Last month during LinuxCon, IBM and Canonical announced their Client for Smart Work initiative: a client package that runs Ubuntu and uses Eclipse and Lotus products to provide users with a solid client with the capability to connect to cloud-based services. The Smart Work client will run on netbooks, thin-clients, and smartphones.

In the Sept. 24 announcement, both companies stressed this new client would be initially offered in Africa, sold through local service providers. Even the the cloud services, IBM hoped, would be offered from local African providers, according the a September interview with Bob Sutor.

“‘The idea is really to drive local partnerships around offering this,’ Sutor, IBM’s VP of open source and Linux, told [Channel Register]. ‘So that doesn’t mean users be sitting in Cape Town and connecting to a cloud somewhere in Iowa.'”

Interestingly, IBM indicated at the time that they would offer the product in Africa first and then to other emerging markets. “Interestingly” because, as it turns out, the next market IBM and Canonical chose to offer the Smart Work client was here in the US.

So, is this a not-so-subtle commentary about the state of the US economy? No, it’s really IBM and Canonical switching up their game to try to get in front of the scheduled Oct. 22 release of Microsoft Windows 7.

Marketing to US Businesses

The line of reasoning is clear: since Smart Work is such a boon to emerging markets, why not push the fact that the same client would help companies save up to 50 percent per seat on software costs versus a Microsoft-based desktop, and avoid requisite hardware upgrades that would likely be needed to jump from Windows XP and Vista to Windows 7?

“Independent market estimates range up to $2,000 for the cost of migrating to the Windows 7 Operating System for many PC users.” the companies said in their joint announcement today, “new PC hardware requirements account for a significant portion of the added expense.”

Just as in Africa, IBM and Canonical expect expect to enlist local partners to offer IBM Client for Smart Work in US, starting in 2010. While not a lot of vendors were announced for the African version of the project, the US announcement highlighted “regional systems integrators, ZSL and CSScorp; virtual desktop provider, Virtual Bridges, and its distributors, Midas Networks and KalariSys; and several online, vertical industry businesses. IBM is also targeting the education market by collaborating with university faculty through the IBM Academic Initiative.”

The announcment also outlined the Smart Work software components:

  • “Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations from IBM Lotus Symphony, which is a free-of-charge download on the Web;
  • “Email from IBM Lotus Notes or the cloud-based LotusLive iNotes launched earlier this month, which starts at $3 per user, per month;
  • “Cloud-based, social networking and collaboration tools from LotusLive.com, ranging from $10 per user, per month; and
  • “Canonical Ubuntu, a community-developed Linux distribution for netbooks, laptops, desktops, and servers.”

The strategy makes sense, especially when factoring in the upgrade headaches involved from going from XP to Windows 7. A lot of businesses may look at such a migration and wonder if it’s really worth it. That’s exactly the market deomgraphic IBM and Canonical are trying to catch.

Article Source Andy Updegrove’s Blog
October 20, 2009, 2:29 am

Some of the best software available is open source, but non-proprietary software has enemies as well as friends. Not surprisingly, then there’s been plenty of fog on Capitol Hill about free and open source software (FOSS) for a decade now.

In the beginning, most big software companies were a’gin it, and any government agency CIO allowing a useful bit of FOSS to find a home on the servers she supervised was not likely to advertise that fact. Eventually, some major vendors (like IBM) began including FOSS programs in the systems they were promoting to government customers. But that only made things worse, because other vendors (like Microsoft) went actively on the offensive, initially comparing the theory and appeal of FOSS to that of communism.

With hordes of lobbyists deployed on the ground in Washington and in state capitals throughout the nation, it was soon a brave, and perhaps foolhardy, public IT manager who would dare to take a public stand in defense of FOSS.

It’s time for the Obama Administration to publicly state that it whole heartedly supports FOSS procurement by the federal agencies. Not in preference to proprietary software, but on an equal basis. Only by doing so can it ensure that when it comes to getting the best deal for the American public, the best software will win.

Read More

During their own Sept. 29 Cloud Computing Summit, IDC made what at first glance sounded like a self-defeating statement: clouds, in the long run, are actually a more expensive option than a company running its own datacenter.

That, needless to say, got my attention.

The story came out today from Computerworld UK, which I invite you to read. It gives good coverage of the presentation made at the Summit by Matthew McCormack, Consultant, European Systems Group, IDC. Lots of good quotes. I wanted to see the numbers, though, and while looking to contact McCormack, I found just the information I was looking for.

IDC ran a model that analyzed what the costs would be to run 100 percent of a large company’s IT infrastructure entirely within the cloud versus on their own data center. It turns out that according to IDC’s estimates, after the first three years of a cloud IT operation, costs would exceed those of an optimally run datacenter, and that includes the added three-year refresh cycles costs of 30 percent for the datacenter (see slide 6). By the end of 10 years, costs for the cloud operation would hit ¬£26M (US$41M), while the datacenter would only rack up ¬£15M (US$24.6M).

Of course, if your datacenter is being run very poorly, cloud computing can save you short- and long-term money (slide 7). Datacenters could reach as much as twice the cost of a cloud over ten years.

Clearly, the reality is somewhere in between, since no company would be perfect in operating their own datacenter, nor would you think it likely that complete idiots would be bungling a datacenter that long without some sort of course correction. It seems, then that ultimately, whether it’s three years or five or beyond, cloud computing may not make long-term financial sense. Is that the case?

McCormack seems to think not. For one thing, he predicts in the Computerworld UK story “that cloud service costs will eventually fall, as more competitors enter the fray, and as suppliers act to improve market-take up.” This is key to long-term growth of the cloud computing environment.

Right now, cloud computing is a lot of buying a hybrid car here in the US was a few years ago. If you researched a hybrid car, invariably someone made a cost-benefit analysis and confirmed that the value of the fuel savings would never equal the additional cost of buying a hybrid version of a particular car model versus the standard-engine version. But, lately, things have changed. Gas prices have gone up and stayed up for the most part. Consumers are much more “green”-aware, and want hybrids despite the costs. There are more hybrid models available now than a few years ago. All of these factors are driving up demand and driving down costs as car companies seek to stay competitive.

The same will hold true for cloud computing. Yes, right now, there is a need to carefully weigh out the costs involved in using cloud computing for your company. But in the near future it should become increasingly more common to see the cloud as a better economic option as costs come down. Standards, like those on Linux, are key here, too–McCormack cautioned in his presentation that customers should avoid vendor lock in. This is exactly the sort of lock in that projects like Red Hat’s Deltacloud are trying to prevent.

So while the initial read might come across as off-putting, really this was just IDC inducing a bit of common sense into the hype of cloud computing. And common sense is never a bad idea.

Article Source Community-cation
October 12, 2009, 10:35 am

We are all impressed and excited by the success of commercial Linux vendors. Red Hat, Novell, Canonical, Mandriva, Oracle, and a host of other Linux companies are making great strides in delivering performance and value to the enterprise marketplace.

But let’s face it, small- to medium-sized businessed are still underserved by Linux and free/open source software. This is a real concern, since SMBs could use the cost savings in licensing and stability more than any business group, particularly in these harsh economic environment. SMB owners try to save as much money as they can, just like enterprises. So why aren’t they buying open source in droves?

The problem has been a numbers game: targeting the enterprise is a lot easier than the SMBs. There are only an estimated 51,100 enterprise-level companies worldwide, based on 2004 US Bureau of Census data of companies. Because of their sheer size, they tend to be easy to find. It’s estimated that there are 25.3 million smaller businesses in the world. How many SMBs are within a five-mile radius of you right now? Even if you are in the suburbs, there’s a lot of home-based businesses in your neighborhood.

This has been noted before. In 2005, Samba guru John Terpstra wrote a detailed analysis about the challenges of bringing Linux to the SMB space. The numbers are a bit stale (though I used his methodology to update the gloabl numbers above), but the scope is basically the same: for every enterprise-level business in the world, there’s almost 500 SMBs–and that’s likely a conservative estimate, given the burgeoning economies in the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

So what has been done about this problem? We’ve seen some nods towards this channel from Novell and Red Hat, but the sheer challenge of creating such a broad sales channel to SMBs has held these and other vendors back while Microsoft continues to take advantage of its OEM relationships to essentially coast into the SMB space.

To sell to the more diverse SMB market, there were three primary ways to do it: direct, value-added resellers (VARs), and franchise arrangements. Emphasis on were, because now the cloud may allow on innovative Linux firm to quickly and painlessly integrate into SMBs’ IT infrastructure.

If you’ve had any interest in Linux for SMB platforms, then you’ve likely heard of ClarkConnect, a Red Hat-based server and gateway solution for SMBs that uses remote management and a strong array of FOSS tools to provide Web, print, file, and mail services for SMBs on a subscription-based model. But ClarkConnect is a name from the past: it’s been integrated with some CentOS tools and re-named ClearOS. More interestingly, it’s now being stewarded by an entity known as ClearFoundation.

ClearFoundation’s mission statement is pretty straightforward: “ClearFoundation is an Incorporated Society dedicated to the vision that every small organization and distributed IT environment on the globe deserves proper security, filtration, and management tools. Internet access is the great equalizer in economics, but each network requires security and management. ClearFoundation is dedicated to providing essential tools to everyone that might need it.”

The idea behind ClearOS is to capitalize on existing cloud services and the infrastructure to provide new specialized services, like ClearCenter, a software management and updating tool that provides a variety of products, new features, third-party software and, technical and platform services. It’s much like ClarkConnect’s toolset, except there’s a lot more use of cloud technology and ClearFoundation is dedicated to keeping ClearOS as open as possible to foster a broader network of partners and developers.

Given his passion for bringing Linux into the SMB space, it’s little surprise to see Terpstra at the helm of this group, as President of ClearFoundation. He’s tossing a lot of expertise into the ClearOS mix, both technical with his knowledge of Samba and other technologies and political with his sense of open-source savvy.

ClearOS has an excellent chance to finally provide the security, stability, and cost-savings of Linux and other FOSS software to the SMB space.

Article Source Community-cation
October 9, 2009, 6:23 am

It’s interesting what the same thing means to different people. We see it time and again in the Linux world, of course, as the myriad approaches to Linux have created different distros, desktop environments, applications… put something as malleable as Linux and open source software in front of a bunch of really talented people, and you get some really fantastic output.

I’m sure that’s what Cisco had in mind then they kicked off the “Think Inside the Box” content last fall. The company invited application developers to create Linux-based applications for the Cisco Application Extension Platform (AXP). The winner of the contest, announced this week, received US$50,000 and a chance to work on this cutting-edge routing technology. But given the big turnout for the contest, I’m sure Cisco’s counting themselves among the winners, too.

Here’s the short version of AXP: Cisco makes routers and network devices. AXP is an open module that is hosted on Cisco’s Integrated Services Router (ISR) and leverages Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System (IOS). External applications coded for the ISRs are actually written for AXP, which is a module that runs Linux certified by the Linux Standard Base and contains open APIs into which developers can tap.

Even shorter: developers can build and run apps out in the network itself, rather than on the “traditional” client or server.

For the past couple of months, I was one of the seven finalist judges who went over the entrants and chose the top three entries from a narrowed-down field of 10. And I mean narrowed: over 900 entrants submitted their ideas to the contest, which offered a US$100,000 prize purse. I felt a little bit like the odd man out on the distinguished panel: I had a distinct lack of “VP” of anything in my title and wasn’t an analyst. Still, Cisco had made the parameters to entrants crystal clear, so the criteria was straightforward.

Easier said than done. The common theme among the entries was not only to build a cool app, but find a strong business use for an ISR-based tool. The finalists all met this bar easily, so it became a matter of degrees to see which ones rose to the top. I am pleased to say that after the final round of judging (held while I was at LinuxCon), my top three were the same as the final winners.

Bernhard Beckmann’s Team BugsBernie from Germany won US$20,000 for their Integrated Surveillance System application. Basically, their app turns an IP phone into a silent microphone/monitor that tracks noise levels in the room. If their is too loud a noise (based on a configurable decibel level), a notification is sent where ever you want: a security company, the actual owner of the room, whomever. Oh, and try to pull the cord out of the phone, and the alarm goes off, too.

The Indian team Team Enhancers raked in US$30,000 for their Local Advertising Mesh Network Platform, which they abbreviated as LAMP, which for a Linux editor is wrong on a couple of levels. Grammar aside, Rajesh Kotagiri’s team impressed me because of all of the applicants they had the fastest direct-revenue path: essentially, it uses AXP as an ad server, sending out ads to any LCD display connected to the network. In their proposal, Kotagiri indicated that retail stores would be a great first market to deploy this app.

The top winner was Spain’s Team MADnetwork, led by David Perez. I have to give Team MADnetwork props for most creative video demo: to simulate the control of multiple building facilities (such as HVAC; lighting; plumbing; and presence, fire, flooding and smoke detectors), Perez and his team filmed a Rube-Goldberg-looking device with a fan, a sunlamp, a set of window blinds… well, you get the idea. But their idea was totally pro: remotely control different building systems within AXP, reducing the need for multiple control systems. By centralizing remote office system (like branches), companies will save enormous amounts of money, lower energy costs, and (my personal favorite) help save the planet.

Given the strengths of these finalists, I would say Cisco definitely got their money’s worth. And, like the creativity within the contest, people outside the contest are viewing its impact in different ways. Matt Asay sees it as Cisco’s debut as a major Linux software vendor. I won’t dispute that, but for me, the importance of this contest is that it demonstrates how commercial software vendors of any stripe are going to need to work if we truly are moving towards the cloud.

To me, AXP and the ISR platform is analogous to the broader notion of cloud computing, in that clouds are also (for now) vendor-controlled, and developing applications for them means you have to go through the vendor not only for access but sometimes for the tools. It’s hard to hack code on a phone or router, unless it’s open, and it’s hard to build on a cloud, because many of us don’t have a multi-rack datacenter upon which to build and test apps.

Cisco has led by example here by opening their code to the development community. They have kickstarted innovation onto a completely new platform that would have otherwise gone untouched by developers outside the Cisco ecosystem.

All vendors need to take note of what Cisco has done here. I don’t mean contests and prizes–open source is not a game show. But it is an opportunity for real innovation. If vendors in the cloud or any other new platform want that innovation on platforms that are not easily accessed, then opening hardware, development environments, emulators, and code is what it will really take to get innovation going.

Congrats to the Cisco winners and finalists. You did good, and hopefully you’re the start of something bigger in the commercial software arena: the drive to more open development and innovation.

Right after LinuxCon this year was the co-located Linux Plumbers Conference. This is not an official Linux Foundation event, per se, but we work closely with the organizers to help them any way we can. It’s a great event for system and kernel developers to attend, and this year was no exception.¬†

A lot of LinuxCon attendees stuck around for the Plumbers Conference,  to delve deep into the kernel, utility, and library programming that surrounds Linux. This is deep-topic stuff, and attendees I spoke with were not disappointed.

Now you can view for yourself, as we’ve just posted the first batch of videos from the Plumbers Conference on the LF Video site. This set of videos includes discussions on SELinux, networking, clustered filesystems, video processing, and more.

More videos will be coming soon, so keep checking back at the conference page on LF Video. Don’t forget, LinuxCon keynote videos are still available to watch, and with registration, you can catch LinuxCon sessions, too.

In the meantime, here’s Linus Torvalds’ LPC tutorial on his other big project, git:

While there’s little substitute for actually attending an event, so many things were said and done at this year’s LinuxCon, we had to get videos of the event out for public viewing as soon as we could.

So, thanks to the fantastic work from the crew over at Linux Pro Magazine, videos are available from nearly all sessions of LinuxCon.

First, for everyone, all of the videos from the keynotes and roundtables at LinuxCon are available free of charge here at Linux.com and on the Linux Foundation Video site.

That’s some really key material. We already posted Mark Shuttleworth’s keynote last week, because of the content of his talk and all of the community interest that surrounded his remarks.

Now you can watch the recordings of the kernel developer roundtable, with James Bottomley, Jon Corbet, Greg Kroah-Hartmann, Ted Ts’o, Chris Wright, and Linus Torvalds, where Torvalds indicated that he believes the Linux kernel has become too bloated with features.

Visitors can also view Joe Brockmeier’s entertaining talk comparing the music industry to Linux, and the lessons that industry can give Linux as we move forward.

Moblin is one of the hot technologies in the Linux world, where embedded Linux on mobile devices was already pretty hot. Intel’s Dirk Hohndel laid it all out for LinuxCon attendees, which you can watch, too.

If you like use cases for Linux, the detail doesn’t get much better than Noah Broadwater’s discussion of how he and his IT staff of 13 successfully implemented SUSE Linux and other open source technologies at Sesame Workshop. It’s a story that rings well with the Linux community, because our collective familiarity with Sesame, and because of the resounding success of the migration.

There’s more, of course:

  • Jim Zemlin kicks off the LinuxCon event with a great look at some important numbers in the Linux ecosystem.
  • In another roundtable moderated by Alfresco’s Matt Asay, a panel of Linux users and analysts that included Broadwater, Anthony Roby, David Buckholtz, and Jeffrey S. Hammond identified areas where enterprises can legitimately expect to shave IT costs with open source, and where they can’t.
  • IBM’s Bob Sutor highlighted three areas of great opportunity as well as challenge for Linux: the accelerating market for cloud computing, Linux as a significant operating system for mainframes, and the hope for Linux on the desktop in the first LinuxCon keynote.
  • Bdale Garbee from HP merged his love of rocketry and open source to explore where innovation really comes from, and if we are at risk of losing one of our community’s greatest collective strengths.

These are all great sessions, and I hope you enjoy them. If you are interested in even more detail and education, most of the sessions of the conference are also available now for a US$49 registration fee at Linux Pro Magazine’s streaming site. If you couldn’t make it to the event this year, now you can gain knowledge and information for a fraction of the event’s cost from the comfort of your office or home.

That’s a pretty good deal, and I know it’s going to help spread a lot of information around the community, as will the keynote videos. You have the chance to see for yourself what’s happening in Linux, and who’s saying what.

An addendum: anyone interested in photos of LinuxCon can take a look now, as well.

Article Source Linus Torvalds’s Blog
October 3, 2009, 2:10 pm

So Tove is off learning how to judge Tae-Kwon-Do competitions, and the kids are roaming the neighborhood like jackals (or maybe they’re upstairs reading a book. Who knows? I take a “hands off” approach to parenting).

So I’m stalking the kitchen looking for food, my trusted canine companion by my side. My prey hides quietly on a remote shelf, but I outsmart the cardboard packaging easily (along with the NASA-designed internal metallic pouch), and am soon ready to feast on the guts of some random Indian lentil stew.

And that’s when it hits me.

A quiet rattling emanates ominously from inside the nutritionally uninteresting outer shell as I’m about to discard it. I go on high alert, and ancient instincts immediately raise my adrenaline levels. What’s going on?

So I look inside, and in addition to the metallic pouch with the actual food, my meal has come with a CD full of (and I quote) “Authentic Indian Cuisine”. No, wait! Underneath that it says “Indian Classical Duets”.

Which brings me to today’s title: “WTF?” Have I been leading an unusually sheltered life, and this is actually normal? What’s next? Happy Meals that come with Beyonce CD’s?

Now I’m intrigued, and considering going through our other indian ready-made meals. Was this a one-off? Or had I not just noticed before, and do all those $2.99 pre-made indian meal pouches come with these odd musical accompaniments?

The fight against software patents got a big boost yesterday when one Linux company filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court urging it to uphold last year’s Bilski vs. Doll decision in the Federal appeals court.

That vendor was Red Hat, which really comes as no surprise. With the veiled threats of software patent enforcement coming from Redmond, and the not-so-veiled threat of any one of a number of patent trolls getting ready to use a purchased patent to pursue litigation, Red Hat would get a huge benefit from the elimination of software patents. Of course, so will everyone else writing code today.

Here’s what’s happening: in 2008, the Federal appeals court upheld a Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) ruling that Bernard Bilski’s method of risk assessment of bad weather through commodities trading was not patent-eligible under Section 101 of the Patent act.

The Court made up a test to benchmark if claimed ideas like this could actually be patentable. The idea has to either be tied to a particular machine or apparatus or transform something into a different state or thing. The Court stated in its ruling that this should be the only applicable test.

And that’s the key thing: if the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the Bilski case on Nov. 9, upholds this ruling against Bilski, the clause “tied to a particular machine or apparatus” will have enormous implications on software patents. Because this means that abstract ideas, particularly the algorithms and process found in, say, software code–are not patentable. This would put all of the PTO’s approvals of software patents into question and very likely decimate the current notion of software patents.

Red Hat’s amicus (“friend of the court”) brief is consistent–they filed a similar brief about how software patents adversely effect the software development industry when the Bilski case was in the Appeals Court. Yesterday’s brief also “asked the Supreme Court to adopt the machine-or-transformation test set forth in the Bilski case and to make clear that it excludes software from patentability,” according to Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurt in a Thursday blog posting.

If you’re wondering how one court decision can make such a huge difference, recall that it was decisions in the 90s that changed the definition of patentability back then, which led to the current mess we’re in.

“Software patents now number in the hundreds of thousands, and they cover abstract technology in vague and difficult-to-interpret terms. Because software products may involve thousands of patentable components, developers face the risk of having to defend weak-but-costly patent infringement lawsuits. A new class of business enterprise–patent trolls–has developed to file lawsuits to exploit this system,” Red Hat noted in a press release.

Patent litigation is a big source of pain for software development companies, which often has to hold patent portfolios of their own just as a defensive measure to keep from getting sued. Patent litigation is particularly expensive, too, according to Keith Bergelt, CEO of the Open Invention Network (OIN).

In a talk at LinuxCon last week, Bergelt stated: “The unfortunate thing about patent litigation is that it often falls within a seam. Companies have to often hire outside counsel, which is very expensive.”

To illustrate the danger of patents, Bergelt’s OIN, a consortium of six companies (IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony) was recently instrumental in the purchase of 22 allegedly Linux-related patents being sold in private auction by Microsoft. Allied Security Trust I, another defensive patent pool, bought the patents from Microsoft. OIN has a patent treaty with AST I, and was able to pick up the patents.

Bergelt explained that AST I often does not hold patents like this for any great length of time if AST I sees no danger

In his talk, Bergelt maintained that Microsoft advertised these patents as being Linux-related. Microsoft has been moving lately towards getting more revenue from its existing patent portfolio, Bergelt explained, and if such a patent sale just happened to land in the hands of a non-practicing entity, so much the better for Redmond. The fact that Microsoft sold the patents to AST I rather than OIN convinces Bergelt that Microsoft had an ulterior motive to sow FUD in the community, even while Microsoft would have plausible deniability in selling to known patent defense fund like AST I.

With all of the complexity of patents and the litigation and business that surrounds them, trying to code without trepidation in such a insane environment is, well, insane. And while I applaud the efforts of OIN, I agree with Bergelt’s other statement in his presentation: “Reform is key.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Red Hat’s efforts and all the others involved in Bilski will convince the Supreme Court justices to uphold Bilski, so real reform can begin.

Article Source Andy Updegrove’s Blog
September 30, 2009, 10:38 am

Two weeks ago, I wrote an analysis of the governance structure of the CodePlex Foundation, a new open source-focused foundation launched by Microsoft. My opinion, as expressed in that piece, was that significant changes (which I outlined) would need to be made to the Foundation before it would be taken seriously by Microsoft’s competitors, and more especially, by individual open source developers.

But what about the business premise for the Foundation itself? Let’s say that CodePlex does restructure in such a way as to create a trusted, safe place for work to be done to support the open source software development model. Is there be a need for such an organization, and if so, what needs could it help meet.

As with my last piece, I’ll use the Q&A approach to make my points.

Read the Rest Here