Future Open Source Superstars
This week's Open Source Business Conference was a strange meeting of Enterprise IT users, venture capitalists, and free software entrepreneurs. The opening keynote was delivered by Red Hat's freshly minted CEO Jim Whitehurst who gave a very modest speech noting that while Red Hat has been a leading open source company they have not necessarily been an open source leader.
Whitehurst's presentation lacked anything especially insightful or noteworthy and he has the advantage of being the new guy so he's off the hook for anything that might have happened before he took the job.
What is apparent Red Hat's no longer exciting. They've crossed over to respectable elder statesman of open source. The action is among the new batch of up-and-coming open source software companies who are not yet venture backed but are developing interesting technologies and services. Here are some of the companies that may well be the new open source superstars.
Open Source Project: Appcelerator, rich internet application platform
Appcelerator is a fully integrated platform that enables rich internet applications via a services oriented architecture. Breezing past the the buzzwords and at the risk of the trivializing what they do, Appcelerator enables the building of widgets that can be embedded in web pages. If you look at FaceBook, the feature that is making the popular social networking platform interesting is the abundance of third party applications. With JBoss alumni Rob Beardon and Ben Sabrin on board along with Larry Augustin and Marc Fleury as advisors I think the Appcelerator team could have a breakout company some day.
Open Source Project: Bitnami, open source installers
One of the hardest things for new software users to do is install software especially for those users moving from Windows or Mac to Linux. RPMs and .debs are a whole new kettle of fish especially if you are used to point and click installers. Bitrock makes the installation for applications that easy for open source software (and proprietary software too). Bitrock installers are used by OSS heavyweights, SugarCRM and MySQL as well as many others. You can download installers from their project site Bitnami too. Bitrock is getting ready to launch some additional features that should apply to both software vendors and end-users who want updates.
Open Source Project: Enomalism is a web-based elastic computing platform
Enomaly is a company who has paid their bills and generated profits from consulting. However, they have a real opportunity to become a product company in the virtualization management space. Enomaly's web-based virtualization management product, Enomalism, can manage virtual machines across VMware, Xen, and Amazon EC2 seamlessly. Everyone's on board with virtualization these days and VMware is the obvious leader with Citrix Xen a distant second and companies like Virtual Iron and Sun's VirtualDeskop way in the distance. The opportunity for new companies is for the tools to manage virtualization especially ones that are agnostic and can bridge the most popular technologies. That's why I think Enomaly's open source Enomalism has real promise and could someday be a very cool breakout technology. With companies like BladeLogic being snapped up by BMC for $800 million that would make me look long and hard at Enomaly. I wish Reuven, George, and the gang the best of luck.
Open Source Project: LoopFuse Oneview, marketing and sales automation
As more business gets done on the web, understanding what happens on the web is becoming more critical. LoopFuse provides tools to give insight into how people travel through your website and eventually engage companies and eventually become customers. Given the alternatives like sales automation leader Eloqua built on Microsoft technology it seems to me that LoopFuse is a more compatible and extensible with the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) dominated web.
Their open source Oneview product is worth looking at especially given the expensive proprietary and the low-end feature poor alternatives. Once again LoopFuse founders Roy Russo and Tom Elrod are JBoss alumni who understand how to grow and market an open source business as well. Top that with advisors Rob Bearden and Matt Asay and I suspect they will have a homerun success on their hands.
[I even put my money where my mouth is here and was one of the first LoopFuse customers]
Open Source Project: Deki Wiki, wiki and application platform
I have written about MindTouch before and I really think they do some interesting things like offering a standard WYSWIG editor and providing a migration path from MediaWiki. Above that I think the team there is smart and have fun and energy. For a full write-up read the article from earlier this month.
Open Source Project: Ringside social application server.
What drove it home for me was talking to JBoss alumnus and RingSide co-founder Bob Bickel telling me about his favorite FaceBook widget, Runlicious. He describes the problem of having a favorite application that is confined to a single platform rather than being deployed across all your favorite websites. Ringside Social Application Server is an open source platform that enables website owners to build and deploy social applications are applications that operate with existing website content and business applications while seamlessly integrating with social networks.
Past Performance, Future Success
Open source gets a lot of flack for not having the open source billionaires club that exists in commercial proprietary software. I think what will be telling thing in the future will be be the number of profitable open source companies and their success rate relative to proprietary companies launched since 1990. I suspect that these companies will illustrate that this new method of developing applications isn't about building the next Oracle's and Microsoft's but about building profitable, sustainable companies without the need for huge amounts of capital.
For more Mark Hinkle, visit his Socialized Software blog.