Economic downturns have a tendency to accelerate emerging technologies, boost the adoption of effective solutions, and punish solutions that are not cost competitive or that are out of synch with industry trends.So begins a new white paper from research analyst IDC. History supports the logic of the statement, but applying the same logic to predict the future is a dangerous game. Having good starting data can help considerably in that regard, though, and that's what makes this report interesting. Its title is Linux Adoption in a Global Recession, and it marshals some impressive data to predict that Linux will be a significant gainer, while others are punished by the current global meltdown. The report bases that conclusion in part on its finding that: "Linux users are clearly satisfied about their choice to deploy Linux, and during trying economic times, the potential for those same customers to ramp up their deployment of Linux is strong." In other words, unlike the last recession, in which the free OS had to establish itself in environments where it had never been deployed before (its market share increased dramatically anyway), this time it need only increase its beachhead among existing users in order to post impressive gains. But IDC predicts that it will also do quite well with new, missionary sales as well, promising that this time around, its competitive position should strengthen as well as broaden - including on the desktop.
The headline act, if you will, was announced this morning for the third annual Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, and it promises to be an interesting show: the Foundation's Jim Zemlin, Microsoft's Sam Ramji, and Sun's Ian Murdock, each giving their predictions on the future of operating system they represent - and, I expect, the others' as well. Jim will moderate the exchange, which will be held on the first day (May 8) of this year's Summit, which will be held in San Francisco. As with previous Collaboration Summits, there is no fee to attend, but attendance is by confirmation only, as the size is limited to a few hundred to maximize the interactivity of this annual gathering of the elite of the Linux clan.
While the OS debate provides the most provocative portion of the program, the rest will provide a great deal of substance - and, who knows, perhaps a few surprises as well.
I’m pleased to report (although a bit earlier than anticipated, on which more later) that the Linux Foundation has acquired the Linux.com URL, and will be hosting a new community site at that address. Needless to say, it’s the premier address to have on the FOSS highway, and we’re delighted to be standing up a new site at that location soon.
Those of you that are long time Linux.com visitors know that late last year SourceForge, the owner of Linux.com, quit posting new content at what had for years been one of the most visited Linux sites on the Web, posting only a cryptic message or two to explain what was going on. Soon, that dearth of content state of affairs will reverse, as we dedicate LF resources to relaunching the site, which is scheduled to occur in a couple of months. Until then, your content contributions will be most welcome, thank you (more on that below as well).
So what’s the deal with all the parentheticals?
Vietnam will ring in the Tet New Year on January 26 this year, and 2009 will be the Year of the Buffalo. For government servers, it appears that it will be the year of a few other animals as well, including the GNU and the Firefox.
This, according to Vietnam.net Bridge, which reports that yesterday the Ministry of Information and Communication issued an instruction to the State Agencies of Vietnam to move rapidly to open source software. More specifically, "by June 30, 2009, 100% of servers of IT divisions of government agencies must be installed with open source software; 100% of staffs at these IT divisions must be trained in the use of these software products and at least 50% use them proficiently." According to the article, the instruction is also applicable to provincial and municipal Departments of Information and Communications. By December 31, 70% of these offices must be in compliance.
Specific products mentioned for implementation include the following: OpenOffice, Mozilla ThunderBird and Mozilla FireFox email software, and Vietnam's own Unikey typing software. This would represent the 17th government to throw it's support behind ODF, based upon the count being kept by the ODF Alliance.
If you haven't already heard the news, long-term kernel developer and pillar of the open source community Ted Ts'o has been named the new Chief Technology Officer of the Linux Foundation. Ted is a great choice for a variety of reasons, one of which is that few people have been knocking around the Linux world longer than Ted - he was the first North American kernel developer (in 1991). And to the left, that's Ted receiving the FSF 2006 Award for the Advancement of Free Software from Richard Stallman.
I first met Ted about five years ago, when I began representing the Free Standards Group, and where Ted and I served as Board members. Ted had been part of FSG's efforts from the beginning, and he has continued to play a major role both at FSG as well as at the Linux Foundation ever since. Besides being present at the creation of the Linux Standards Base and nearly present at the dawn of the Linux kernel, he's also simply a great guy, both to work as well as to have a beer with. Those traits, as well as his technical prowess, will all be even bigger assets for the Linux Foundation in Ted's new role than they have in the past.
As CTO, Ted will lead all technical initiatives, oversee projects such as the ongoing development of the Linux Standard Base (LSB) and the activities of the Open Printing working group, serve as the technical go-between with Foundation members, and also act as the primary inteface between the Foundation and the its Technical Advisory Board, which represents the kernel community.
How do you measure the value of free and open source software (FOSS)? That's a puzzler, because it's, well, free. Moreover, a popular distribution like Linux can incorporate the contributions of thousands of individuals working remotely from around the world. That means that there are almost no associated overhead costs over and above the time of the developers themselves. Even the question itself is a bit of a misnomer, because one measure of the value of FOSS is not the cost to build it, but rather the avoided cost of not having to do so. Because you don't have to pay anything to download FOSS, and since the same project that developed the software will continue to maintain it for you, using free software can allow you to launch products and services that, for economic reasons, you would never otherwise attempt. In an effect that's near and dear to my heart, that means that competition can reenter market niches that had become locked up and stagnant because entry costs to new participants were simply too high. Trying to get a handle on the value of FOSS is still a worthwhile effort, though, because it allows people to appreciate the beneficial effects of FOSS in general, as well as to have greater respect for something that arrives without a price tag. By appreciating the amount of effort that goes into FOSS, not only historically but on a weekly basis, it's easier to appreciate the robustness and responsiveness of the product as well. It also helps anticompetition regulators and legislators appreciate the significant pro-competitive effects that FOSS can have. Today, the Linux Foundation is releasing a report titled Estimating the Total Development Cost of a Linux Distribution that shows just how valuable FOSS really can be, using the Fedora distribution of Linux and the Linux kernel itself as examples. (Disclosure: I am legal counsel to LF.) The effort is particularly interesting as the authors (LF's Amanda McPherson, Brian Proffitt and Ron Hale-Evans) use the same methodology employed by respected industry expert David A. Wheeler in 2002 to value a related Linux Distribution (Red Hat 7.1). The run up in value wrought by six additional years of global collaboration is an eye popper.
As I reported yesterday, IBM has announced a new "I.T.Standards Policy," calling for (among other things) more transparency, openness and inclusiveness in the standards development process, and for the use by standards organizations of fewer, clearer and more open-source friendly intellectual property rights policies. IBM also disclosed the wide-ranging, and in some cases radical, recommendations offered by 70 standards experts from around the world. These recommendations are intended to raise the bar in standards development.
Rather predictably, it was one particular aspect of the IBM announcement that drew the most interest - and headlines. The result was a host of stories with titles like IBM May Quit Technology Standards Bodies (Wall Street Journal), IBM Treatens to Leave Standards Bodies (the New York Times) and, to the same point but more entertainingly, IBM Takes a Blunt Axe to its Dealings with Standards-Setters (Financial Times). Clearly, when IBM threatens, people listen. Still, as I observed yesterday,
While IBM's standards activities are formidible, IBM still controls only one vote within any single standards organization. As a result, it will be significant to see whether it is successful in inspiring other companies (and particularly those that were its allies in the ODF-OOXML competition, such as Google and Oracle) to make statements of active support for these same principles.
I'm pleased to say that such words of support are starting to be offered, beginning with this statement of support from the Linux Foundation:
Although most of the thunder of the OOXML adoption battle has now died away, the after effects of that controversial process continue to linger. Some of the residual effects have been intangible, such as hard feelings on the part of at least four National Bodies over their inability to obtain a formal review of their complaints over how the OOXML adoption process was conducted. But there have been other responses that are more concrete, and directed at taking specific actions to raise the bar and avoid a repeat performance. One of those efforts has been ongoing since late last spring, and today the first tangible results of that effort are being made public.
The process in question was a Wiki-based conversation conducted over a six week period last May and June, involving over 70 government, academic, industry, policy and standards body thought leaders from around the world. And the public parts include the release of the results of that conversation, and the announcement by IBM of a new "I.T. Standards Policy" that will regulate its participation in standards development. That policy is based upon the principles developed in the course of that virtual global conversation. These announcements are the beginning, but not the end, of a dialogue. The next step will be an invitation-only event at Yale University in November that could give rise, among other possibilities, to a new global organization to rate standards development organizations for qualities such as openness and transparency.
The latest edition of Linux World ground to a halt in San Francisco today. I made it into town just last night for a VIP party hosted by the Linux Foundation, where I caught up with lots of true believer friends (developers, journalists and corporate supporters), and for the Board meeting today. I never made it to this year's show, though, opting instead to arrive early only to head back out of town for a few days of hiking in the hills south of town.
Or at least, that was the plan. But as it happened, the best I could manage was a few hiking escapes sandwiched between inconveniently scheduled conference calls, thrashing out some IPR issues holding up the formation of an interesting and unusual consortium I'll look forward to writing about post-launch. The LF board meeting today was productive, though (a highlight was a walk around the Linux Developers Network Site we brought live today, as well as the new Linux Application Checkerkiller development tool. that Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols immediately pronounced "make ISVs and other programmers start to love developing for Linux."
But to return to the show: some things never change, it's true, but some of those things that never change do so in ways that are fresher than others. Linux World, for example, was Linux World, or so I heard from all that attended. I tried to scan the agenda, and on a fast connection it took forever to load, what with all the dynamic content and fancy graphics. This year, it seemed, people felt let down, as if the show wasn't delivering the action any more, but just, well, droned on.
But on my way back from the Board dinner, and across the street from where I was staying (Hotel Nikko - full stereo in the room, and a New York Times waiting outside the door every morning - how civilized is that?), I was reassured to find that at least the alfresco, evergreen street scene of San Francisco remains reliably mutable and alive.
Although I'm a little late doing so, I'd like to add my voice to Amanda McPherson's in welcoming Brian Proffitt to the Linux Foundation. Amanda is the Linux Foundation's Vice President, Marketing and Developer Programs, and posted the official welcome on Thursday at the Linux Foundation Web site here.
As I expect just about every reader of this blog knows, Brian has been the Managing Editor of LinuxToday for quite a few years (as well as Managing Editor of various other Jupiter Media properties: LinuxPlanet, Enterprise Linux Today, AllLinuxDevices, LinuxPR, and JustLinux). If you missed it, you can find Brian's farewell column at LinuxToday here. As he disclosed there, his new role will be to help launch the Linux Foundation's new Linux Developer Network site and project, which Amanda has been already been working on for some time. When it launches, Brian will be its Community Manager and Editor. After almost 8 years at JupiterMedia, there are few people that know every part of the Linux landscape, and those that live, develop and write (both positively and negatively) in and around that landscape as well as Brian. We're both lucky and delighted to have Brian aboard.
I'm particularly happy that I'll be able to continue to work with Brian, as he has been a great friend to me here, linking to hundreds of my blog entries over the last several years. It's fair to say that many of you would never have learned of this blog but for Brian's deciding that what I was writing here might be of interest to the Linux community. I am quite appropriately grateful for his willingness to pull what I had to say out of the fire hose of information that he had to deal with on a daily basis.
I think that what Brian will be doing at the Linux Foundation will be of interest to you, so here are some of the details on what you can expect from Brian and the Linux Developer Network in the near future.