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/

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

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