On the eve of LinuxWorld, vnunet.com speaks again to the Open Source Development Labs' open source architecture specialist William Weinberg about recruitment plans for independent software vendors and more end users, and its fight back against the Microsoft publicity machine.
What are we likely to see coming out of OSDL in the near future?
More aggressive recruiting, and increasing the number of end-user companies that are members. A number of financial institutions and other vertically focused companies have announced their membership. Lots of companies want to come to the table but some of them are reluctant to publicise their membership or otherwise publicise their Linux adoption.
We believe there is the general sense of [companies not going public for fear of] compromising their position with Linux as a competitive advantage, and because of the current legal climate due to SCO and other phenomena.
What are the inhibitors to Linux adoption that come out frequently?
One of my jobs is to try and attack some of the broad inhibitors, such as an understanding of the legal implications of the different open source licences [and] notions of total cost of ownership [TCO].
Each market has its own set of inhibitors. [For example, with] ISVs, Linux adoption is being complicated by the fact that there are many different distributions or many versions of each distribution, which raises the cost for an ISV to support the needed distributions to do well in the Linux market.
That's virtually comparable to supporting one version of Solaris or one version of each flavour of Windows. That makes the ISV business equation more difficult, [which is] an inhibitor.
So are you saying that Linux is fragmenting like Unix?
No, I don't want to say the distributions or flavours are forcing this. Some of the same dangers exist in that they do differentiate themselves in things like the installation tool set and paradigm [and] how the different pieces of the operating system are packaged: are they in Red Hat packages, are they in Debian packages, are they in modules or are they distributed as source?
And those things that differentiate the distribution, [which] on the one hand give the market its particular charm and flavour, are not always beneficial to the companies that desire to have the most leverage, such as ISVs. There needs to be some middle ground.
There is a lot of TCO research on Linux versus Microsoft. How are you going to address this?
There has been a lot of information published that I cannot say is unbiased on the side of the lower cost of ownership for certain proprietary solutions.
A lot of it is based on the fact that the hardware industry has taken great pains to supply its offerings to that proprietary platform, and that there is a large community of integrators and other knowledge workers familiar with those environments.
And there has not been a vocal party of analysts and supporters of the open source story to provide a business-centric counter.
That's another thing the OSDL is working on, but we want to do it in a very unbiased fashion. If we find that certain areas of Linux are more expensive we are not going to cover it up. If we find that other areas are definitively advantageous we are going to talk about them.
The fact is, if someone were to produce a TCO study that showed Linux in an incredibly favourable light, but it was a flawed study and that fact was known, it would do Linux adoption no favours.
We believe that the TCO is superior, but at any given point in time there will be applications or market niches where there is equilibrium or where Linux is out of balance, and we view that as an inhibitor.
By identifying where the TCO is greater, it will help us move Linux forward by addressing that in those niche markets or applications. We're in the middle of a study with ISVs.
The ISV survey: when will that be finished?
The survey is going to be presented [at LinuxWorld] on 2 August, and include other third parties. It has to do with the number of distributions supported, the costs for supporting distributions, and other factors ISVs look at in their adoption costs.
Are any new OSDL members likely to be added soon?
There are some big-name companies that will be announced at LinuxWorld. Two incredibly visible ISVs are finalising their membership, as is a well-known manufacturer of terminals and thin clients.
Would I be close if I said that might be a 'Wyse' decision?
You'd be fairly close, yes. There are about five announcements of note at the Linux forum expo. But sometimes those dates can get moved around a little bit.
Are there any significant names missing that you think ought to be OSDL members?
We've identified around two to three dozen ISVs in particular that we would like to see involved as members or as advisors to the datacentre effort.
We are hosting an event at LinuxWorld for ISVs to communicate with us, as an ongoing series of what we are informally calling our 'ISV forum'. I believe it's 2 August in the evening.
Finally, we know that Linus Torvalds and Andrew Morton control work on the Linux kernel. How is this working?
We support Linus, Andrew and others financially, both directly and indirectly, for development in the community. Linus and the kernel team go in the direction they see fit and we're helping to publish their requirements specifications.
These are laid out in front of the community, and different elements of the community will take them up depending on their vision of merit and their vision of the commercial relevance.
When we talk about the community we have a tendency to look backwards in time to where that community was three or four or more years ago: an aggregation of independent and independent-minded developers who were not doing it as part of their day jobs. They were not doing Linux development attached to a corporate interest with a Linux focus.
But today, at least half of the folks doing open source development on Linux are doing it as their day job, as part of corporate initiatives in companies like Novell, IBM, AMD and Intel.
So there's much more focus on commercial participation in open source development. It's still for the general good.
Part one of this interview can be read here.
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