of course some bad ones.

      But, something is lost when you have huge numbers of unmanaged groups adding and editing code projects, and patching stuff together with little consistency and documentation. I think if open source could do what Mozilla did, and have some kind of global "foundation" thats backed by a profitable company (ie IBM) that sets some standards for everyone, and maybe has some sort of managed submission system where code is carefully integrated based on standards internal to that group, its possible to give Microsoft a run for their money. I know their scared...as that might be starting to happen.

      The advantage to open source is inclusion and innovation. The disadvantage is that model attracts the good programmers along with the bad...and all those groups are included equally in the final business model and product.

      Dont make me hunt-and-peck your product for whats best for me....if you do, I have to pay a developer to patch together the solution I need anyway, so wheres the cost savings? Most business people would rather have quality, testing, features all ready built in rather than sheel out cost over time to hire open source teams to customize it, and then a subscription to get support.
      wildranger
      • When you say "open source" what are you talking about?

        You seem to be talking about open source software in general. However, if you take a look at most open source projects on sourceforge, they all have someone or some team leading them. You can't just add code willy-nilly. Yes, you could take their source, make your changes, and post it on your own website. But that does not change the original project. And many of them do actually test changes before they are officially added. Sometimes bugs get by, but that is the nature of software.

        As for customizing software, that depends on the business. All the software I write is custom for the company at which I work. There is no "shrink-wrap" equal. If an open or free source product does what I need with modifications, I will gladly use it.
        Patrick Jones
  • Is open source durable?

    Being born in the early 50's I had the opportunity(?) to watch an entire generation go against the "establishment" during he 60's. Peace, love, make love not war, hug a tree, etc., etc.

    But something funny happened, these people grew up and realised the world just doesn't work that way no matter how much they might like it too. They quickly began to understand the need to make a real living and that there are a lot of people that are more than willing to let you do all the work if they can freeload from you.

    We are just beginning to see open source being influenced by corporate motives ($$$). Will people continue to provide the free ride for profit motivated corporations while they get little more than a pat on the back? Or to support say Communist China in their efforts to vanquish the concept of capitalism in the free world? We will just have to watch and see i guess, but my guess is there is an awakening coming...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Big difference...I still like the make love thing myself!

      butt the difference is that I don't think those in the Open Source and Linux crowds are NOT making money for their efforts. Some might be and there is always a lunatic frindge in everything going. Butt I doubt very much there will be many who one day wake up and realize they are starving and cold for lack of food and a place to live cause they gave all their labor away for free.

      Knowledge is power in this world today and everything you learn can be a valuable commodity..it's all up to you as to how you apply this commodity once gained and I'm thinking even the lunatic frindge can and will cash in when it become needed.

      Pagan jim
      Laff
    • Actually

      China will use capitalism to kick our @ss financially. Communism is using capitalism to it's advantage and unless the US get's it together, China will own half the US and surrounding areas by all the land purchasing they are doing. Its a real threat that is happening now... think about that for a while.
      Linux User 147560
      • NOt that I disagree but the same was said about

        Japan back when her economy was screaming and ours was sputtering. Japan bought a lot of American real estate then and there were songs like "I think I'm turning Japanese" and movies like "Gung Ho". Seems Japan was unstoppable and then their economy went bust.

        Still I do see a real threat in the coming years from places like China and India. For tech is key and for tech to thrive you need brain power and there for their natural resource in which they outstrip us by far is PEOPLE!!!! Frankly they have the KEY natural resorce needed for the future human brain power to power a tech based economy.

        Pagan jim
        Laff
        • Difference is that

          Japan doesn't have the size nor the raw materials base China has.

          Japan doesn't have the manpower China has.

          Japan is not a Communist country, like China is

          Technically Communism and Capitalism are not supposed to work... together that is, and yet here is China doing what is not supposed to be done.

          In a nut shell I would be very leary of China. Another point is that Japan was only killing the US markets with electronics and cars. China has been killing us with electronics, manufactured goods (clothes, bedding, housewares, shoes...).

          Her manufacturing base dwarfs ours and is reminicent of the United States in the early 40-60's.
          Linux User 147560
        • Not all it's cracked up to be

          Re: "For tech is key and for tech to thrive you need brain power and there for their natural resource in which they outstrip us by far is PEOPLE!!!! Frankly they have the KEY natural resorce needed for the future human brain power to power a tech based economy."

          Maybe India has it, but China does not have the creativity we have. I can assure you of that. A couple years ago I knew a Chinese immigrant who defected to the U.S. He's a former coworker of mine. He had a Ph.D. in geology, but he loved programming and software. Why didn't he major in computer science? The Chinese government discouraged him from doing it. He explained that he could've trained in CS, but the Chinese government would've refused him subsidies for it. He took a test when he was young, and the government bureaucrats decided what field of study they would support him in. They said they needed geologists and thought he had the capabilities to become one. He said he never liked geology, but his family was too poor to support his education. So he got a Ph.D. in what to him was a waste of time in order to get a university education. So I'm sure it wasn't a total loss for him, but that kind of system discourages creativity, and the self-motivation to excel.

          They graduate more engineers than we do, but it's only because the government decided to put more students into that field. They're good enough to get a degree in it, but it doesn't mean all those people wanted to go into it. People who do this because they love it are going to be better at it than those who do it because someone else told them to.
          Mark Miller
    • awakening in progress?

      I think this is already taking place, and this was part of the original story. First we need to be honest, though. Most people that are awakening to open-source really do so for their own profit motives. People are coming to open-source because they can use it to leverage a market with lower startup devlopment cost and make a profit. Why pay for something when you can get it for free? It's only secondary (and with reluctance) that the same persons/companies will return new code to the open-source community which could be used by competitors.

      So it is the freshmen open-sourcer's that are already awake.
      Spats30
    • Correction

      You say:

      "Or to support say Communist China in their efforts to vanquish the concept of capitalism in the free world?"

      I say that China is not out to vanquish the concept of capitalism. In fact, you've got it backwards. China is using capitalism to vanquish the free world.

      A common misconception is that opressive governments can't tolerate or take advantage of capitalism. Henry Ford and Nazi Germany is a good example of this.

      China is more like a military dictatorship than communism.
      ibabadur1
    • Cold hard cash

      [i]We are just beginning to see open source being influenced by corporate motives ($$$). Will people continue to provide the free ride for profit motivated corporations while they get little more than a pat on the back?[/i]

      As Her Majesty's Royal Mathemetician wrote, "If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."

      As has been pointed out here [i]ad nauseum[/i], there's precious little altruism involved. There certainly isn't for the thousands of F/OSS programmers on IBM's payroll. The F/OSS programmers that I know aren't giving a "free ride [to] profit motivated corporations" because they're employees [b]of[/b] those profit-motivated corporations.

      The corporations involved aren't into altruism either. They are, however, realists who recognize that:
      a) They need the software for their own businesses,
      b) Customizing [i]software libre[/i] is the most efficient way to meet their needs, and
      c) Releasing their changes back provides business advantages over alternative plans.

      It's not altruism and it's not rocket science. Just basic good business motivated by cold, hard cash.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Not from what I see.

        Does IBM make out with open source? Well one could say they do but isn't their real goal simply to sell hardware and they really don't care what's ran on it? A recent article aksed where did IBM spend the supposed $1 billion they invested in open source, no one had a realistic answer. (Maybe because it was a mythical number?)

        But with that said, most of the open source based software companies (Red Hat, Novell, etc.) are finding it hard to generate real profits. The lucky ones are barely breaking even.

        We also have seen lots of situations lately where even hardware vendors are having second thoughts due to the requirement they release their source code back to the community. In fact it's taken law suits to make it happen. Not certain that will build lasting relationships...

        Also, most open source contributions come from people with the spare time and a desire to be involved. As that generation gets older their priorities WILL change, it's just human nature. Making a buck to raise the kids and prepare for school, etc. will have a major impact. Much like the 20 year old tree hugger grew up and concentrated on making a real living...
        No_Ax_to_Grind