Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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6/25/2007
09:36 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Open Notebook, Open Sources: How The GPL Grew

I'd like to open my notebook to some revelations, comments, and maybe just plain trivia discovered in the pursuit of news on open source. For example, EnterpriseDB, which has billed itself as a replacement for Oracle databases, just replaced an Oracle system at FTD, the floral delivery service. And I thought "replacing Oracle" was just a clever marketing line from Andy Astor.

I'd like to open my notebook to some revelations, comments, and maybe just plain trivia discovered in the pursuit of news on open source. For example, EnterpriseDB, which has billed itself as a replacement for Oracle databases, just replaced an Oracle system at FTD, the floral delivery service. And I thought "replacing Oracle" was just a clever marketing line from Andy Astor.Andy Astor is CEO and co-founder of EnterpriseDB, a commercial company based on the PostgreSQL open source database. EnterpriseDB sells its product, but supports developers involved in the open source project. It employs lead architect Bruce Momjian in his work on PostgreSQL, for example. So is EnterpriseDB an open source company like MySQL or a closed source company? Nobody seems to know for sure. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm more interested in what it can do.

Can EnterpriseDB slip in the back door at enterprises and start replacing Oracle databases? We're pretty sure it's not going to march through the front door and do so, at least not this year, for the bet-the-business financial applications.

But EnterpriseDB is being used as the reporting system for FTD's ARGO flower delivery system. It got the job because database reporting applications, developed for Oracle, work fine with EnterpriseDB. This is a behind-the-scenes job, not a frontline job, but nevertheless, EnterpriseDB has made its point. It works in place of Oracle in a production system. And FTD saves 83% on the license.

XenSource, the vendor of the open source hypervisor, Xen, has signed a deal with NEC in which NEC will embed hypervisor in its platform management software, SigmaSystemCenter. NEC is looking to include virtualization management in its system and is relying on XenSource as partner number one in generating virtual machines and producing the tools to manage them. NEC is underrated as a software vendor. This allilance makes XenSource look a little more like VMware.

When it comes to bragging rights, the Geronimo application server has a momentary advantage over Red Hat's JBoss.

Early compatibility with Java Enterprise Edition may be Geronimo's only advantage, given JBoss' huge installed base and Geronimo's meager one. Nevertheless, you can see for yourself that the Geronimo development group's Java expertise has paid off. It's listed alongside BEA WebLogic Server 10, SAP's NetWeaver 7.1, and Sun's own Java Application Server 9 as having passed the suite of thousands of tests that ensure Java products behave predictably and work together. JBoss isn't there yet. At the June 13 Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, Andrew Updegrove, Boston software license attorney and member of the Linux Foundation Board, said there's no single guaranteed defense against a Microsoft patent claim against Linux. But he listed a set of defenses that, "taken across the board, represent meaningful progress" in supplying a stiff defense.

The Open Invention Network is collecting patent contributions that can be used in Linux' defense. In its first year, it has collected 100 patents, some of them of strategic value to Linux' defense.

The Open Source As Prior Art project seeks to get programmers to dig up and tag their previously created work, creating a reference library of prior art that examiners in the U.S. Patent Office can refer to. If open source developers build up these references, it will be harder for proprietary companies to extract software patents from the Patent Office.

The Supreme Court recently concluded that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had imposed too lax a standard for measuring the value of applications on the U.S. Patent Office. That, in turn, makes the patents issued under that lax enforcement more subject to challenge, Updegrove said.

Andrew Morton, Linux kernel developer, on the vulnerability of Linux to challenge: "The SCO lawsuit was very useful in clarifying that Linux isn't easily challenged. Millions were spent to substantiate the point." The SCO Group in Santa Cruz, Calif., has charged, without making headway in court so far, that IBM and Novell appropriated its Unix intellectual property when they made contributions to Linux.

If you're thinking about attacking open source code, you might think twice before attacking this customer. The U.S. Navy has adopted a policy of requiring that open source code be considered in every software acquisition that the Navy makes, in an order signed by Navy CIO Robert J. Carey on June 5. Karen Copenhaver, a panelist at the Linux Summit and partner in the law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart, on how the revolutionary General Public License, which gives rights to use GPL code to all comers, got it's start: "I think the whole thing grew because the lawyers weren't all over it."

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