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Observations from OSBC



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February 16, 2006 4:00 pm

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Novell was a sponsor of OSBC (Open Source Business Conference) again this year. I’ve gone to all three of the annual San Francisco events, and they provide a great snapshot into the state of the open source ecosystem. The first year there was a lot of focus on business models and legal issues, with SCO prevalent. Last year, there was a lot of talk about larger tech companies embracing open source approaches, and the success of mid-sized companies like MySQL and JBoss in creating dual-licensing models that seemed to be commercial viable. This year, it was all about the start-ups. The event was crawling with young open source companies: Pentaho, SugarCRM, EnterpriseDB, Jaspersoft, Spikesource, Groundwork, and more. And not surprisingly, the VCs were well represented too. Oracle’s purchase of Sleepycat the morning the conference kicked off was the flashpoint for a recurring theme of the conference: how will open source applications enter the mainstream? Needless to say, there were fairly divergent viewpoints, with the SAP rep suggesting open source business application vendors wouldn’t survive a coming round of consolidation and others arguing that the success of SugarCRM and others was already evidence that open source can deliver up the stack. Novell’s new CTO, Jeff Jaffe, and CMO Bill Hewitt were at the show to meet with press and partners. Nancy Faigen, who heads up Novell’s sales efforts in North America, represented Novell on a panel that included vendors and customers talking about selling Linux into the CxO level. It was clear from that discussion that the question has moved beyond Should I try Linux? to What’s the best way for me to leverage Linux? MIT’s Nick Carr gave an interesting talk about the move toward the utility model of computing, and suggested open source has a critical role to play there. He also saw a future with open and proprietary software combined to create the right vertical stacks for customers. Larry Lessig delivered another one of his great talks about how current laws governing IP, which were developed for an analog world, become counterproductive to innovation in a digital world. If you ever have the chance to see Lessig present, do it.

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