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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.

6. Acacia Subsidiary Sues Linux Distributor.

Clearly, 2007 has been a good year for lawyers, given all the disputes swirling around open source. One example of the rampant litigation is Acacia Research which, through its subsidiary IP Innovation, filed suit against Red Hat and Novell, claiming its patents covered code in Linux.

Acacia is a Texas company set up to buy patents and seek a return from other companies on its patent portfolio. It hired former Microsoft general manager for intellectual property licensing, Brad Brunnell, less than two weeks before filing suit against Red Hat and Novell. The firm has spun off 50 subsidiaries and those subsidiaries are engaged in 33 lawsuits seeking patent payments.

Microsoft said it had nothing to do with the filings, noting that it's a target of two of Acacia subsidiaries' lawsuits. By coincidence, less than two weeks before the filings against the Linux distributors, Microsoft general manager of intellectual property licensing, Brad Brunell, joined Acacia as a senior VP.

5. Citrix Buys XenSource For $500 Million.

Just when you thought open source code was about the sharing of code, establishing community, and cherishing the Western intellectual tradition, Marc Fleury, founder of JBoss, up and sold his company -- in effect, the entire JBoss application server open source project -- to Red Hat for $350 million. Then he retired from programming. Imagine that.

That was back in 2006 and, for a while, it seemed as though no open source code company was likely to command that type of premium again. Oracle bought 25-employee Sleepycat, supplier of the embeddable BerkeleyDB open source database for an undisclosed price -- but it was less than $350 million.

Well, the bar didn't stay at that mark for very long. In August, Citrix Systems announced it was buying open source virtualization vendor XenSource for $500 million. Virtualization may be hot, but XenSource had been struggling to compete with market giant VMware and was basically not getting anywhere.

Now virtualization is being rapidly commoditized. Both Oracle and Sun Microsystems announced virtualization products based on open source, while Xen continues as an open source project supported by IBM, HP, and others, despite Citrix laying $500 million out on the table.

The Citrix move, however, moved XenSource into the Microsoft camp of virtualization, a group of allies hoping to compete with VMware. XenSource had already been helping Microsoft with its Viridian hypervisor, and Citrix has worked closely with Microsoft for years on application virtualization products, such as Presentation Server, that sit on top of the mainstream Microsoft product line. Still, Citrix had better hurry to launch its XenSource product line if it wants to get its money back.

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