Monday Apr 13, 2009

Community, Cosmos and Caviar

Last week I was with community friends in the largest country in the world.  It has the largest forest reserve and its lakes contain 25% of the world's unfrozen fresh water.  Thinking China... well I was in the Russian Federation. I visited 2 prestegious universities:  Moscow State University, Russia's largest and St. Petersburg State University, Russia's oldest and founded by Peter the Great.  It is very rewarding to see adoption of ones technology being put to good use via educational training and academic research.  While commercial innovation of technology is part of every high technology company only a select few lead with open sourced technology.

I was honored to participate in the dedication of an HPC Cluster at St. Petersburg State University.  This system will be part of the world effort where there are no barriers.  Only united scientists throughout the world working together to solve the mysteries of the universe.  The physicists at St. Petersburg State University are participants at the Large Haydron Collider at CERN.  As an engineer I'm amazed how scientists take and use technology for analyzing the mountains of data generated by their experiments.  Experiments that are trying to solve how we all originated from the big bang.  After suffering through 2 years of undergraduate physics, as do all engineers, I'm glad to leave the mysteries of the universe to the physicists.  However, I'm a very interested observer...

Just as important are all the developers who create, use and share technology for the physicists as well as the corporations that need it to run their business.  St. Petersburg hosted a Tech Days 2009 mashup event for the community.  The community showed up in force to talk open sourced software.  Jeet Kaul kicked of the Day 1 keynote and spoke about technology, sharing, innovation and the value the community brings to itself.  Jeet also kicked off the JavaFX coding challenge to the community.  Developers... if you are interested get involved and click here.

On Day 2 my keynote focused on the link between technology adoption and commercial innovation in the open source community.  Independent of the open source community that you choose is the need for continued innovation.  Innovation that can be applied to solving the problems of commercial business and entities.  The benefit to the community is that early adopters get to nurture, proliferate and improve technology with no barriers to entry or exit.  Getting involved costs you only your time to join the experience.  Developers worldwide may be interested in the OpenSolaris Applications of Steel challenge for Community One West on June 1st, 2009.  Get connected.  From university academics and their research to the competitive advantage of commercial cloud solutions using opensourced technology-- the benefits are too compelling to ignore.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Tuesday Mar 31, 2009

What is this Community thing... like FOSS about???

I get asked quite frequently about open source software and how can you make any money, especially if you give software away.  My two word response is quite simple: "business model."  Open Source software does have licensing terms & conditions and revenue is part of the business model.  Having personally spent approximately 3 years front and center in the open source software world-- I've explained it many different ways in an attempt to get others to grasp the concept and not get stuck on myths.

My latest analogy to open source software is to use a popular franchise of Major League Baseball, whom some of us know as a customer.  Take the Boston Red Sox. Clearly this is one of the most successful baseball teams in the world, especially since John W. Henry took ownership of the team in 2002.

Now the analogy can apply to any sports team but I specifically am using the Red Sox because of it's presence, reach and magnitude throughout the world which is important for open source software.  If you live in the Boston area, as I do, you know first hand that securing tickets to any home game is an expensive monetary acquisition.  Even if you gain entry into a home game there are tiers within the ball park that dictate how much revenue you contribute to the Red Sox for the service provided:

There is a very wide margin of service one can obtain if they are willing to pay money.  A bleacher seat for a single game is $26 U.S. dollars, while the cheapest seat for the Oakland A's is $9 U.S dollars... see what I meant about reach and presence of a community.   Fenway Park is an enormous revenue generating machine using game tickets, food concession, merchandising, television broadcasting rights and loyalty.

Now let's talk about the vast majority that do not choose to spend money or do not have any money quite yet for the Red Sox.  There is an enormous following of the Boston Red Sox throughout the world.  To be a Red Sox fan costs you nothing, only your involvement with the Red Sox community.  You can watch, follow, cheer and get a similar Red Sox experience for free from a television, radio, free internet game tracker or newspaper box score.  The Red Sox welcome all types of community fans irrespective of where in the cycle of the business model they currently reside.  A subscription is available to every fan depending on their affordable level of service.  Some loyal Red Sox fans commit up front to many years of continued service.  The key point is that fans (community) can come and go and spend or not depending upon their own circumstance.  Free TV fans are adopters where revenue is not a primary focus while premium paying fans are contributing to the Red Sox revenue stream.  In the end both types of fans are customers of the Red Sox and the Red Sox nurture the needs of a varying wide fan base for profit.

The Red Sox certainly want to reach as wide of a fan base as possible including all demographics.  For example that young 11 year old female in bleacher seats with her Dad and pink Red Sox hat may be a future CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Her company may want a corporate suite at Fenway Park some day.  It's very clear to the Red Sox that young Red Sox fans of today usually become future adult Red Sox fans that are likely to contribute revenue to the Red Sox.  When the Red Sox play away games you can see many loyal Red Sox fans at baseball stadiums in Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, Toronto and Cleveland.

The Red Sox model works for all fans with time and/or money but clearly the Red Sox have been successful by growing their fan base world wide and providing a superior product for their community.  So when you think open source software examples think Red Sox and opensolaris, openoffice, eclipse, ubuntu, mysql, java, opensuse, glassfish, redhat, apache, etc. and the largest contributor of open sourced software in the world.  The choice is yours for choosing the team and community that is right for you.  Developers from many FOSS communities are getting together at CommunityOne West in June.  Click here to register.


Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Wednesday Dec 19, 2007

FOSS = Low Exit Barrier as well as Low Entry Hurdle

FOSS is a check box item for new startup companies as well as enterprise corporations who are consolidating, upgrading or issuing new application deployments.  The high tech industry will continue to have companies acquire other's technology as part of alignment and pure business economics.  Some companies acquire open source software and their intent is to continue to FOSter the community with this software, while being able to monetize the asset.   Counter to this strategy some proprietary companies may be inclined to purchase an open source software stack simply to eliminate its growing popularity by customers.  The software industry should embrace, as have universities, that more and more new deployments require solutions based on open source software code bases.  The following table shows very large deployments of storage assets based on proprietary and open source models. Open source software does create a low exit barrier for unhappy customers, but it does enable a low hurdle for a company that wants to take advantage of the opportunity to engage.  If you have built your business model around open source software you have probably listened to your customers and have realized strategically where the software industry is headed.  On the other side of the coin if your business model is to stay proprietary you may be inclined to believe that open source software is a trend and you will be able to continue to differentiate in a commodity market.  The debate continues but customers vote with their purchases.  It is my opinion that os virtualization solutions both proprietay and open sourced will shed some light on the momentum or trend of open source software.  A robust, stable, enterprise OS that can virtualize other OSes as guests has an opportunity.  The market will embrace multiple choices for OS virtualization rather than have a single choice.  With the amount of vendors who have announced OS virtualization solutions that are both proprietary and open sourced the end results are still open for debate.  Who has the momentum?  I remember the VHS and Betamax debate and who tried to dictate rather than listen to customers.

Thursday Nov 08, 2007

OpenSolaris Train Keeps a Rolling...

There I was standing at the railway station in the city of Odawara, Japan waiting for the express train back to Tokyo.  Out of nowhere a N700 bullet train sped by without stopping.  I'm estimating it was clocking ~90mph (~145kph) right through the station!!!  The N700 bullet train is an engineering marvel.  In fact the bullet train system in Japan is a wonderful experience.  The service is superb and in my opinion the most efficient means for transportation in and out of Tokyo.  Instead of dealing with stop and go traffic in any congested major city of the world, you ride on what feels like a cushion of air.  You also see the electric poles on the side of the track flash by you quickly...  You know you are going fast.  The N700 will top out at ~320kph (~200mph) which is equivilent to the French TGV  bullet trains.  Previously the N700 was bidding to top out at ~360kph (~224mph) but the East Japan Railway Company decided to scale back due to vibration and environmental concerns.  I wanted to take a picture of the train in motion.  The pure speed not only startled me but had me in awe of this beautiful machine.  The nose of the train is very aerodynamic in appearance.  The number of passenger cars attached, fully occupied with passengers, must of numbered ~20.  Despite the number of fully loaded cars the N700 appeared to effortlessly move  due to momentum and kinetic energy.

The N700 reminds me of the OpenSolaris train that has gathered a lot of speed and momentum during the past 18 months.  This train  is carrying more passengers (community members) and the acceleration is noticeable.  With the OpenSolaris release of the Developer Preview, MMS, Kernel based CIFS Server and yes infamous ephemeral UIDs the validation of open source software keeps building momentum.  Furthermore even more technology is yet to come.  While a picture may be worth a 1000 words-- I encourage you to look, touch and participate in the millions of lines of source code available to everyone.  So you can create your own picture.


Thursday Sep 13, 2007

10 year old twins programming?

This past summer I had the dreaded conversation that software developer parents have with their 13 year old children.  No not about the birds and the beesIt was the programmer conversation...  My 13 year old is a runescape gamer-- part of a community that is 5 million users strong for a single on-line game!  It bothers me that he spends time on a game when he could be playing outside.  Granted he is active in sports, the combination of Web, Playstation and media content dejour causes me to constantly say things \*are\* different today.  The discussion started with me telling him that runescape is a Java app. "What's that?" he replied.  So I downloaded NetBeans onto his computer.  Then I showed him how to build a simple Java app and then run it in the JVM on his PC.  His first exposure to programming at 13... I was 18 when I was exposed to FORTRAN IV on punch cards.

I'm waiting to see if my son picks up from being "on" the code as a user and embraces being "in" the code as developer. He is pretty savvy already.  He has taken full advantage of Google Pack (always free - no trail versions or spyware). I asked him what tools in Google Pack are most applicable to his school work.  Hands down he uses the office productivity suite called StarOffice the most.  My son is getting along nicely with his PC and the free software he uses on a daily basis.  I'm waiting to have the virtulization discussion with him next, but let's wait and see if he wants to be "in" rather than "on."

Not to be left out my twin 10 year old daughters wanted to be "in" on something that they do not understand.  There is a great research project called SCRATCH being driven out of MIT that enables elementary school children to create games, interactive media and animated stories via drag and drop programming. With a little investigation I discovered the engine behind this tool is an open sourced LAMP stack.  My twins are now programming away using this fabulous tool to expose young children to programming.  I suggested my son experiment with SCRATCH as a precursor to NetBeans.

So in a weekend I was able to expose all 3 of my children to programming via free and open source software.  That made me think why wouldn't the same apply to novice adults and businesses. Free and open source software enables one to experiment with no entry barriers other than a person's time.  A computer is a barrier but pubic access to  computers at libraries and university locations is widespread. I did a search on the web to see what free and open source stack  I could find related to storage.  I was able to find a product called FreeNAS. Granted this product has some limitations, but I'm sure someone will enable a commercial viable product around an open sourced os using commodity hardware.  In fact, FreeNAS won an Info World Bossie Award along with some other recipients...

My son teaches me every day that things are different than when I was a youth.  Land line phones no, Wireless Web-based devices yes.

He is right... things are changing.


 



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The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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