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12/4/2007
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Top 10 Open-Source Software Stories Of 2007

Yes, there were lawsuits. But there were also important advances in GPL, Apache, Web services, and Java, which made commercial software suppliers more worried than ever.

The past year was the most tumultuous in recent memory for the field of open-source software. Instead of mere sniping, such as the "Truth About Linux" campaign, open source has come under more direct assault.

It's almost axiomatic at this point: the more open source succeeds in the enterprise, the more threatening it is to entrenched interests. IT managers are asking the questions that are making many commercial software suppliers set for battle. "If commercial software is so good, how come it can be matched by a group working for free?" "If free is bad, show me the value your company has added to its commercial code that makes it worth more?" "I'm plugged into this project. What have you got that's better?"

The dominant software suppliers have yet to answer, not to a bunch of wild-eyed, wobbly coders, nor to the IT managers with the purchasing power. And that's a different ball game.

If you want to slow down open source code's onslaught, subtlety isn't going to work. It's time to bring out the heavy artillery. And, alongside the actual deals and advances in open source, that's what we saw in 2007.


10. WSO2, Oxygen For Web Services.

In 2007, WSO2 emerged from Sri Lanka as a rapidly maturing company and offered a glimpse of what open source might do as it spreads in skilled hands to developing economies around the world.

Sanjiva Weerawarana was one of the key Web services developers inside IBM Research, having co-authored specifications for WSDL, BPEL for Web Services, WS-Adressing, and WS-Eventing. He sits on the W3C's Web Service Description Working Group.

As a key driver of IBM's Web services strategy, he conceived of Web services not as individual points of service but as an overall platform, and after 8 years, left IBM to found WSO2. Weerawarana and WSO2 developers have been key contributors to the Apache Software Foundation's Axis second-generation, high-speed SOAP and Apache Synapse enterprise service bus.

Now his firm is building an application server and enterprise service bus using the Apache open source code as a base. WSO2 products are open source as well, with the firm selling technical support.

WSO2 is rapidly building out an SOA platform around high-speed Web services. That might not be every enterprise's cup of tea, but WSO2 is working with a fresh set of concepts to show what Web services can do and how they can be rapidly implemented. It will be fun to watch how far they can go with that approach.


9. Medsphere Vs. Shreeve: Open Source Gone Awry.

On Oct. 19, one of the bitterest battles to emerge from an erstwhile open source project, the dispute between Medsphere Systems and its CTO, Steve Shreeve, was resolved, and amen to that.

It's not often that the open lines of communication and shared trust of an open source project lead to a $50 million lawsuit. That's what the Medsphere board of directors was seeking from Shreeve, the start-up firm's co-founder and largest shareholder, for posting elements of its OpenVista electronic health care system to the SourceForge open source project site.

Shreeve claimed he was just doing what the company had said a dozen times that it was committed to do, and countersued. He cited public statements by then-CEO Ken Kizer and board member and former CEO Larry Augustin, pledging to make the code public. The board of directors charged him and his brother, Scott, the firm's chief medical officer, with violating their fiduciary duty and trying to start a competing venture. The firm's complaint, filed in Southern California U.S. District Court, sought $50 million in damages from the Shreeves.

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