The software application development community tends to use the summer months to host various events, exhibitions, symposia and community gatherings of all kinds. I for one am looking forward to attending a couple of these including Sybase TechWave, especially given the company’s recent acquisition by SAP.
As a test, I thought I would analyse one or two companies not exactly famous for their reputation in open source and see what came up. Sybase as a case in point does have an open source developer portal so-to-speak that is focused on among other things ebXML (Electronic Business using extensible Markup Language) which is a standard method to exchange business messages.
The point here is that technology vendors are waking up to the reality of open source and the so-called community contribution model of code development and enhancement. Even if the company in question is a proprietary “closed” shop in general. There are, it seems, always going to be some extensions to the technology core that can be opened up for public consumption.
So it would be remiss of me not to mention Microsoft and the company’s open source projects at this point. Microsoft has in fact got quite an enviable track record in open source. To list just two examples, the company has shared the source code of FlexWiki, which is a software program for creating wikis. It has also formed all manner of open source partnerships and alliances with companies such as Novell, Red Hat’s JBOSS etc.
So what does all this teach us? I spoke to Martin Atherton who is service director
at analyst house Freeform Dynamics Ltd. “The open source philosophy serves the broader, economics-driven need for software firms to redeploy / reuse code if it’s appropriate. What end customers need to be more aware of than they are today is that products they do buy don’t end up the subject of IP disputes, which have and will happen. Of interest also, are ‘open source software firms’ (Talend springs to mind), which initially traded solely on that basis, but now trade on the fact they simply have a decent product to offer,” said Atherton.
Open source database management company Ingres has made much of the performance gains it claims it can now deliver with over existing database and analytic servers with the latest release of its VectorWise technology.
News of this accelerated database technology working at increased speeds reaching 70 times faster than previously may have overshadowed the fact that the company also plans to fully open source the product by the end of 2010.
Already available for download here, Ingres VectorWise for Linux has completed its beta programme successfully and is now starting to land in customers’ hands.
But up until now the central nucleus of the technology itself has been closed source thus it not been open to the software application development community as a whole for exploration, examination and potential augmentation.
The company states that, “The release of Ingres VectorWise is one of the most significant database technology innovations in the last 20 years, and meets broad business demands to analyze exploding volumes of data. It uses a unique new design to unlock the vastly superior capabilities of modern commodity hardware.”
Today sees the start of the LinuxTag Exhibition in the German city of Berlin running from 9 to 12 June. For once it appears that this technical exhibition is not making too much noise to publicise itself, although in fact the show itself appears to have been around for some 16 years now.
Targeted at professional users, decision makers, developers, beginners and the Linux community in general, the event’s panel discussion is said to feature a topical discussion on whether recent mergers threaten innovative small and medium sized Linux businesses.
Although much of the content appears to be presented in German, the website is bilingual (in English) in many parts and attending partners such as IBM, Nokia Qt Development Frameworks, Google, Debian and Mozilla Europe are all truly multinational.
“Takeovers are changing the Linux corporate landscape. These corporate takeovers pose the question of whether Open Source is increasingly at the mercy of larger companies: Sun buys MySQL, Oracle buys Sun, VMWare buys SpringSource and so on,” says the LinuxTag organisers.
Despite struggling through Q2 of 2010 with a US$12m drop in net income on the same period last year, Novell continues to plough optimistically forward into the mainframe market with its support for the IBM System z Series.
After what is in fact 10 years of Linux shipments on IBM’s mainframe line, Novell is the market leader for Linux on System z and is the only operating system vendor to have supported Linux on IBM mainframe servers for its entire 10-year history with its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server product.
But despite this decade of software and hardware engineering “excellence”, the commercial bottom line appears to be less healthy.
“We are recognised for our ability to generate ROI for our customers through the consolidation of distributed workloads, reduction of downtime and data centre complexity and increase in operating flexibility,” said Markus Rex, senior vice president and general manager of open platform solutions at Novell.
Novell has delivered commercial-grade Linux mainframes across industries from banking to government to medicine and education; the company’s market proposition being that Linux-based mainframe solutions can help customers to expand critical software applications and system workloads.
However, with a decade of fine-tuning under its belt now, the next 10-years of Linux on the mainframe could provide better financial gains. It has been argued that mainframe technology is enjoying a renaissance due to reduced complexities through improved management software and standardisation of technologies at both the both hardware and software level.
When IBM expanded its use of open source software and enabled Linux to run on IBM mainframe computers it did so as a result of customer demand. Today, with these technologies now well out of their adolescence, the combination of Linux on System z is argued to be an outstanding platform to support cloud computing.
Perhaps now it’s time to show us the money Novell.
While there still seems to be some consternation and confusion among many IT departments as to exactly where cloud computing based services will ultimately be of most use, the unusually named open source cloud provider Funambol is firmly of the belief that rich media over mobile devices holds the key.
By ‘rich media‘ we mean of course images and video as well as animation, audio and even highly interactive ‘content’ such as social networking applications.
The software product in question here is the newly released Funambol v8.5, which allows users to ‘synch’ pictures and other rich media (as well as email, contacts address books and other text-based data) between mobile devices and the open cloud. The company says that, “Once synced, pictures and mobile data can be viewed online, synced with connected devices and shared with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.”
For the record, nobody has defined the open cloud itself very clearly, least of all the Open Cloud Manifesto.org, but we can probably safely assume that it means any part of the commonly agreed cloud infrastructure that is not a part of the proprietary ‘closed clouds’ belonging to Amazon, Microsoft and Google etc.
Well first of all, so what? Users can now host (sorry that should be ‘synch’) rich media up to data centres housed on cloud based servers and get their images onto Facebook. Hadn’t we been doing that already with our iPhones and BlackBerrys etc? Well yes, but these are proprietary platforms says Funambol and this particular product is cross platform – it supports Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Mac OS and others.
OK, still so what? More of the same and from more users, I’m still not excited. Who benefits? Is it the mobile operators, the device manufacturers or the users? We won’t ask Funambol that question because we know they’ll tell us it’s all three.
Don’t forget, it’s Funambol’s platform that is open source, not its services, maintenance, consultancy, enterprise level partner agreements or the cheese sandwiches in its staff canteen for that matter.
Probably most in line to benefit are the mobile operators and Internet Service Providers who are looking for a means to satisfy the growing demand from subscribers to share data and rich media from all their connected devices anywhere. For mobile operators, Funambol asserts that its technology provides the means to re-establish customer relationships that have been lost to device manufacturers themselves and users tapping into their ISP’s online platform while at home.
Anyone can try the software for free on the myFUNAMBOL demo portal at http://my.funambol.com for 90 days, or users can use it with Funambol’s commercial customers.
Recent reports have detailed Google’s actions to phase out the internal use of Microsoft’s operating system for security reasons following targeted attacks that the company has experienced. The targeted espionage attacks took place in January of this year and were carried out with the aim of gaining access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human right activists.
Now as Google employees consider the option to select either Apple Macs running OS X or PCs running the open source Linux operating system, the question is whether other corporations will follow this practice.
If enterprise roll out of open source and Apple’s OS X operating system markedly increases, then will the relatively small amount of malware targeting these platforms increase by a proportionate amount?
Whether you agree with Apple CEO Steve Jobs when he talks of Windows being in “permanent decline” or not, the reality is that on balance Mac and Linux are not more secure than Windows. They’re just less targeted. For now that is.
Most would argue that Apple’s heavyweight consumer branding and advertising will always position the company’s products in the hands of the home user or the creative design field. But enterprise open source and the various “flavours” or distributions that it comes in is gaining ground fast.
The espionage Trojan that came knocking on Google’s door could easily be remodeled and re-spawned as a Linux variant of its former self.
So is this likely to become a reality and will we see a new tide of malicious content start to grow for platforms other than Windows? I spoke to Mickey Boodaei who is CEO of secure browsing services company Trusteer to get some comments on the wider implications of this story.
“Products that are widely used are more likely to be tested for security flaws and are more likely to be attacked regardless of whether they’re open source (or Apple Mac OS X) based or not. A company’s decision to adopt a platform from a security perspective should be never based on whether it’s open source or Mac or Windows. It should be based on whether you have the right tools and processes to secure the platform,” said Boodaei.
Perhaps it is no coincidence then that Trusteer does produce a security product for Mac. But Boodaei’s comments are quite even handed, so the best advice for all of us is clearly to watch what we click and, where, free security software is available for any platform (and there is plenty) that we should install that as our first move.