Posts Tagged ‘opensource’

Need private cloud services? Time to start entrepreneurs

Seeing through appearancesPRISM and the NSA has blown up recently. We have Malaysian politicians worried about it naturally. The opensource zealot will tell you need to prism break.

I’m more pragmatic. I prefer opensource. But if there are no opensource alternatives, I will use the proprietary tool. This extends to cloud software like Google Docs/Drive. Its great at collaboration, which is something you can’t get close. 

I was suggested that FENG Office might work. I retort that it’s not the easiest install and it requires maintenance. Also, with PRISM, the web host clearly matters (they look at the pipes). I didn’t even think to consider LibreOffice due to lack of collaboration in desktop software.

In Malaysia, next generation children are going to be roped into the online Google world via Chromebooks.

So my thinking is simple: if there are no alternatives (to being hosted in the US or to having better controls over your cloud offerings), you should start one. This can be a great business. As the FT says, data privacy is a handy weapon to challenge the titans with.

Watch this video of Fred Wilson. If the world thinks Dropbox is suddenly insecure, its ripe for alternatives to crop up. It also doesn’t mean that people just start using alternative services… DuckDuckGo might have had a 50% increase in search traffic, but all that search traffic may be what Google processes in a moment ;)

This PRISM stuff isn’t going to blow away anytime soon. Now’s the time to come up with matching software that has additional features (like privacy, encryption, etc.). Maybe Kim Dotcom was ahead of the curve with Mega?

Immediate thoughts on Business Source Licensing

Sunrise at SanurI just got back from a vacation to see articles about Business Source Licensing. I’ve divided my thoughts into four parts here: Opensource and its merits, Is unpaid opensource usage bad?, MariaDB’s “Problem”, Business Source Licensing. If you haven’t read them yet, here’s some mandatory reading:

  1. Open source: Its true cost and where it’s going awry by Monty Widenius
  2. MySQL Co-Founder Wants You To Pay Up For Open Source

There is much abuzz on Twitter as well. From the likes of Mike Olson (who is right, MariaDB may have issues that are different to other OSS products – no two OSS projects/products are alike), to a lengthy conversation between Jim Jagielski & Matt Asay, as well as another conversation spurred by Matt Asay.

Now for some of my own commentary.

Opensource and its merits

Companies have been heavily using opensource and the reason they like this is because it is open. They don’t pay for licenses like proprietary software. They use opensource because they don’t have to pay for support, services, or anything around it. Countries have pro-opensource policies so that they can empower local citizens and further strengthen their sovereignty. This is what makes opensource popular: the fact that the software comes to you with many freedoms.

Is this bad for companies building businesses around opensource software products? Well, kind of. It means you have to provide real value before someone decides to pay you. And if for some reason you price yourself out of the market, companies choose to hire resources internally. This is the beauty of opensource. Many companies I know have started to use RHEL licenses from Red Hat; once they decide they see less value from the updates or the knowledgebase, they switch to CentOS at their next cycle. No problem there.

Is unpaid opensource usage bad?

I’m going to say that I disagree with Monty and think that he is wrong here:

“The more people are using it and, in these cases, abusing the whole idea of open source by not paying back either with development or money to help projects, it is actually destroying open source.”

I really don’t think opensource is destroyed by having many users and lacking corporate sponsors. This is the way of opensource and has been for a long time. Apple makes use of CUPS to ensure printing works – they did so long before they hired their main developer. We all benefitted from Samba which is how we talk to Windows printers/shares/etc. which had no real commercial company around it (Linuxcare, then IBM, then other providers funded the work). LibreOffice has always existed with lots of work by various distributors of (via the ooo-build system), which is why the project took off so fast.

MariaDB’s “problem”

When there is commercial need for opensource, the corporate sponsors will arise. It takes a long time to get to a stage where you are going to get profitable in an opensource services or infrastructure company. Red Hat didn’t get to a billion dollars overnight. Neither did MySQL.

I will not comment on the financials of Monty Program, SkySQL or how tough it has been to bootstrap the MariaDB project because I clearly am privy to information there. I am particularly proud of how we’ve done a relatively great job at getting MariaDB users and distribution, all on a bootstrap marketing/PR budget with no professional help :-) However, I will reminisce another day.

Simply put: if Oracle stopped producing opensource MySQL or decided that they would shut it down, there would be immediate need for MariaDB and the corporate sponsors would come in throngs. The truth is that Oracle continues to produce MySQL as an opensource product. It may not be a full opensource project (internal trees, delayed public pushes, private bugs database, internal mailing lists, etc.) that follows “the architecture of participation”, but it is still an opensource product. This is what has enabled people to take MySQL and extend it further. Look at the Facebook 5.6 tree, or the Twitter 5.5 tree.

There is talk about the dual-licenses that MySQL chose to use. I remember a time when the connectors were LGPL. They were then relicensed as GPL. They still are. But I think we effectively nipped this with the: MariaDB LGPL Java client, MariaDB C Client Library, and the BSD drizzle stuff.

Business Source Licensing

Now for the bits on business source:

“The whole idea with business source is actually very trivial. It is a commercial licence that is time-based and which will become open source after a given time, usually three years. But you can get access to all the source. You can use it in any way but the source has a comment that says you can use it freely except in these circumstances when you have to pay,” Widenius said.

“You’re forcing a small part of your user base to pay for the restrictions, which can be if you’re making money from [the software], if you have more than 100 employees, or you’re a big company or something like that. So you’re forcing one portion of your users to pay. But because it’s time-based, everybody knows that you can still contribute to the project,” he said.

“Because you have the code, you know that if the vendor does something stupid, somebody else can give you the support for it. So you get all the benefits of open source except that a small portion of users has to pay. As long as you continue to develop the project, each version still gets a new timeline of three years.”

Hmm. I see many people commenting that MariaDB might become business source licensed. I am here to tell you that MariaDB is GPLv2 software. It will stay GPLv2 software.

Reading the definition of business source licensing, it is nothing like what Matt Asay portrays it to be:

“Business source is simply proprietary software released under a Microsoft-esque shared source license that magically becomes fully open source after a period of time.”

I’m sorry but the description above is pretty clear. This is nothing like Microsoft shared source. It is code that becomes licensed under an OSI-friendly license after a time-period; however everyone using the software gets the code. How does one enforce payments? I don’t know. What are the conditions requiring you to pay? I don’t know.

At this stage, I am open to thoughts on such a licensing model but I have no firm thoughts on this myself. The best description of how this works is given above by Monty.

Update: Sun 2 Jun 2013 17:33:53 MYT Monty has an update on business source licensing in a comment on Matt Asay’s column.

open source initiative: open for membership

I last spoke to Simon Phipps about the OSI (Open Source Initiative – and how they’re opening up for membership sometime on a cold february day, in brussels where we were for fosdem 2012. it seems like that time has come and yesterday I became an individual member of the OSI. I presume that if you’re asking what your $40 fee gets, realise that they’re transforming the OSI, so it is an exciting time of change. 

It is likely that all this will be announced on wednesday at oscon. Doing this yesterday I managed to grab a t-shirt. They also have OSI singlets/tank tops this time around. What are you waiting for, join the OSI.

Opensource like Android?

This was a story I told quite regularly at OSCON earlier this year and I thought I would share it with everyone here.

I have over the years mentioned that some things in the Linux world poise it to be “the year of the Linux desktop”. Many people say these things, in fact others in the Linux world tend to tell you not to mention it as it might jinx the movement. Well, this year, 2010 is almost coming to an end, so I doubt I would be jinxing anything.

Who cares if it is the year of the Linux desktop? If the mantra was to spread opensource, I think Google has done a bang up job of getting the word out that Android is opensource. I know some people reading that line will cringe and tell me that MeeGo is more opensource, Android is not opensource, etc.

I landed in SFO as usual and I told the immigration officer that I was headed to Portland for OSCON. He wanted to know what OSCON was, and I told him it was a conference where opensource people gathered. He asked me flat out: “You mean, opensource like Android?” I instantly smiled and we got on to talking about Android, mobile phones and he told me how he enjoyed his Android device and he thought that all of us in this “opensource movement” were doing a great thing for his phone. He did make use of the Android Marketplace and he did get quite a few apps from it (free though, he admitted).

I then boarded my connecting to PDX, arriving past midnight, I hit the sack. Breakfast was to be at Burgerville right before the Community Leadership Summit. The waitress asked me if I was in town for some kind of family reunion, and I told her that I was in town for OSCON. She inquired what OSCON was since she had not heard of it and this was the weekend before all the geeks descended upon her. I told her it was a gathering for opensource people, and felt a sense of deja vu when she retorted: “Opensource like Android?” By golly, she had purchased an Android phone, went into depths about the applications, told me more about how she used the Android Marketplace, how she purchased a few apps, but preferred free ones, and so on.

I was making conversation about opensource (and Android devices in particular) with an immigration officer and a waitress, all under twelve hours of me landing in the United States. Its 2010, and even if Linux isn’t king on the desktop, its king on people’s most personal device, their mobile phone. Its what they carry in their pockets, and it’s doing more and more for them as the technology iterates. And this revolution is powered by Linux.

Open Source Saves Malaysian Government RM188 Million

A money clipBack in January 2009, we found out that the Malaysian Government had saved about RM40 million using open source. In a little over a year, that number has been topped: over the past six years, the total costs savings are now quoted to be RM188.39 million (USD$58.54 million)! That’s a hell of a lot of money for software licenses, don’t you think?

Worth noting is that before the OSS Master Plan started, there were zero companies supporting OSS registered with the Ministry of Finance. Now more than half of the 4,000 companies do (53% is the quoted number). For more information, read the latest newsletter from MAMPU’s OSCC. Key takeaways:

  1. Saved RM188.39 million on software licenses over six years
  2. Successful OSS adoption in 691 government agencies by the end of 2009 (till April 1 2010, the number looks like it has increased to 699 agencies).
  3. In total, 95% of agencies are adopting some form of OSS solution, 87% are using it for back-end infrastructure (here its clear there’s Linux, MySQL in use), and 66% are using OSS on the desktop! (via and Firefox)*

* – Software use extrapolated from the actual OSS Master plan, and what was in the report in January 2009. I’m sure Joomla! is also used quite heavily, but never recall seeing it as the choice for CMS in the plan.

How do you convince an entrepreneur to go opensource?

So, a while back, I became a council member at the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM). My focus is on open source and open standards.

I would like to get more entrepreneurs building their products on opensource. I want them to harness open standards, and expose APIs so others can build cool stuff around it. I want to see TeAM help create more Malaysian tech success stories.

As an aside, I found FOSS FAQ, and decided to post a question there: How do you convince an entrepreneur to go opensource?.

Seems like a silly question. I mean, VC’s like Guy Kawasaki like you to use cheap, and highly available tools, and opensource fits that bill. But nowadays, proprietary vendors have also upped the game – they also provide cheap (free for a time period) tools. So how do you get entrepreneurs going OSS for their products? What’s your pitch to them?