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10/13/2004
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Enterprise Open Source: Big Names, Bigger Money

There's a new game in town for unemployed software executives who need a new gig: enterprise open-source services. Judging from the money and management talent moving into this market, it's less likely to be a gold rush than a no-holds-barred cage match. And that's great news for firms that need a clear technology roadmap before they venture into open-source territory.

There's a new game in town for unemployed software executives who need a new gig: enterprise open-source services. Judging from the money and management talent moving into this market, it's less likely to be a gold rush than a no-holds-barred cage match. And that's great news for firms that need a clear technology roadmap before they venture into open-source territory.

Over the past week, we've seen two new startups break into the enterprise open-source market. First, three former BEA executives, working with a couple of high-powered VC backers, launched SourceLabs. The company's goal: to be the "Dell of open-source software," assembling, configuring and certifying a variety of third-party open-source products for specific enterprise scenarios.

Then late last week, former Sun and Marimba executive Kim Polese, along with ex-Oracle president Ray Lane, announced SpikeSource. Their firm, which is also getting strong VC support through Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (where Lane is a general partner), aims to do pretty much the same thing: provide "validated and certified open-source stacks" for enterprise customers. SpikeSource has already introduced an alpha version of its certified LAMPJ stack, and the company plans to expand its offerings to include more than 50 open-source products, all tested and certified for various enterprise usage scenarios.

This isn't a completely novel business model. JBoss, like both SourceLabs and SpikeSource, sells maintenance and support services for an open-source enterprise software stack, although unlike its new competitors JBoss also builds the software it supports. In addition, both Novell and more recently Red Hat have invested heavily in their ability to build (or buy), integrate and support IT infrastructure solutions based on their enterprise Linux offerings. Now that the last pieces of an open-source enterprise software stack are falling into place, however, there's an even bigger opportunity for companies that can help customers make the right open-source technology choices.

All of this adds up to bad news for Microsoft, whose image of "enterprise Open Source" as an activity involving the comic-book-store guy on "The Simpsons" looks more absurd by the day. In fact, enterprise open-source integration and certification services could be the single most important weapon against Redmond's continuing FUD campaigns. As these firms--and others like them still to come--build, certify, install and document hard ROI data on their open-source implementations, we'll see who ends up with a more convincing story to tell their enterprise customers.

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