While the future of JavaOne is anybody’s guess, it’s interesting to note that Microsoft and IBM are both delivering keynotes at JavaOne this year.  This is Microsoft’s first JavaOne keynote and IBM’s first in at least 2 years.

Microsoft’s Dan’l Lewin will be discussing .NET and Java interoperability.  It’s great to see .NET and Java interoperability get more industry attention.  For all the .NET vs. Java hype, at least one-third of customers (an old Gartner stat) have both .NET and Java.  In fact, I spoke to two customers in the last month who are interested in the WebSphere CEA feature pack and have a .NET front end speaking to a Java back end.  Good thing we designed for interopability from day one.

It seems there may be a cloud angle to the Sun & Microsoft announcement.  I’d hazard a guess that Sun and Microsoft will announce support for “Java Services” on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, similar to the .NET Services currently supported.  It’s always seemed awkward to me that Azure would be a Windows/.NET centric (only) cloud.  Why would Microsoft choose not to address the one-third of customers that have .NET and Java in their shop?  I have to believe that Sheila Gulati, Steven Martin, Sam Ramji, Robert Duffner, Bill Hilf and others at Microsoft are thinking along these lines.

IBM’s Craig Hayman, will be discussing Extreme Transaction Processing (XTP) and Elasticity, two hot trends in the enterprise Java arena.  As core business applications built with Java face exponential user and transaction growth, enterprises can’t really rely on a “Fail whale” strategy.  Elasticity and XTP work hand in hand to address this growth with an eye on reducing costs across peaks and valleys.  Craig will also cover how IBM’s efforts in the open community, both through open standards, and open source, are driving developer productivity and innovtion.

I would have liked to attend JavaOne this year, but we’re taking wee Isaac to visit family in Ireland.  If he fares well on this 6 hr flight, the ~20hr trip to India is up next!  Clouds, Java, .NET and XTP will surely be waiting we get back.

I just posted this as a comment to Josh’s reply to my reply to his JavaOne 2008 pitch:

Josh, come on dude, you’re lumping me in with VCs now?? ;-)

About 1.5 years ago, I used to argue that a project isn’t “a true OSS project” if there isn’t an open community with input and control spread across multiple unrelated entities. I used to hold Apache projects or kernel.org as the gold standard. But then I looked around at OSS vendors that the market held up as poster children. I discussed/argued this notion of “true OSS project” with JBossians. In the end, I realized that single-vendor controlled communities were going to be the rule, not the exception. But I guess you’re suggesting that even when there is a single vendor in control of the project, the vendor can choose to concede some power to the community?

I agree with you 100%. The companies that I list are financially successful, but, relatively speaking, less successful at building a community. As you point out, this has a lot to do with adding financial targets to the open source business model equation. It’s interesting you mention that some of these companies have reached out to you and others for advice on growing OSS communities.

I truly want to believe that the majority of OSS vendors will choose to be more open to third party input and thereby drive a more vibrant community around their projects. However, I need to be convinced that any of the larger OSS vendors will choose to change their business practices. And if these more well known OSS vendors aren’t about to go “truly open” (whatever that means ;-) , it’s unlikely that a VC-backed OSS startup is going to risk losing control of their OSS project.

Let me put my business hat on and play devils advocate: Why exactly do larger OSS vendors need to encourage a more vibrant community around their single-vendor controlled OSS project than what they already have? These leading OSS vendors will continue to drive community traction as new users seek OSS solutions and turn to “the leaders”. More importantly, these OSS vendors are faced with the challenge of converting an already large group of users into paying customers. Does growing the community pie to a larger number truly impact the slice that is willing to pay? It can’t hurt…but does it help in the near term (i.e. the duration over which their revenue targets are most relevant)?

Now let’s see if any of the leading OSS vendors choose to implement strategies to grow their communities by becoming “more open”. Stranger things have happened ;-)

I had an interesting discussion with Marten Mickos at JavaOne last week that I’ve been meaning to blog about.

I was disappointed that MySQL decided to put encryption and compression backup into MySQL Server (GPL license), versus including those features only in MySQL Enterprise (commercial license). Most of you will recall the outrage from “the community” that began when MySQL considered adding these enterprisey features only inside of MySQL Enterprise.

I wanted to discuss this situation with Marten.

I do not believe that Support and/or Monitoring around an OSS product are viable long term value propositions that will convince users to become, and stay, buyers. This has more to do with human nature than OSS leaders have yet acknowledged. Sure you’ll get some portion of your users to pay for Support etc., (which I call Category “C” users). But good luck growing beyond that group.

I know that Simon will disagree. During his JavaOne pitch, Simon mentioned that Sun is benefiting from a large number of adoption-led deals. However, I’ve spoken to many customers who are saying “we bought support for 2 years and realized we just didn’t use it as much as we thought. Also, with the source code being available, my software developers can support our use of product XYZ internally”. It could be that Simon is seeing Category “C” users still and will sing a different tune when trying to convert Category “B” users.

I’d suggest that the MySQL decision described above highlights challenges of trying to grow an OSS business faster than the rate of customer conversion from Category “C” users.

The solution I favor is to sell products that can’t be obtained in any way but through payment. MySQL was walking down this path before “the community” had its say.

Marten reassured me that MySQL may yet decide to add features only inside of MySQL Enterprise (and not in the open source MySQL Server) in the future. I fear that MySQL will be faced with the same outrage from “the community” if and when they try to make this change. This will help proprietary vendors maintain the feature/function gap vs. OSS vendors. Recall that for the majority of single-vendor backed OSS products, there is virtually no cost savings vs. developing closed-source software. To close the feature/function gap, OSS vendors need faster revenue growth to fund this development expense.

The OSS vendor community needs leaders who will stand up to “the community” and make the tough business decisions needed to ensure that OSS isn’t relegated to a small revenue slice of the software industry pie.