Oracle Cancels OpenSolaris – What’s The Big Deal?

There has been turmoil and angst recently in the 0pen source community of late over Oracle’s decision to cancel OpenSolaris. Since this community can be expected to react violently anytime something is taken out of open source, the real question is whether this action has any impact on real-world IT and operations professionals. The short answer is no.

 Enterprise Solaris users, be they small, medium or large, are using it to run critical applications; and as far as we can tell, the uptake of OpenSolaris as opposed to Solaris supplied and sold by Sun was very low in commercial accounts, other than possibly a surge in test and dev environments. The decision to take Solaris into the open source arena was, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed, and Oracle’s subsequent decision to change this is eminently rational – Oracle’s customers almost certainly are not going to run their companies on an OS that is built and maintained by any open source community (even the vast majority of corporate Linux use is via a distribution supported by a major vendor and under a paid subscription model), and Oracle cannot continue to develop Solaris unless they have absolute control over it, just as is the case with every other enterprise OS. In the same vein, unless Oracle can also have an expectation of being compensated for their investments in future Solaris development, there is little motivation for them to continue to invest heavily in Solaris.

Why Innovation Depends On Creative Approaches

Two recent articles from The New York Times illustrate why, for innovation to work, you need to keep updating your playbook.

Serious Games And Biochemical Research
When a team of researchers at the University of Washington wanted to unlock the puzzle of protein folding – a complex process that moves faster than we can observe – they decided to crowdsource the investigation. The team posed the question as a serious game, a medium that sometimes produces better answers than what people normally envision as the process of crowdsourcing. 

Instead of just throwing out the question (How do our bodies build these proteins?) to an anonymous audience that may or may not have been motivated to answer it, the researchers built a game, Foldit, that simulated the protein-building process. The motivations were no different than any game: the satisfaction of beating the game at some level; the score that both rewards you for your current level of accomplishment and dares you to do better; the public standings that inject another level of competition beyond beating your last score. Humans can be very competitive creatures, even when the only rewards are intangible, which is why certain types of serious games often stimulate more participation than other approaches to a problem. (Check out the book Drive by Daniel Pink for one explanation of this behavior.)

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Results Of The Forrester Wave™: Open Source Business Intelligence (BI), Q3 2010

Open source software (OSS) and business intelligence (BI) are two related market segments where Forrester sees continually increasing interest and adoption levels. BI specifically continues to be one of the top priorities on everyone's mind. The main reason? Enterprises that do not squeeze the last ounce of information out of their data stores and applications, and do not focus on getting strategic, tactical, and operational insight into their customers, products, and operations, risk falling behind competition. And when it comes to open source, 2009 could best be described as "the year IT professionals realized that open source runs their business." The reason is simple: Over the past few years, we've seen that developers adopt open source products tactically without the explicit approval of their managers. This has shown up in numerous surveys where the actual adoption of open source ranks higher than what IT managers report. Well no longer: Forrester's Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009 shows that management has caught on to the fact that developers increasingly use open source to run key parts of their IT infrastructure. And management has grown increasingly comfortable with it. In fact, throughout 2009, most client inquiries Forrester received regarding open source were focused on how to move from tactical adoption to strategic exploitation.

Yet, when you put the 2 and 2 together (OSS and BI), you mostly get a mixed market, where one unfortunately has to compare apples to oranges. Why? Before plunging into a tool evaluation and selection process, ask yourself the following questions, and make sure you are doing a like-to-like comparison:

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Observations On The Future Of ALM

During a vendor conference, I sat down with 12 application development professionals and asked them a very simple question: "What will be the biggest themes for application lifecycle management be in the next 5 years?" The resulting debate and discussion highlights some key areas that application development professionals should look to when building their ALM strategy.

Who owns the code?

The reality of open source, partner-developed code and vendor value add-ins was not lost on the group. The overarching theme from this discussion was that customer organizations not only need to own the overall supply chain but also are responsible for ensuring its quality. That means, as writing code decreases, inspection, validation, and testing increase. The result is that traceability, workflow, and reporting are inclusive of customer code but also supplier code. For example, defects with an open source project need to be captured, shared, and tracked in a similar way to internal defects. The difference is that, unlike with internal development, those defects will also feature in the open source project and be fixed by people outside of the customer's organization. The implication of licenses and IP ownership was discussed, with one in the group painting a very bleak picture. He described a scenario where because of the result of one massive IP infringement a company is forced to stop operating, with the resulting fallout being a massive, wholesale movement away from open source software and associated complex IP and licensing issues. Though this example was extreme, the group agreed that licensing should be part of the governance for any ALM solution. This increased complexity of code ownership will require ALM solutions to:

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