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Open-Source Startups Throw Coming-Out Party

At the Open Source Business Conference this week, a hot new crop of open-source startups, including Centeris, XenSource, and rPath, showcased their upcoming wares.
A new crop of open-source startups, including Centeris, Active Endpoints, XenSource and rPath, are moving out of stealth mode as the next wave of application deployment swings into high gear.

At the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) East in Newton, Mass., software executives from Sun Microsystems and Intel said the adoption of open standards has accelerated the pace of innovation and open-source application development.

For instance, on Monday at the conference, Bellevue, Wash.-based Centeris highlighted an open-source project called Likewise Open Agent and its commercial Likewise solution, formally unveiled last week, that allows Windows administrators to manage Linux servers from the widely used Microsoft Management Console (MMC). Funambol, Redwood City, Calif., showed off Sync4j Server, an open-source mobile synchronization server that uses SyncML, and Shelton, Conn.-based Active Endpoints spotlighted its open-source project and commercial Active BPEL engine, which uses the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) standard.

"There are lots of opportunities for new business models," Sun CTO Hal Stern said, noting that many ISVs are innovating on top of de facto standards and industry-approved standards. Past attempts to usurp open standards such as TCP/IP, the backbone of today's Internet, with proprietary protocols such as DecNet and Token Ring failed, he added.

On Tuesday at the event, The Free Standards Group and Linux Standard Base (LSB) announced that LSB has achieved official approval as an International Standardization Organization and International Electrotechnical Commission standard, signifying the maturation of the Linux operating system.

Dirk Hohndel, director of Linux and open-source software strategy at Intel, and a former CTO of Suse, agreed that standards are driving the open-source sector forward.

"There's one common thread: BPEL, SyncML and MMC. These are all standards of some shape or form that help companies make something happen," said Hohndel, whose keynote speech followed Stern's at the OSBC event Tuesday.

Stern said five open-source business models are showing some success, namely traditional content-subscription models favored by Red Hat and JBoss, open-source stack integration, and deployment and support models backed by services firms SpikeSource and Optaros. Others are taking a stab at success with hosted services and derivative open-source models used in OEM distribution for embedded devices and appliances.

At a private event at OSBC sponsored by North Bridge Venture Partners, the CEOs of open-source suppliers Optaros, SpikeSource, Active Endpoint, SugarCRM, MySQL and rPath faced off against technology buyers on the merits and deficits of open-source applications.

ISVs showcasing open-source projects and commercial offerings based upon them at OSBC included the following:

• In December, Centeris plans to release its new LikeWise Linux server management and configuration tool that makes it easier to integrate Linux into Windows environments.

• Funambol announced the beta launch of its Sync4j Portal, which will allow users to wirelessly synchronize their address books and calendars between PCs and any mobile device, including BlackBerry, Outlook, Palm, iPod, Windows Mobile or SyncML devices.

• Sri Lankan ISV WS02 in January plans to ship its Tungsten lightweight middleware server for service-oriented architectures (SOAs). The offering, which is based on Apache Axis2, Geronimo and Hibernate, supports SOAP, WSDL, WS-Security and WS-ReliableMessaging and will go up against BEA WebLogic.

• Active Endpoints showed off its ActiveWebFlow engine for IBM WebSphere and BEA WebLogic. Released in May, ActiveWebFlow is designed for building composite applications and unifies key standard such as SOAP, WSDL, BPEL and J2EE

• ActiveGrid is targeting its ActiveGrid Application Builder and LAMP Application Server, released in August, at enterprise customers that wish to develop Web 2.0 applications using rich AJAX interfaces. The San Francisco ISV uses several XML standards, including BPEL, XML Schema, XPath and XForms.

• XenSource, Cambridge, United Kingdom, is preparing to ship commercial solutions based on Xen 3.0 this quarter and next quarter. The Xen open-source virtualization project it oversees is backed by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, IBM, Red Hat, Novell, Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Unisys and is being promoted as the de facto open-source virtualization standard.

• EnterpriseDB, Edison, N.J., rolled out EnterpriseDB 2005 Release 2, which follows the August release of version 1.0 of EnterpriseDB 2005, a high-end relational database based on the PostgreSQL open-source database that runs many Oracle applications.

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