For anyone interesting in learning more about what I am doing at Compiere, you can read the press release issued today. Way cool … I’ve never been the subject of a press release before!
The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) in Beaverton, OR has just eliminated 9 technical and administrative positions at the labs. A staff of 19 people remain at OSDL including Tom Hanrahan in engineering, Diane Peters for legal work, Linus Torvalds, and Andrew Morton.
ZDnet writes that “CEO Stuart Cohen resigned to pursue opportunities with higher-level open-source software,” and that “Cohen’s resignation as CEO was coincidental and independent of the other changes at OSDL”. According to ComputerWorld, Cohen will be working with Portland and Seattle based venture capital firm OVP Venture Partners. Mike Temple will be moving the COO position into the CEO role.
The now smaller OSDL will focus on the following:
“The lab’s board concluded that a modified mission was appropriate because Linux is now mainstream, and companies have become adept on their own at some of the collaborative work OSDL was founded to oversee, Temple said Monday. The group is funded by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, Intel and several other computing companies.
OSDL’s middleman role–connecting customer requirements, computing-company resources and developers–remains unchanged, Temple said. “We will be a catalyst among those three, to bring them together, solve problems and create the code,” Temple said.
Funding freed up through the layoffs is set to go toward legal work, which the group’s members have found valuable, Temple added. The group either will contract with legal professionals or hire a staff attorney, he said.
In technical matters, the organization will stop focusing on projects defining broad categories of Linux–earlier examples including efforts for high-end servers, telecommunications gear, mobile phones and desktop computers. Instead, engineering work will emphasize narrower efforts to find areas where new software needs to be written.” (Quote from Zdnet)
“The OSDL is shifting its resources to focus on four key areas: continuing to provide a safe haven for key developers, sponsoring the work of Torvalds and others; providing increased legal support for Linux and open source to account for licensing and patent issues that are increasing in complexity (this expansion will complement current OSDL initiatives such as the Patent Commons, Osapa.org and the Linux Legal Defense Fund); supporting ongoing regional activities such as the Japanese Linux Symposium; and fostering closer collaboration among community developers, OSDL members and users to produce more code to advance open-source projects, OSDL officials said in a statement.” (Quote from eWeek)
Here is my take on the situation. I do not buy the “coincidence” argument. I find it very hard to believe that the CEO of any organization would just decide, completely of his own accord, to leave during a change of this magnitude. With a staff reduction of this relative size combined with a new strategic direction, Cohen’s leaving OSDL would not have been a coincidence. There are a few possibilities (caveat: this is pure speculation):
First, the board of directors may have “suggested” that Cohen leave due to any number of potential issues: dissatisfaction with his performance, lack of confidence in his ability to lead the organization under the new mission, …
Second, Cohen may not have wanted to stay under the new mission for any number of reasons: lack of agreement with the strategic change and new mission, expecting the job to be less exciting under the new mission and wanting to find greener pastures, …
Despite my skepticism about Cohen’s “coincidental” leaving, I do think that the new mission will be good for OSDL and for Linux. When OSDL was first formed, Linux as an open source project was less mature, and fewer contributors to the Linux kernel were sponsored by large companies who paid their salaries. As a result, the contributions tended to be made in areas of personal interest, which may or may not have been the areas needed to make Linux successful in large deployments of mission critical systems. OSDL helped to coordinate efforts and provide testing labs where Linux could be tested on large clustered systems not generally available to most people. Now, with companies like IBM and Intel doing more work toward sponsoring developers and helping with testing, OSDL’s original mission has become less important.
The focus on legal matters makes sense. With the proliferation of lawsuits, concerns over software patents, licensing concerns and other legal matters becoming top of mind, having an organization to focus on open source legal issues could be a great benefit. 2007 could be an interesting year for open source legal matters: the GPL is undergoing a revision, and the Microsoft / Novell agreements related to patents could be clarified. Many open source projects are run by small groups of individuals or small companies, and it would be great to have OSDL as a legal resource.
Make Magazine, the place where you can find instructions to make all sorts of strange things (the modern day MacGyver site), has released the “Open source gift guide – Open source hardware, software and more for the holidays” with many geeky gift suggestions for the open source hacker enthusiast. Tim O’Reilly adds his twist to the gift guide by suggesting donations to a variety of open source organizations.
My personal favorite from the list is the Chumby. I saw some early models at Foo, and they were way cool.
The recent agreement between Microsoft and Novell has drawn quite a bit of criticism from the open source community especially with respect to the patent portions of the agreement. Mark Shuttleworth uses this as an opportunity to invite OpenSUSE developers into the Ubuntu community:
“Novell’s decision to go to great lengths to circumvent the patent framework clearly articulated in the GPL has sent shockwaves through the community. If you are an OpenSUSE developer who is concerned about the long term consequences of this pact, you may be interested in some of the events happening next week as part of the Ubuntu Open Week:
We are hosting a series of introductory sessions for people who want to join the Ubuntu community – in any capacity, including developers and package maintainers. If you want to find out how Ubuntu works, how to contribute or participate, or how to get specific items addressed, there will be something for you.
If you have an interest in being part of a vibrant community that cares about keeping free software widely available and protecting the rights of people to get it free of charge, free to modify, free of murky encumbrances and “undisclosed balance sheet liabilities”, then please do join us.” (Mark Shuttleworth, here be dragons)
Mark’s pragmatic response is certainly a more productive reaction to the issue than what I have seen elsewhere. I also suspect that Mark is on to something: Novell will probably lose quite a few good community members as a result of this action.
Friday was my last day at Intel. Changing jobs always brings mixed feelings: excitement about starting a new job combined with the difficult feelings associated with leaving so many great co-workers and friends. Intel has been a great company, and I have learned so much over the past six+ years; however, a few weeks ago, I made the difficult decision to leave Intel to return to my open source roots.
I have just joined Compiere as their new Director of Community and Partner Programs where I will be working in a small, start-up environment for the first time in my career. Compiere is an open source ERP/CRM software company, and I will be responsible for managing the relationship between Compiere and their open source community while also managing some partner relationships and programs. I am excited to be working in open source again, and Compiere has some really interesting technology that could make a real difference within the enterprise environment.
This is a great opportunity for me, and I am thrilled to be joining the Compiere team.
A U.S. court has found that open source software provided free of charge under the GPL does not violate antitrust laws … or as Matt Asay says “Duh!”. An excerpt from Evan Brown’s Internet Cases blog provides a nice overview:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has issued an opinion in which Judge Easterbrook declares, “[t]he GPL and open-source have nothing to fear from the antitrust laws.” The case is called Wallace v. IBM., No. 06-2454. [Download a copy of the opinion.] Internet Cases covered the lower court’s decision from last December here.
Plaintiff Wallace filed an antitrust suit against IBM, Red Hat and Novell, arguing that those companies had conspired to eliminate competition in the operating system market by making Linux available at an “unbeatable” price (free) under the General Public License (“GPL”). The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana dismissed the case, finding the plaintiff had suffered no antitrust injury. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.
Yes, I know … everyone else blogged about this last week (I was having one of “those weeks” where blogging suffered as a result of my being consumed by other activities), and I just had to weigh in on this issue if only briefly.
I think that Red Hat, as a business, could be in trouble. First, Oracle begins offering support for Red Hat Linux at a price below Red Hat’s support cost (ouch), and then two of Red Hat’s biggest competitors Microsoft and Novell sign an agreement to collaborate that includes indemnification (Dana Gardner said this agreement was akin to “Fox marries chicken, both move into henhouse”).
Nick Selby from the 451 group has an interesting analysis comparing Red Hat to the “Poland of software vendors” including not just the recent Oracle and Microsoft / Novell but also some insight into how Ubuntu may contribute to Red Hat’s decline:
And Red Hat itself now faces the real possibility of extinction … Overnight, Red Hat has become the flattest piece of land between two battling superpowers: the Poland of software vendors.
Less obvious is the effect on Ubuntu’s plans to burst onto the enterprise scene in the West. Ubuntu’s sponsor, Canonical’s, overriding strategy hinges on two key pillars. First, Ubuntu is feature-rich and easy-to-use, to appeal to non-fuddy-duddys – that next generation of young whippersnapper admins coming up in enterprise as we speak.
Second, the support model is flexible. Years before the Oracle and Microsoft announcements to provide support for someone else’s Linux distro, Canonical set out to provide support not just from itself but from an entire eco-system of other support companies. And the support could be bought for as little as a single server in a cluster.
The model was appealing precisely because of the Red Hat and Novell’s Soviet-style lock-ins – the very models which are now in flux. (Quote from Nick Selby on the 451 CAOS Theory blog)
Unless Red Hat pulls a rabbit out of their hat or Oracle, Microsoft, and Novell fail to execute on these announcements, I predict that Red Hat will really start to feel the pain in 2007.