Microsoft and the SD Forum jointly sponsored the Zero Day event this year before the Open Source Business Conference. The past two years this has been a Microsoft sponsored day for ISV partners developing businesses around open source. There was time dedicated in each event to presentations of the relevant Microsoft programs for ISVs, and Sam Ramji would kick off the day with a good Q&A session discussing Microsoft's positions, accomplishments, and announcements around open source software. This year the content was broader, with the afternoon's sessions being organized by the SD Forum. Participants that wanted to engage with Microsoft around their programs could talk with any of the program directors present.
This being the age of Twitter, people were encouraged so to do under the tag #msoss09, and there was some reasonable discussion throughout the day. I also posted a few photographs on Flickr.
Bryan Kirchner is now Director of Open Source Software at Microsoft. He acted as master of ceremonies and kicked things off in the morning with a brief discussion of his hopes to continue developing a mutual understanding and deepening relationships with the open source community at large.
Sam Ramji then took the stage. What followed was interesting. This year, with not much new or contentious before OSBC got underway, he chose to talk about the health of the Windows ecosystem in the context of the current economic crunch (reminding people that a staggering 96% of Microsoft revenue comes from partners, i.e. no direct account control). Microsoft is seeing CIO training budgets dropping to zero and many projects are deferred so there was a definite move to cost savings around virtualization and consolidation. (It's interesting that this is how the world started to move when the bubble burst seven years ago.) He also talked about the growth of Windows in the low cost server space and on netbooks. Sam was essentially conveying that the Windows platform is healthy and people should continue to consider it as a deployment platform for open source. He also discussed the new Web Application Gallery initiative at Microsoft as an attempt "to connect markets and forges" around open source so users can easily install and support PHP-based web applications. It's not that the Gallery is particularly an open source initiative, but rather that it supports the sharing of applications written in PHP.
Matt Aslett from the 451 Group took the stage next presenting his latest analysis from their report Open Source is Not a Business Model. Essentially, the 451 Group analysed 114 vendors using open source software within their businesses, against (i.) their choice of open source license, (ii.) their development model, (iii.) their own vendor licensing strategy, and (iv.) the actual revenue trigger. Matt's blog post covers a lot of the ground he presented, so I won't cover it here. I will be debating with him soon on other things to consider in the report. (An added perk for morning participants was a copy of the report.)
Next up was a panel on "Working together in an Open Source World in a New Economy" moderated by Cliff Reeves, who runs the Emerging Business Team at Microsoft which runs the BizSpark program. Panelists included:
- Clint Oram, VP Product Management, SugarCRM
- Erica Brescia, CEO, Bitrock
- Aaron Fulkerson, CEO, MindTouch
- Dan Merrits, VP Marketing, Eduify
It was a good discussion. SugarCRM and Mindtouch certainly saw the rise of downloads and leads as the economy failed and people became more interested in low cost open source based solutions. There was also interesting honest discussion from the participants on what it's like working with Microsoft as a partner, with concerns being expressed about the complexity of the programs at times, as well as praise for engineering support (FastCGI and PHP being the typical example cited).
After lunch we got to the more general open source part of the program organized by SD Forum. Larry Augustin kicked off the afternoon with his keynote on "The Future of Software: Why Open Source is the Safe Bet". [Larry has kindly allowed me to host his slides. Download SDForum-20090323-v4.pdf (493.5K).] Larry started the presentation with the idea that just like no one got fired for buying IBM in the past, at this juncture in history no one gets fired for buying open source software. He then went on to present the health of the open source based business world from the perspective of investment and adoption (with several case studies).
Next we had two brief mini-talks.
- Andrew Aitkin (Olliance Group) talked about his views on open source adoption differences between Europe, North America, and Japan.
- Sam Ramji returned to give a shortened version of his morning's presentation for those that just joined for the SD Forum part of the program.
The final two sessions of the day were panels. First we had "Is there still Open in Open Source" with Mike Fauscette (IDC) moderating, and Jack Repenning (CTO, CollabNet) and Adam Blum (Rhomobile). It was an interesting panel and very much a development process perspective. Discussion revolved around the idea that it's not about the source code, but about the openness of the development process, the social contract, the transparency, and building a community that wants to contribute.
Last up was the venture panel on "Where's the Money?" Mark Radcliffe (DLA Piper) moderated Robert Theis (Scale), Andrew Braccia (Accel), Tim Guleri (Sierra), and Peter Sonsini (NEA). Not surprising but the VCs want us to know they're still open for business, and they're interested in Software-as-a-Service and Cloud related technologies. Also not surprising we learned VCs will fund deals with a compelling solution to a customer problem, or a compelling way to monetize a solution. [This is why I generally don't have a lot of time for VC panels.] There was one point where Peter Sonsini (NEA) observed there needed to be a compelling way to monetize the community for an existing project (with which I violently disagree), but Andrew Braccia (Accel) supported the richer idea that rather than trying to monetize the community one should look at upstream value of a new solution based on the project.
All and all a worthwhile experience. We finished the day with the hosted reception!