Editor's Note: Change or DieFeb 17, 2006, 23:30 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
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By Brian Proffitt
After five days of traveling across the country, I am back home again in Indiana.
It has been a trip full of juxtapositions, as I sort of knew it would be. You can't plan on going to a community show and then an enterprise show and expect a lot of similarities. That said, despite all of the differences, I found quite a few more things in common than I expected.
Before I get into that, though, I feel it necessary to clear up a small misunderstanding about one of the keynotes at the Open Source Business Conference. That would be the one conducted by Peter Graf, executive vice president of marketing at SAP. There have been a number of reports that have misattributed him as saying open source is too immature to survive the coming wave of consolidation in the IT industry.
Actually, what he said was that open source companies that specifically compete against SAP would be unprepared for such a consolidation wave--companies like SugarCRM, OpenMFG, and Compiere. SAP was just using the conference as a bully pulpit to take a whack at its competition, not defame open source in general.
Still, I think their argument is flawed. I am not familiar with the team at OpenMFG, but I do know the crews and leadership at SugarCRM and Compiere, and I suspect SAP is going to be very surprised at how badly they are going to get their butts handed to them by their open source competitors. But that's just a personal opinion on my part. How about something more objective?
I'm glad you asked.
What a lot of the other media stories did not focus on, having decided that the "open source is immature" angle was too good to pass up, was that Graf used this whole consolidation wave scenario as a set up for something SAP wants to implement: an IT business process known as open modeling. This is part of their vision for the NetWeaver program, which they want to shift from a composition platform to a true business process platform. In English, SAP's NetWeaver program will work with businesses to develop end-to-end "open" IT business process models and then oh-so-kindly jump in and provide the technology and human resources to help said customer implement them.
Isn't that nice of them?
But here's the problem as I see it: SAP claims that only those on the cutting edge will survive an industry consolidation. Well, underneath all of the fancy dressing and buzzwords, NetVision sounds like just another way for an major outside consultancy to work their way into IT. From my experiences as an IT manager, I know from experience that once you let one of these big firms inside your business, they are very hard to get rid of. Which for SAP means, once they're in, their revenue stream is assured for a good long while. NetVision sounds like an old IT game--not very cutting edge at all.
Therefore, objectively, it appears SAP is going to try to use tried and true business practices to maintain their existence. Well, good luck with that, guys. Not adapting to a changing environment (such as oh, say, a consolidation wave?) is a sure way to maintain longevity.
Sarcasm aside, it wasn't all bad at OSBC. Most of the participants were not taking public potshots at each other. There was a lot going for the show, including some commonalities with SCALE, which I mentioned earlier.
Differences that you just knew would pop up:
So what, if anything, were the common factors? Quite a bit, actually. You wouldn't think so, but there was a huge common thread I noted at both shows. And no, it wasn't the general concept of open source. It was more specific than that.
What I noted at the show was this overwhelming sense that it is time to just get on with it.
Open source, even among its advocates, has had some pragmatic reasons for "not being ready" in the past. Not ready for the enterprise. Not ready for the desktop. Not ready to make margaritas. Some of these reasons, you can certainly argue, are FUD. But some were genuine concerns that seemed to create a note of caution about deploying open source.
No longer. At both shows, the mood was: enough already, we want to implement this stuff now. The need to deploy Linux and open source to obtain cost savings, ease of use, and security were the driving concerns at both these events. Linux and open source has proven itself, and customers and vendors alike were chomping at the bit to get things started.
Over the coming days, I'm going to be detailing the stories of some of the people and companies that are poised on the starting line, ready to burst out with really cool and exciting stuff.
Get ready for a great new year coming up, ladies and gentlemen. In the enterprise, in the small/medium business space, on the desktop... Linux has arrived.
Monday is Presidents' Day here in the US, so LT will be on an extended weekend feed schedule until Tuesday, February 21.
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