Open Source Hero?

Apparently Microsoft is in for some big news today. See www.opensourcehero.com. All we have now is the "{Forge} New Powers" tagline which seems to suggest (yet) another Open Source repository/community. If that's the case, I will have a gripe on the name itself, as it seems to focus heavily on the individual rather than on the community. Or maybe "Hero" will be the codename for  Open Source Vista/Office.

I will be playing with acronyms, speculate on alternatives and listen to the wire for the news: interesting times. 

Now, about that Gulfstream waiting list…

Good news from Matt. IDC reports:

"IDC believes that if open source software is to continue its penetration into mainstream and enterprise environments, the ecosystem must evolve to include many service providers that are knowledgeable about open source software and can handle the integration, implementation, and training needs of end users in particular."

Gee, just slightly change the wording and that could well be Sourcesense's elevator pitch. Matt comments:

"Would the industry be better off with more and better-qualified consultants? Absolutely. Actually, a better way to ask this might be, would the industry be better off with more consulting companies actually owning up to how much open source they're already implementing? The answer to this is a resounding "Yes!" Accenture, SAIC, Cap Gemini, etc. are all using a tremendous amount of open-source software, but generally aren't working with the project leads/maintainers to do so (and I suspect aren't telling their clients about it, either)."

Given the sheer number of projects we participate and give back to (among which a whole bunch of Apache stuff, Spring, Ruby, Terracotta), not to mention the ever growing list of partners we help  in their market penetration exercise, that fits my bill as well. Still not convinced? Read what Marc Fleury has to say:

"Those who build the 'Mc Kinsey' of Open Source software, with the legitimacy of the heads of projects, will control the internet's infrastructure."

 Or, more specifically:

"[…] there is a viable niche in the future of OSS software in services. Note the 2 qualifiers to Matt's blanket statement. 1/ niche 2/OSS not 1/all 2/of software. The services models will scale. I always find myself amused when people broadly claim that 'Services don't scale, everyone knows that'. Because you know, IBM GS, McKinsey, Bain, Accenture, Atos Origin, CapGemini, you name it, these are all 2 bit little shitty companies, right?"

If you do the math, it's easy to understand why I'm having a great time. Ours is the place to be: our sustainable services-based business model fits hand in glove with the Open Source paradigm and ecosystem, we are growing our international presence, we met or (more often) exceeded our targets so far, we are expanding our partner network and we are constantly getting new customers and upselling existing ones. Our team is growing at an impressive scale, and I'm thrilled to see so many bright minds  sitting in our offices, with a long queue of people alike willing to join us.

As we finalize plans for our next fiscal year, the numbers in front of me are just mind boggling and make me wonder about how far we went since two years ago, when Sourcesense was me, a desk and a small cheque from a few savvy investors. Add lots of fun (and FF miles!) on top of this, and you will easily understand why I have this big smile on my face: I just love my job.

Time for a change

Exactly ten years ago, on Valentine's Day 1998, I moved to Milan from a small town on the Ligurian seaside. I was busy setting up my own house, struggling with a new stove and generally scared at the idea of having just turned a milestone in my career and my lifetime. While having my first dinner in Milan with my soon to be wife, I couldn't help but thinking about what I left behind on one hand, and the vast opportunity and thrill on what was ahead of me.

Ten years have passed: I enjoyed every minute of them. If I look back, it has been a bumpy yet fantastic ride: I met (and married) the best person ever, I had lots of fun at various places of work, I co-founded my own company, I did my share of Open Source software, I traveled the world speaking about IT, Open Source and business, I hanged out with old and new friends. It's been a blast, but all the good things have to come to an end.

In a few weeks we will be moving to London, where I will be heading Sourcesense operations from the other side of the Channel, while boosting our UK presence to cater for the impressive business demand we are getting from there. As I'm writing this, I'm pestering my UK connections for housing hints and frantically browsing the web to get myself organized: I'm also overly excited by this opportunity, and I have my share of shivers when I think that I will be once again leaving a lot behind while opening up new and powerful scenarios.

If you live in London, I would love to hear from you. Drop me a mail, catch me on your choice of IM, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, or just drop me a call. I'm eager to join the London scene, meet with old friends and make new ones, and of course build business connections. As you might expect, I have lots of questions (and beers to share). Also, consider yourself invited for the house crash party, whenever it will be: I promise my best performance ever in Italian food.

Scarlet 1.0 RC1 is out

While I was happily missing flights and losing bags, something major was happening in Sourcesense-land, as Sergio was busy releasing the 1.0RC1 version of Scarlet. Link-hovering people with a good memory might have noticed that the home page has changed, as our Open Source Jira clustering solution is now hosted on Sourceforge. A full bag of goodies is included in this release, among which you will find an upgrade to the latest and greatest Jira and Terracotta versions, as well as major performance enhancements and the usual bug fixes.

With 1.0 just down the road, this is your latest chance to try and test Scarlet, provide feedback and ask for new stuff before feature-freeze, so don't miss the opportunity and head for the download page

I hate airlines. With a passion.

The Open Source Think Tank has been a blast. I was planning to write a few comments but then I was stuck in one of my most horrifying travel nightmares. As much as nothing beats Alitalia, I have to say it's now a close call after British Airways tried their best to lose a customer. Long story short:

  • Boarded what seemed to be a great flight out of SFO, with lots of free seats and a plane pulling from the gate 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Awesome.
  • Too bad an engine failed to start, so we were back to the gate and sitting idle for the next two hours while engineers tried to understand what to do. How on earth they were expecting we would fly even if they managed to start a clearly defective engine kinda beats me but anyway…
  • Eventually, the flight was canceled and we went through the rebooking circus on a later flight: add one more our of standing in line only to find that my assistant didn't know how to rebook connecting flights.
  • Managed to board the next flight to LHR, which was obviously completely full. This meant another two hours on the tarmac waiting for BA to squeeze every possible passenger into the plane, and an overall three hours delay.
  • Uneventful flight to LHR, but delay obviously meant missing my connection. Rebooked on the latest flight, with three hours to kill in the lounge (thank God for Silver cards…).
  • Flight to MXP was of course delayed as per the majority of evening flights in Heathrow these days, so two more hours to go.
  • The taxi runway was a parking lot, so it took forever to take off.
  • Insult to injury, though it was to be expected, my bag is MIA despite repeated assurances that it got as far as LHR and it was about to be loaded on the Milan flight. I'm not sure that's actually a good thing.

I'll leave to readers imagination figuring out how frustrated, tired and pissed off I am. Especially when I consider that in six hours from now I will have to scavenge some clothes and head to the office, while trying to figure out where my luggage is. Time to give Lufthansa a shot?

Google: evil or not?

Apparently, Google wants to help Yahoo! in their fight against the hostile Microsoft takeover. Is Google playing the white knight, or is it just a wolf in sheep's clothing? I'm not quite sure that a strategic alliance of any sort between Google and Yahoo!, which actually means Yahoo! becoming a Google subsidiary is good news for the Internet as a whole. While I understand the trouble with Microsoft being at the helm of Jerry Yang's baby, I tend to think that we need more pressure on Google and more competition overall. If Google lays their hands on Yahoo!, that's no good news for all of us. Especially if that happens in a sneaky and indirect way that manages to run below the Antitrust radar. 

All this reminds me of Microsoft helping Apple back in 1997. Is history repeating itself? 

MS/Yahoo, pink glasses on

The web is full of pessimistic comments about Open Source at the soon to be Microsoft-owned Yahoo!. If you belong to the crowd of those looking for shelter, let me try to show why I believe there is a very slim chance that www.yahoo.com will 301 to default.aspx anytime soon. I'll start by stating loud and clear that if you even suspect the Yahoo! Open Source stance plays a role in this deal, a few more brain cycles might be in order. Consider how Microsoft is going to empty their pockets in buying Yahoo, as the 44B$ deal will make more than a significant dent in Redmond's bank account: going this far just to replace Yahoo!'s FreeBSD gear with Windows is something even Ballmer can't pull off in his sweatiest dreams.

What this deal does is marking a 180° turn in Redmond strategy: Microsoft is clearly struggling to find a spot in today's industry where software as such is getting less and less relevant. They know how late they are to the party, and they're desperate to find a clue on how to catch up and be a major player again. Whether they will succeed, that's an entirely different matter, but I'm sure they all realize they can't just stomp their feet and pretend they can make it without Open Source. Definitely not in the short term, most likely not even in a few years from now: their failed Hotmail Linux FreeBSD (thanks Christian!) migrations must have thought a lesson and left a few scars. Hadoop contributors on the Yahoo! payroll have little to worry.

It might actually be worth noticing how the acquisition of Yahoo! could be the greatest opportunity for Microsoft to become a significant player in Open Source. Nevermind Steve Ballmer, I really don't believe there is anyone in Redmond who hates Open Source with a passion: the Open Source strategy of Microsoft has been insofar guided by obvious business considerations. If you're the biggest provider of shrink-wrapped proprietary software, you have be defensive about the competitive and disruptive Open Source proposition. If your strategy shifts to the online advertising business, then Open Source can be your best friend. In any case, and as the ultimate bottom line, it would be downright silly for Microsoft to command Yahoo! into steering their technology and turn their .so's in .dll's: I don't think there's many silly people in Redmond. We will probably see much more embrace, and much less extend.

Zimbra vs. Exchange is possibly the one and only issue on the table, as it might be a nice side effect for Microsoft to control (one of) their Exchange competitor(s). Having said that, (a) I don't see anything happening at a fast pace  and (b) if Microsoft ever tries to crush Zimbra, that would be a fantastic opportunity for a new or existing player to come up with yet another Exchange alternative. To be honest, though, I believe that in the next few years most of the e-mail business will move online, so all that won't be much of an issue anymore. Not to mention that the Zimbra guys are probably perfectly happy already with the Yahoo! cheque, and there is little doubt their excellent staff will find a new and better venture anyways.

I'm not exactly throwing parties at the idea of Microsoft owning Yahoo, even though I think a serious alternative to Google might be worth a few struggles, but I don't think the sky is falling for Open Source if Microsoft even gets to raise their flag over Yahoo!'s HQ. Vigilant? Sure. Worried? Not from a big picture point of view. Pessimistic? Nope.