James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

Should Microsoft be allowed to contribute to Joomla?

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Microsoft has signed the Joomla Contribution Agreement: http://community.joomla.org/blogs/leadership/1167-microsoft-signs-jca.html

Matthew Aslett at the 451 Group posted about it here – Tilting at Windows or (don’t be a Cnut)

I agree with him.

Reading the comments on the announcement is interesting. I see two kinds:
* Paranoid, irrational, subjective, and discriminatory ones objecting to Microsoft’s participation
* Well-balance, pragmatic, objective, and open ones cautiously welcoming the news

The basic issue is the same one as with the Oracle/MySQL situation, which I wrote about at the time: https://jamesdixon.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/open-source-fanatics-choose-wisely/

As with Oracle/MySQL there are calls to preemptively fork Joomla to prevent Microsoft participating. This is sad, self-limiting, counter-productive behavior. Worse it is directly counter to Joomla’s OSI license. To quote ‘The Free Software Definition”

“Free software” does not mean “noncommercial.” A free program must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution.

If you really advocate open source software, the positive participation of the large software companies is a good thing. Let them participate, and only criticize them when they do wrong. Preemptively forking projects to prevent them participating is counter to the OSI license and the philosophies of open source and free software. Using the banner of Free Software to incite exclusion discredits the movement.

Written by James

May 5, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Posted in Microsoft, open source

Gartner and Intelligent Enterprise on the costs of open source BI systems

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A good article by Doug Henschen (I got it right this time, Doug) reviewing part of a presentation from Gartner’s BI Summit last week. Here is Doug’s first statement:

The five-year cost of a typical, 500-seat BI deployment ranges from about $150,000 for an open-source system to just over $1 million for the full suite from SAP BusinessObjects, IBM Cognos or Oracle. In between these two extremes are Microsoft, pure-play BI vendors ($522,000 to $674,000) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) BI vendors ($582,000).

The full article is here: http://intelligent-enterprise.informationweek.com/blog/archives/2010/04/gartners_take_o.html

Written by James

April 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Free/Open Source Software Global Maturity Matrix (FOSS GloMM)

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I have stated a few times that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its advocates don’t have a vision of the future that I find viable. I have read statements that the best custodians of FOSS are tiny consulting companies, and that Microsoft and Oracle should be barred from participating in FOSS. I don’t see how the software needs of the world can be met by tiny services companies, or how we can magically make the existing market players disappear. But I can’t complain about their vision without providing any vision of my own. So here it is.

The Vision

I subscribe to the theory that a vision is a dream + a plan.

The Dream

Twenty years from now, across the globe, every individual, business, organization, and government entity will have FOSS suitable for all their needs. That is not to say there there is no proprietary software any more – their certainly will be for the next 20 years – just that any and all normal requirements can be met with FOSS.

In this future the notion of intellectual property will still exist, as will software patents (unfortunately). In this future, any software or services company, of any size, whether local or global has the opportunity to participate in the FOSS realm.

We will reach this goal incrementally via an evolution of FOSS software, an evolution of the existing market players, and the creation of new market players.

The Plan

1 – Establish Metrics

Here is my proposal for assessing the state of the dream. By country, we score each software domain in terms of how well FOSS provides suitable solutions that are:

  • OSI approved.
  • Localized.
  • Compliant with all local regulations (accessibility, domain-specific legal requirements etc).
  • Stable, usable, and documented.
  • Available on multiple platforms (at least 2).
  • Available from 3 separate projects (different code-bases), failing that 3 different distros.

Any software under an OSI license is eligible for inclusion – no matter the size of the project, or the business model of provider.

We also score the software with regards to how well it supports all the needs (including support, training, and professional services) of:

  • Micro organizations (1-9 people)
  • Small organizations (10-99 people)
  • Medium organizations (100-250 people)
  • Large organizations (> 250 people)

The domains assessed could be (I’m sure there are many more we can add):

Operating System and Middleware
1.    Operating System (OS)
2.    Database (RDBMS)
3.    HTTP and Application Servers
4.    Network Management and Monitoring
5.    Enterprise service bus (ESB), message queue (MQ)
6.    Email
7.    Instant messaging
8.    Calendaring
Horizontal Applications
9.    Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
10.    Locally-compliant Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
11.    Content Management Systems (CMS), knowledge base
12.    Call center, case tracking
13.    Ecommerce
14.    Online meeting and conferencing
15.    Voice over IP (VoiP)
16.    Collaboration – forums, wiki etc
17.    Reporting, analysis and Business Intelligence (BI)
18.    Online training
19.    Financial, Budgeting and Planning, including public sector
20.    Distribution
Desktop Applications
21.    Word processing
22.    Spreadsheet
23.    Presentation
24.    Graphics editors
25.    Printing tools
26.    Software and web tools (compilers, editors etc)
Vertical Applications
27.    Healthcare
28.    Education
29.    Government
30.    Agriculture
31.    Insurance
32.    Retail, including Point of Sale
33.    Telecoms
34.    Petrochemical
35.    Pharmaceutical
36.    Travel and hospitality
37.    Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction
38.    Textiles
Obviously, within each of these vertical domains there are multiple applications. Scoring here will be tricky.

System Integrators
39. The local availability of systems integrators that can implement FOSS stacks and solutions.

Scoring is done per country and per domain and is scored from 0 to 9. A score of 0 indicates there is no FOSS option for that domain and geography. A score of 9 indicates the existence of three different FOSS options that meet the needs of large organizations. We can color code by range, red=2 or less, yellow=3 to 6, green=7 or more

2 – Census

We need to find out how close we are to achieving the dream. Volunteer organizations and sponsoring organizations score each domain for a single country, providing notes about the FOSS packages assessed and any services options assessed. The results of the census are publicly available at all times. Academia and analysts could provide much of this data.

3 – Close Gaps

Based on the results of the census, sponsoring organizations provide resources and guidance to help close the gaps. Sponsoring organizations will have many different motivations:

  • Wanting a larger local and global market for their services and support offerings.
  • Wanting software that is more accessible.
  • Wanting more FOSS options in their country or domain.
  • Wanting to sell add-ons and extensions.

Or we just allow the natural progress of FOSS to gradually populate the GloMM in a natural  – ‘Game of Life’ / Brownian motion – kind of a way.

4 – Repeat Steps 2 and 3

As time goes by and we repeat steps 2 and 3. The Matrix flushes out gradually, and becomes greener and greener.


5 – Declare Victory

In my opinion FOSS has won when, and only when, the entire sheet (7000-8000 cells) is lit up in green. At this point the value of FOSS will be clear to everyone. Maybe attitudes towards intellectual property will change then. But we can’t expect them to change before we get close to this point.


As this gradual global evolution occurs, the existing market players will have to adapt to new market conditions. What they do, and how well they do it, is up to them – but they are welcome to participate. Just because Oracle is now the ultimate custodian of MySQL, does not mean that MySQL should not be listed as one of the FOSS databases. Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle should be accepted into this evolution – whether they survive it is up to them and the global and local markets, not up to anything else.

Any organization that produces FOSS, or localizations, or documentation, or provides services or support for FOSS is deemed to be a friend of GloMM – no matter what their size, history, or business model.

So that’s my vision. I have a defined goal, a way of measuring progress, mechanisms for getting there, and ways for existing market players to participate. I claim it to be reasonable, rational, and viable.

I have no resources at my disposal to execute on any of this. Its just a vision. If only I had a dream + a plan + resources 🙂

Written by James

April 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm

The ‘Hackers’ Book Gets Re-Visited

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Steven Levy, who wrote ‘Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution’ twenty five years ago, has re-interviewed some of the original subjects from the book in a Wired article titled ‘Geek Power: Steven Levy Revisits Tech Titans, Hackers, Idealists

Its a long read, but worth it. Very interesting.

There are some illuminating quotes from Richard Stallman – twenty fives years ago he said:

I’m the last survivor of a dead culture. And I don’t really belong in the world anymore. And in some ways I feel I ought to be dead.

And today:

In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived. And so I guess, if I could go back in time and prevent my birth, I wouldn’t do it. But I sure wish I hadn’t had so much pain.

To me, these statements are telling. Why does Stallman feel such pain? I can only think of two possible reasons. Either his ideas and ideals are so far ahead of their time that the world is not ready for them, or they don’t fit well with the world and never will.

His idea that software ‘cannot be owned’ makes no sense to me. The idea that, by sitting at home and writing code on my computer for my own purpose, I am somehow violating the rights of other people is absurd to me. He is denying me the right to my own ideas, and the ability to provide for my family.

Stallman is entitled to his beliefs, to communicate them, and to try to get them adopted. But I’m not surprised he feels pain trying to do this, personally I reject his beliefs. In my mind, I have fewer rights under his world view – I have no right to my own invention, I do not own any software I write, it must be released to the world. He is at least consistent in his beliefs, he feels the same way about music and movies and the companies that try to claim or exert ownership of what they create.

I do think the GPL license, conceptually, it a thing of elegance and beauty. Simple, concise, and powerful. I only have one problem with it – it is self-limiting. It limits usage to those who feel and think exactly one way. It also limits the ability of the established, mainstream market to participate.

It is the same with the Free Software Foundation. They don’t believe in intellectual property. I agree that the software patent system is badly flawed, but I still believe in ownership. But if you don’t comply 100% with their ideals, you are a bad guy. 90% is not good enough. There are no alliances based on common enemies. The FSF has no compelling, or viable, vision of the future that I can see. There is no plan. Just a skirmish war against a unbelieving world. Stallman even objects to the views and actions of Linux’s Linus Torvalds. Meanwhile the markets move on, alliances form, and invention continues. Everything evolves. The world evolves gradually. Unfortunately, Stallman’s views are more creationist – you cannot evolve to them, you will be shut out, berated, and branded as evil until you are 100% there.

Maybe at some time in the future Stallman’s views will prevail. Maybe the world will be a better place when that happens. I just don’t see it happening any time soon.

As can be seen from Levy’s article there is a divide between the hackers: those who view commerce as bad, and those who try to get their ideas adopted widely. Without commerce the world would be one big feudal system – the dark ages again. To reject commerce is to reject the world as it really is. That’s fine for an individual to do, it’s their choice, but to expect the rest of us to do us so in order to adopt or use their ideas is unrealistic.

When we look back in another 25 years at the effect the hackers have had on the world, who’s efforts will have had the biggest impact? The anti-commerce hackers, or the others?

Written by James

April 21, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Microsoft, open source

I don’t get the Microsoft Windows 7 adverts

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The messages I get from the Windows 7 TV ads are

People who know nothing about computers had to tell Microsoft why Vista sucked so much.

Trust us at Microsoft, we don’t know what we’re doing

We’ll say how bad we are, so you don’t have to


Written by James

April 9, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Microsoft

Microsoft snagged again by bad open source governance

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Microsoft has been caught in two GPL violations recently.

First Microsoft had to release their Hyper-V drivers as GPL because they inadvertently violated the GPL.

Now they have to put the Windows 7 DVD/USB Download Tool into open source because they again inadvertently violated the GPL. This case is particularly interesting because the GPL code in question came from their own open source hosting site – Codeplex.

If Microsoft had a good open source governance program in place this would not happen. Therefore we have to deduce that Microsoft does not have a program, or at least a well-implemented one, in place. This is very odd to me as there are tools you can use to help with this (from Palaminda, Black Duck, and OpenLogic).

At Pentaho I use Palamida’s IPAmplify product. It does a great job at identifying all of the open source components that we embed – and since we have an open source platform there is a lot of them. It also checks our source code to identify source that has been copied from open source projects without the proper attribution. It has identified several cases where internal developers and community members have used code segments from third parties and not treated that IP cleanly. Once the cases are identified it is easy to fix them with appropriate headers or packaging – but find them would be impossible without an open source governance tool like IPAmplify.

I don’t believe that Microsoft has no governance program in place, my guess is that their program is not applied consistently, or that their tooling has blind-spots and/or is not updated frequently enough.

Written by James

November 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm

The Free Software movement limits its own future

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Bradley M. Kuhn posted recently that “Open Core” Is the New Shareware

In it he trots out all of the usual misconceptions that the free software advocates frequently do about the open core model. But I give him credit for being direct about his Free Software allegiance (not purporting an open source one), and for describing what he imagines to be an ideal Free Software company.

The first move we have to make is simply give up the idea that the best technology companies are created by VC money. This may be true if your goal is to create proprietary companies, but the best Free Software companies are the small ones, 5-10 employees, that do consulting work and license all their improvements back to a shared codebase. From low-level technology like Linux and GCC to higher-level technology like Joomla all show that this project structure yields popular and vibrant codebases.

This identifies something that, to me, is the biggest flaw in the ideology of the Free Software movement – an end game that is unsustainable and unattainable.

As I have written before (in this post Misunderstanding open source #3: applying ‘Free Software’ religion to open source business models). I think it is important to imagine a future where the majority of software is free/open source software (FOSS). If that is something you think is desirable (and there are a lot of people who don’t), I think it is important to also imagine how we get there.

I assume that if Kuhn thinks that 5-10 person companies are the ideal ones to represent free software, then his ‘future’ for free software is a collection of 5-10 person companies stewarding all of the planet’s software. This implies little or no involvement from large software vendors or services companies like IBM, Oracle/Sun, and Microsoft. Not even medium sized or small companies can participate, only microscopic companies. Ask yourself this: in this future, can the software and support needs of most organizations and governments of the world be handled by this group of 5-10 person companies? Clearly not, this is ridiculous. Large organizations and companies require the products and support of much larger software providers. They require things like pre-sales support, RFPs, and service level agreements. They require 24×7 support worldwide. In this version of the future the open source vendors that exist cannot meet the needs of the mainstream markets. As a result the large proprietary software vendors survive happily, because the open source vendors do not provide a viable alternative. This is clearly at odds with the desires of the free software movement. They want to eliminate proprietary software and proprietary software companies, yet their behaviour ensures the survival of those things.

Aha! (you might exclaim) what about the example of Linux that Kuhn provides. Ok, lets examine that. Firstly you cannot use the original creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, as a shining example of the virtue of free software because he frequently is critical of the free software ideology, he is not a free software advocate. Certainly you can point out that Linux is steered by a foundation and not by a corporation. But look at the board of directors of the Linux Foundation. As of today they are Larry Augustin CEO of SugarCRM (an dubious open core company, according to some), James Bottomley (Novell), Alan Clark (Novell), Wim Coekaerts (VP Engineering at Oracle), Masahiro Date (general manager of Fujitsu), Frank Fanzilli, Doug Fisher (VP Intel), Dan Frye (VP IBM), Bdale Garbee (Chief Technologist Hewlett-Packard), Tim Golden (Bank of America), Hisashi Hashimoto (Hitachi), Brian Pawlowski (NetApp), Chris Schlaeger (AMD), Tsugikazu Shibata (NEC), Eric Thomas (Texas Instruments), Christy Wyatt (VP Motorola). The mighty and free Linux is steered by a big software/hardware cartel – Novell (Microsoft’s Linux partner), Oracle, IBM, HP, Hitachi – and a chipset cartel – Intel/AM/TI/Motorola. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, in fact it is a good thing. What I’m saying is that using Linux as a ‘free software’ example is a big stretch.

The open core companies are trying to disrupt entrenched proprietary software markets. The free software movement dislikes proprietary software. They have a common enemy in proprietary software. The open core companies would welcome the free software movement as an ally, however the free software advocates choose open core as an enemy. What they don’t realize is that many potential open source companies are choosing between proprietary and open core – 100% open source is not an option. By inciting community members, as Kuhn does, to fork open core projects, he is creating an anti-open core environment that might persuade new start-ups to go proprietary rather than open core. The open core model is preferable to proprietary, but listening to the opinions of the free software advocates you don’t hear that message at all.

The path from a proprietary world to an open source one is a long one. It started over 20 years ago, and it will take another 20 years to get to the end. Maybe at the end the open core model will be a historical footnote. But along the road the open core model is a useful stepping stone that allows otherwise proprietary software companies to become at least partially open, on the way to full openness.

Written by James

October 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm