Monday Nov 24, 2008

Good news about a bank

We often teased the shyest member of my family by reminding her of the bad joke about the kid who didn't speak a word until he was eating breakfast on his 7th birthday when he said, "My porridge is cold!" When asked why he never spoke before, he said, "Up until now everything has been alright." This is how I felt about the silence which followed my work on a project which installed and provided support for over 7000 opensource JDS desktops at a bank.1 We called the customer occasionally to see if everything was O.K. We helped them through one upgrade which was necessary because the Linux kernel needed to be upgraded to support modern hardware but didn't have a stable ABI so the entire application stack also had to be upgraded. After the upgrade, one of our customers gave us some upgrades/minute statistics that were well beyond what is possible given network bandwidth limitations so I'll just say that the upgrade went well.

Shortly after the upgrade, we helped solve a peculiar focus bug whose root causes were spread across gtk, Java, Firefox and Star/OpenOffice. But overall things were very quiet. Sun was also quiet about this deployment, first of all because we hadn't yet finalized the disclosure agreement and later because Sun decided to drop our Linux-based desktop product and focus on OpenSolaris. So between our "are you still there?" pings to the customer's 2 person technical support staff, I was left wondering if no news is good news?

Then when I gave my presentation at the Irish Opensource Technology Conference, I noticed that two knowledgeable IT managers from this bank were giving presentations on their opensource desktop (a.k.a. JDS) roll out. I finally had the opportunity to be the "fly on the wall" and hear how things really went. I don't have links to their presentations, but these gentlemen said that the project was a success, that the deployment saved money and IT support costs compared to traditional Microsoft Windows based desktop solutions. They said the project completed ahead of schedule and under budget and that they were telling other banks the secrets of their success. I don't know if the other banks were paying attention to the potential savings in deploying opensource alternatives back when easy money was still flowing, but I would think they should take a hard look at such cost-effective alternatives now. In any case, it seems likely that the number of successful cost-saving "invisible" opensource deployments is understated.

"The art and science of interface design depends largely on making the transaction with the computer as transparent as possible in order to minimize the burden on the user" -- S. Joy Mountford

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!"
-- Arthur C. Clarke.

1 The deployment was of Sun's linux based "Java Desktop System." If we were to do it now, the obvious choices in Sun's product portfolio would be Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris. Since the customer's network is now fast enough to support Sun Ray over WAN, we could potentially save them another $500,000 in annual electricity costs by deploying their desktop via Sun Ray clients instead of X86 PCs.

Tuesday Sep 09, 2008

Is Sun behind more than 1/2 of all corporate OpenSource contributions?

Corporate FOSS Contributions
The EC's Study on the Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU is an interesting document. I was fortunate to attend a presentation by one of the authors at an OpenIreland event a couple of years ago. The above StarCalc graph uses corporate FOSS contribution numbers from this document. A picture is worth 1000 words, isn't it? This study was published in November 2006, the same month Java was GPL'd so I doubt the Java codebase was included in these calculations. The open sourcing of Solaris was also in early stages. Add these and the MySQL code and it wouldn't surprise me if more than 1/2 of the corporate contributed OpenSource code is from a division of Sun Microsystems. I know we can do better. But quite a few big FOSS consumers (e.g. those selling beautifully branded FreeBSD or web services) are notably absent from the top 10 corporate contributor list. What percentage of corporate FOSS contribution would quench some of the hottest alternate kernel fanboy flames? 60%, 75%? Is it sufficient to contribute to the whole software ecosystem Joe sixpack thinks of as "Linux" or do you have to commit directly to Linus's kernel? What does it take to be cool? Are we there yet?




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