Optaros Open Source Catalogue 2007 published

January 11th, 2007

Yesterday, we published the Optaros Open Source Catalog 2007 with 262 open source projects and products. And we’ve gotten a really good response with lots of feedback, suggestions, and a few corrections to make. If you have any feedback feel free to leave it here or send it to oss-catalogue@optaros.com

Our goal with this listing was to create a resource that companies could use to get a sense of what is available and help identify projects that they should consider. We certainly had a lot of debates internally about the ratings for different projects and which ones should or shouldn’t make the list. One thing that is true for every project that is included is that it is something that is worthy of being considered for enterprise use.

A big debate we had was where to draw the line regarding what qualifies as open source and whether to include commercial software. Many of the projects use licenses that would not qualify as OSI-certified licenses. Also, many commercial offerings (such as Red Hat Enterprise) are not an open source license but are related to open source and something we think IT decision makers should be aware of. We decided in the end to include both OSI-certified licenses and non-certifed (or even certifiable) licenses for completeness.

Another challenge we faced and still are struggling with is how to keep this resource up-to-date. Already some of the projects we reviewed have released new versions and or have experienced rapid adoption. Based on feedback we’ll publish a new revision shortly. And we are debating turning the Catalogue into something more wiki-like in order to make it easier to take feedback and make updates. However, we don’t want it to turn into a flame-war zone so we’re thinking about ways to keep the editorial context.

If you have any feedback or suggestions I would love to hear it.

Top events and trends in open source for 2006

January 4th, 2007

Last month I presented a webinar on the Top 10 Events and Trends in Open Source for 2006. You can view the recorded webinar at the webinars page of the Optaros web site, but here’s the quick version:

  • New Events and Vendor Announcments
    • Red Hat, JBoss, and Oracle announcements – Red Hat bought JBoss and Oracle announced a Red Hat support offering. These announcements to create suites and stacks of product offerings reflect customers’ desire for one-stop shopping.
    • Sun open sources of Java – Sun chose the GPL for Java. The license change will drive innovation and affect open source usage policies at many large companies.
    • Microsoft "partners" with Linux – Microsoft and Novell announced a series of agreements. This announcement is a drastic change in Microsoft’s position regarding Linux.
    • Very little legal news – It was significant how little legal news happened this year in relation to the level of concern people have.
  • Activity up and down the stack:
    • Business applications entering mainstream – Open source CMS, CRM, and BI products gained interest from large enterprises and analysts. Many product evaluations in these areas now include open source offerings.
    • Key desktop applications hit their strides – Firefox, Eclipse, and OpenOffice.org now match or exceed their non-open-source equivalents in functionality.
    • Frameworks cross-pollinating – Ideas, innovations, and best practices spread rapidly between different projects and languages in 2006. Proprietary frameworks struggle to keep up.
  • Community and Standards
    • Governments, standards, and community activities – Governments at the city, state, and country levels continued their strategic use of open source.
    • OpenDocument format prevails – The OpenDocument Format became an ISO standard and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts drove efforts to make migration easier.
    • Emerging issues around open source – Work began on a number of issues related to open source including patents, standards, and data.

And what year-in-review is complete without some predictions. Here is what I think will happen in 2007.

  • Vista upgrade cycle will drive open source evaluations beyond the OS – Open source evaluations will happen regarding content management solutions (CMS) and office suites in addition to Vista vs. Linux evaluations.
  • Continued CMS consolidation as open source software rolls through – Large commercial content management vendors will continue to acquire smaller vendors and start to acquire open source projects.
  • Enterprises will be pushed through the open source adoption lifecycle – Evaluating open source options will become the norm for any product evaluation process. Open source software will appear regularly on "approved vendor" lists.
  • Next Generation Internet applications will be driven by open source – As enterprises explore how to adopt Web 2.0 and other emerging trends, they will find the best partner in open source.
  • $100 laptop brings world-wide attention and millions of users – Millions of new users will lead to thousands of new developers as children around the world explore their new laptops.

Also related the the Massachusetts ODF decision, Mass High Tech has publish a column I wrote entitled “ODF and the benefits of going open source.” The article describes three ways open source and collaborative development practices helped the Commonwealth of Massachusetts settle on OpenDocument Format for their new standard.

OSCON 2006

July 31st, 2006

I can’t believe I’ve only posted 4 times since the last OSCON and one of those was vacation pictures.

Anyway, it was a great conference again this year and I had a ton of interesting conversations with people. Rather than recap the sessions I hit, here were the memes I observed.

Open source has “won”

Several people hit on the topic that open source has become so widespread that it has “won”. It seemed that there was a sense that open source has become accepted to point where it doesn’t need to be “evangalized” and instead just needs to be executed. Or maybe it is that there are enough examples where open source works that it has now proved itself to be a viable model. In any case, I found it odd to hear this mentioned so often.

Open source licenses are obsolete

Tim OReilly said OSS licenses are obsolete in his keynote and this was widely misinterpreted by other presenters. Several people took this to mean that licenses aren’t important or even that the open source part is irrelevant. The message I got from Tim was that using software licenses that apply during software distribution are less effective in a world where systems are distributed, but the software isn’t. I heard this as a call to arms to work on new ways besides licenses to set the rules of collaboration.

Open Standards and Open Data

There were several calls for people to start a conversation about what “open standards” and “open data” mean. The OSI has kicked off an initiative to define an Open Standards Requirements for Open Source. It will be interesting to see if an equivalent of the open source definition can be applied to Open Standards to bring more consensus to its meaning. Defining Open Data will probably be even trickier.

Working as a community

This might have been based on the conference agenda or just the sessions I hit but there seemed to be a greater emphasis on how communities work than I’d seen in previous years. Danese Cooper ran a great Lightning Talks session on community where her talk was on how to run Lightning Talks. Definitely something I could have used earlier this year.

Maven 2

November 27th, 2005

Maven2 has been out for a few weeks now and I got chance to spend some time with it this long weekend.

What’s great about it

  • Really enables you to keep your build scripts short. Actually, if you a following common standards for your project structure and artifacts then very little is necessary beyond describing your dependencies.
  • Dependencies management. This is the killer enhancement over Maven 1.x. Maven 2 projects describe their dependencies and the build process manages resolving dependency issues for you. This includes resolving versions and downloading the jars from the central repository.
  • Architecture of participation – Maven is incredibly modular. Every task and plugin is a module which makes it very easy for people to get involved and make enhancements.

What’s tricky about it

  • Other people’s dependency problems can become yours. The metadata in the Maven repository is in pretty good shape and getting better all the time. But if one of your dependencies is b0rked, so is your build.
  • Some jars from Sun can’t be distributed so you need to add them to your repository manually. This can be frustrating but isn’t too bad.

As application assembly picks up the ability to pull together project dependencies quickly is going to be key. For exaple, the Alfresco src download consists of 84 jars that are needed for compilation and/or runtime. That doesn’t count the jars created by the Alresco build.

Now that I’m up on Maven 2, my old ant-based builds seem incredibly complicated.

Open Source Technologies Unplugged – Slides

October 22nd, 2005

I recently presented “Open Source Technologies Unplugged” at the IT Infrastructure Conference in Orlando. This presentation is a quick introduction to OSS followed by an overview of what OSS applications and components are available and 5 things a company can do to get started.

Presentation Slides

The conference had great keynote presentations from Robert X. Cringely, Ray Kurzweil, and Guy Kawasaki. Cringely talked about “The Microsoft Century” (from his upcoming book) which makes the argument that we are at an inflection point between two models: one dominated by large software companies and the other “open” model defined by open standards, open source, and more choices.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

September 18th, 2005

I just got back from an amazing vacation to Peru, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Photos are up at Flickr. Here we are at the top of Dead Woman’s Pass at nearly 14,000 feet.

The trip was expertly run by Global Adrenaline who put together a great mix of challenging hiking, interesting historical/cultural guides, and great accomodations. I highly recommend them and can’t wait for next year’s trip. Maybe Kilimanjaro?

Ruby Report

August 23rd, 2005

Well, well, well… What do you know? I’ve given Ruby and Rails a bit of a try over the past two weeks and I’m pretty intrigued. I had fully expected to dig into Ruby/Rails and see that it was just smoke and mirrors used to make slick demos. But instead I keep finding more reasons to like it and often for different reasons than other people have said.

The main thing that bent my spoon is the way the development environment works with you to help you develop rather than fighting you. You can set breakpoints on the fly. The web server (when launched for Rails) knows when it is in “development mode” and provides informative error messages. There are built-in functions for inspecting objects ( debug(@object) ) and introspection is trivial ( p @object.methods.sort ).

Rails is pretty slick as a web framework. Lots of nice little things like flash[], which is a HashMap that lives through one redirect so things like error messages carry forward. Rails has configurable URI mappings which will automatically pull parameters from the URI (like /:controller/:action/:id). At OSCON, David Heinemeier Hansson said that Rails has (by design) limited flexibility to improve productivity. I have no idea what he meant by this. There are 6 ways to configure session persistence and 4 ways to configure HTML fragment caching. Plus, the fact that you can pretty easily modify any object or method means there is no shortage of flexibility.

The ActiveRecord bits of Rails seem decent enough and I haven’t tried out the more sophisticated mappings to see how well they work, especially compared to something like Hibernate. But for straightforward or slightly complex mappings, they work just fine.

I’ve just started getting into the meta-programming aspects of Ruby. The ability to meta-program is what makes Rails feel like part of the language and not just a library that’s being used.

Anyway, if you haven’t taken a look at Ruby on Rails yet, do it. And Bobby, I take back all of those nasty things I said about scripting languages.

OSCON 2005 – Day 3

August 7th, 2005

Here are some notes from the sessions I attended Friday…

Linux is not ready for the desktop – Asa Dotzler

Asa had a nice call-to-arms for making Linux more user friendly. One point he hit on was how at Firefox they have intentionally limited options to keep things simple. The keep-it-simple (for the user) message echos from the Ruby keynote.

Open Source Biology – Drew Endy

Drew talked about how the biotech folks are working in ways similar to the OSS communities and hitting many of the same issues. Since DNA is basically the same as code, it can be reverese-engineered, patented, etc. They even have the equivalent of a SourceForge at parts.mit.edu.

Open Source Licensing Issues – Tony Gaughan

To me, this was the most disappointing keynote of the confernce and really stood out against all of the other presentations. Tony, from Computer Assosciates, spent half the time telling how Ingres was the database in the upper right of the Technology/Economics quadrant and how CA had the best approach. Tony, if I want to hear this, I’ll come by your booth. When he finally got around to Licensing, it was mostly a justification of why CA made a vanity license. CA has obviously done a good amount of thinking about licensing and it would have been interesting to hear about all of the pros/cons, not just the conclusion that HP felt applied to them.

Danny OBrien – On Evil

Brilliant presentation. To me, the best was when he showed how Ruby was able to shortcut Ghandi’s Ignore/LaughAt/Fight/Win state transition diagram and go straight to win.

Advanced Groovy – Rod Cope

Rod had a sweet demo where he showed how to launch Excel, create a chart, and then hook up/export the chart to a live Swing app in about 15 lines of code all done from the Groovy shell. Pretty amazing.

Rod also said that OpenLogic has 100k+ lines of Groovy in production in their product.

OSCON 2005 – Day 2

August 7th, 2005

Here are some notes from the sessions I attended Thursday…

Nick Gall

He had me, then he lost me, and then he had me again. The basic premise was that the of the 4 freedoms of OSS, the “freedom to change” is the one you need to actively architect in to your systems.

The 3 keys to architecting for change are to focus on identifiers, data formats, and protocols and NOT to focus on APIs. Nick had to rush through the last few slides that laid out recommendations such as making every resource a URI and ensuring apps are composable. This would be a good talk to pair up with Web 2.0 concepts.

David Heinemeier Hansson

OK. OK. OK. I’ll learn Ruby and Rails. I get it, greatest thing since sliced bread.

In addition to the 3 main benefits of Ruby/Rails that are always presented (convention over configuration, change is instant, and complete/integrated stack) David stressed that Ruby/Rails tries to NOT be flexible. “Flexibility is overrated. Flexibility is not free.” This is basically the paradox of choice argument but it is interesting to think about intentionally setting out to design an inflexible language. It would seem to me that you could take an overly-flexible language and constrain it easier than you could take an inflexible one and open it up. So that would suggest that Java could become more Ruby/Rails-like but not the opposite. I guess time will tell.

Katrik Subbarao

Katrik used an extended metaphor of Water/Earth to “clarify” what OSS is. Water is transparent and fills the gaps between the solid, non-transparent solids. This was somewhat entertaining but the problem with metaphors is that they are just metaphors and they break down too easily. This presentation would probably most useful to an audience who was new to OSSS and had never considered mixing OSS and Commercial software. Katrik did do a great job however in not giving a vendor pitch for HP.

Robert Lang

I had no idea that origami had progessed to this level. Check out his work

Calculating ROI – R0ml

R0ml kicked off with the assertion that ROI studies aren’t real. Everyone says they do them but few can produce the numbers. To get real numbers is prohibitively expensive, but industry average numbers can spin the story either way (ie for or against using OSS). In the end, there are 5-6 ways to tell the ROI story (hardware savings, license cost savings, etc) and it is best to just pick one rather combining the calculated ROI of each.

Ruby for Java developers

I got boxed out of this one. The door-attendant said it filled up immediately. Drats.


Geronimo M4 should be out this week which will be nice. The M3 release was over 7 months ago and I’ve never been able to successfully build from the HEAD. I was suprised at how raw the admin console pages are but the GBean management stuff seems very consistent and well thought out.


The folks (SpikeSource, OReilly, CMU) behind the Business Readiness Rating explained the framework and how they see it being used. The audience seemed pretty positive on the idea. One of my concerns about these types of ratings systems is that it is hard to have a single rating that covers differnt types of software such as end-user vs developer frameworks. With the BRR, it appears the framework is flexible enough to allow it to support both types.

One good question from the audience was regarding whether or not companies could get sued for publishing the BRR ratings they did on a project/product. I suppose this is just as likely as getting sued for any message you post on a blog/message-board.

OSCON 2005 – Day One

August 4th, 2005

Great first day at OSCON. Here are some notes from the sessions I attended Wednesday…

Tim O’Reilly

Tim gave his standard Web2.0 pitch in one slide and promised it was the last time. He also mentioned OReilly Radar and I finally got the reference to M*A*S*H. It was good to see that Java book sales have rebounded from his prediction last year that book sales showed Java was dying.

Kim Polese

Nice riff on on Doc’s DIY theme with DIT (do it together). Kim describes things very much the same way that we do at Optaros. She points to the “productization gap” that is the difference between commercial products (and client expectations) and OSS projects. Effectively, companies need to be responsible for productizing (and integrating) their own OSS stacks. And the 2 main problems are resolving the dependencies as the number of components grows and dealing with the “release velocity mismatch” that occurs with separate projects.

Kim points out that companies like SpikeSource (and Optaros) can help deal with these issues.

Andrew Morton

Andrew was very pessimistic on the timeline for desktop Linux. He predicts desktop Linux will show up first on point-of-sale machines and locked-down systems.

Andrew also made the point that the user-to-developer communication lags developer-to-user communication. There needs to be a better way to get user feedback to the developers.

Jeremy Zawodny

Jeremy made the interesting assertion that Yahoo! naturally looks to OSS because any app they build might take off massively. Yahoo! trusts OSS to be able to scale to the levels that they hit for things like this. To me, this really flies in the face of companies who winge about whether or not OSS can scale. When a company like Yahoo! has faith that OSS can scale you need to wonder what other companies are thinking.

Jeremy also made the point that Yahoo! uses many (10’s, 100’s?) OSS projects. When you look at a list of 10, 20, 50, or more OSS apps you quickly realize that the company using those apps can NOT be asking for “one throat to choke”.

Jonathon Schwartz

Nat grilled Jonathon pretty well about why Sun won’t open source Java and why they chose a license for OpenSolaris that won’t comingle with the GPL. For Java, Schwartz played the “fork card” and raised the specter of a world where Java forks broke compatibility. In the next breath he mentioned that he’d be thrilled to see a thousand distros of Open Solaris.

Jonathon made a very interesting assertion that “every project at Sun will (eventually) be free and/or open source”. This is because the value has moved from the software to other things like update-networks, advertising, etc. JS then got a bit fast and loose jumping between “free” and “freedoms” but still this is a pretty bold statement from a software company.

Peaceful coexistence panel

This was an awkward panel. No one really wanted to defend the proprietary software point-of-view so it felt like the “debate” was just against a devil’s advocate. At any point, there were some interesting comments made.

Woods- Companies need to gain the skills to overcome the productization gap. I’m starting to feel this is true more and more after reading things like the “Open Letter to OSS”.


Got to see Craig McC present on the similarities of the diff frameworks. I was hoping this would be more future-looking but it still nicely laid out a way to compare them. One big suprise for me was how few attendees have used anything except Struts. There were only a handful of people who admitted to using the other frameworks like WebWork and SpringMVC.


R0ml got a good turnout for part 2 of his presentation and left the audience clamoring for a part 3 next year.


R0ml presented his idea for a SchemaForge where people could collaborate on RDBMS schemas the way they colloborate on code at SourceForge. The audience seemed pretty interested in how this would work so hopefully he can get something going with his newly registered domain.


I tried to anonymously sit in on the Identiy BOF room to catch up on email and get a sense of what the ID gang is concerned about. But the group made everyone do introductions. So I obfuscated my identity. How is that for irony. I was only partially paying attention so I may have mis-heard this but I believe I heard the phrases “feel up the elephant” or “light up the elephant” in reference to the blind men and the elephant allegory.