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            1. Showing posts with label open source. Show all posts
              Showing posts with label open source. Show all posts

              Monday, April 30, 2012

              Fixing Software Patents, One Hack At Time



              Software patents are broken and patent trolls are seriously hurting innovation. Companies are spending more money on buying patents to launch offensive strikes against other companies instead of competing by building great products. There are numerous patent horror stories I could outline where they are being used for all purposes except to innovate. In fact the software patent system as it stands today has nothing to do with innovation at all. This is the sad side of the Silicon Valley. While most people are whining about how software patent trolls are killing innovation some are trying to find creative ways to fix the problems. This is why it was refreshing to see Twitter announcing their policy on patents, Innovator's Patent Agreement, informally called IPA. As per IPA, patents can only be used in an offensive litigation if the employees who were granted the patents consent to it. I have no legal expertise to comment on how well IPA itself might hold up in a patent litigation but I am thrilled to see companies like Twitter stepping up to challenge the status quo by doing something different about it. If you're an employee you want three things: innovate, get credit for your innovation, and avoid your patents being used as an offensive tool. IPA is also likely to serve as a hiring magnet for great talent. Many other companies are likely to follow the suit. I also know of a couple of VCs that are aggressively pushing their portfolio companies to adopt IPA.

              The other major challenge with software patents is the bogus patents granted based on obvious ideas. I really like the approach taken by Article One Partners to deal with such patent trolls. Article One Partners crowdsources the task of digging the prior art to identify bogus patents and subsequently forces the US patent office to invalidate them. Turns out that you don't have to be a lawyer to find prior art. Many amateurs who love to research this kind of stuff have jumped into this initiative and have managed to find prior art for many bogus patents. It's very hard to change the system but it's not too hard to find creative ways to fix parts of the system.

              I would suggest going beyond the idea of crowdsourcing the task to find the prior art. We should build open tools to gather and catalog searchable prior art. If you have an idea just enter into that database and it becomes prior art. This would make it incredibly difficult for any company to patent an obvious idea since it would already be a prior art. We should create prior art instead of reactively research for it. Open source has taught us many things and it's such a vibrant community. I can't imagine the state of our industry without open source. Why can't we do the same for patents? I want to see Creative Commons of patents.

              The industry should also create tools to reverse translate patents by taking all the legal language out of it to bring transparency to show for what purposes that patents are being granted for.

              I would also want to see an open source like movement where a ridiculously large set of patents belong to one group - a GitHub of patents. And that group will go after anyone who attempt to impede innovation by launching an offensive strike. If you can't beat a troll then become one.

              Silicon valley is a hacker community and hackers should do what they are good at, hack the system — to fix it — using creative ways.

              Photo: Opensource.com

              Friday, January 21, 2011

              Drupal On The Cloud, Beyond Content Management

              This post is co-authored by Manish Garg and Chirag Mehta

              Drupal is widely recognized as a great content management system, but we strongly believe that Drupal offers a lot more than that – a framework, a platform, and a set of technology – to build and run enterprise applications, specifically on the cloud. This post is an attempt to explore the benefits and potential of Drupal on the cloud.

              Elasticity

              One of the last things the customers should worry about their websites is the performance degradation due to sudden spike in the traffic. For years, the customers had to size their servers to meet the peak demand. They overpaid, and still failed to deliver on promise, at peak load. Cloud solves this elasticity problem really well, and if you are using Drupal, you automatically get the elasticity benefits, since Drupal’s modularized architecture - user management, web services, caching etc. - is designed for scale-up and scale-down on the cloud for elastic load.

              PaaS

              If Heroku’s $212 million acquisition by Salesforce.com is any indication, the future of PaaS is bright. Drupal, at its core, is a platform. The companies such as Acquia through Drupal Gardens are doing a great job delivering the power of Drupal by making it incredibly easy for the people to create, run, and maintain their websites. This is not a full-blown PaaS, but I don’t see why they cannot make it one. We also expect to see a lot more players jumping into this category. The PaaS players such as phpfog and djangy have started gaining popularity amongst web developers.

              Time-to-market and time-to-value

              Drupal has helped customers move from concept to design to a fully functional content-rich interactive website in relatively short period of time using built-in features and thousands of modules. Cloud further accelerates this process. Amazon and Rackspace have pre-defined high-performance Drupal images that the customers can use to get started. Another option is to leverage PaaS as we described above. The cloud not only accelerates time-to-market and time-to-value, but it also provides economic benefits during scale-up and scale-down situations.

              Application Management

              The cloud management tools experienced significant growth in the last two years and this category is expected to grown even more as the customers opt for simplifying and unifying their hybrid landscapes. With Drupal, the customers not only could leverage the cloud management tools but also augment their application-specific management capabilities with Drupal’s modules such as Quant for tracking usage, Admin for managing administrative tasks, and Google Analytics for integration with Google Analytics. There is still a disconnect between the native cloud management tools and Drupal-specific management tools, but we expect them to converge and provide a unified set of tools to manage the entire Drupal landscape on the cloud.

              Open source all the way

              Not only Drupal is completely open source but it also has direct integration with major open source components such as memcached, Apache SOLR, and native support for jQuery. This not only provides additional scale and performance benefits to Drupal on the cloud, but the entire stack on the cloud is backed by vibrant open source communities.

              Security

              It took a couple of years for the customers to overcome the initial adoption concerns around the cloud security. They are at least asking the right questions. Anything that runs on the cloud is expected to be scrutinized for its security as well. We believe that the developers should not explicitly code for security. Their applications should be secured by the framework that they use. Drupal not only leverages the underlying cloud security, but it also offers additional security features to prevent the security attacks such as cross-site scripting, session hijacking, SQL injection etc. Here is the complete list by OWASP on top 10 security risks.
              Search and Semantic Web

              One of the core functionally that any content website needs is search. Developers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Integration with SOLR is a great way to implement search functionality without putting in monumental efforts. Drupal also has built-in support for RDF and SPARQL for the developers that are interested in Semantic Web.

              NoSQL

              The cloud is a natural platform for NoSQL and there has been immense ongoing innovation in the NoSQL category. For the modern applications and websites, using NoSQL on the cloud is a must-have requirement in many cases. Cloud makes it a great platform for NoSQL and so is Drupal. Drupal has modules for MongoDB and Cassandra and the modules for other NoSQL stores are currently being developed.

              Drupal started out as an inexpensive content management system, but it has crossed the chasm. Not only the developers are trying to extend Drupal by adding more modules and designing different distributions, but importantly enterprise ISVs have also actively started exploring Drupal to make their offerings more attractive by creating extensions and leveraging the multi-site feature to set up multi-tenant infrastructure for their SaaS solutions. We expect that, the cloud as a runtime platform, will help Drupal, ISVs, and the customers to deliver compelling content management systems and applications on the cloud.

              Thursday, January 29, 2009

              Open Source Software Business Models On The Cloud

              There are strong synergies between Open Source Software (OSS) and cloud computing. The cloud makes it a great platform on which OSS business models ranging from powering the cloud to offer OSS as SaaS can flourish. There are many issues around licenses and IP indemnification and discussion around commercial open source software strategy to support progressive OSS business models. I do see the cloud computing as a catalyst in innovating OSS business models.

              Powering the cloud:
              OSS can power the cloud infrastructure similarly as it has been powering the on-premise infrastructure to let cloud vendors minimize the TCO. Not so discussed benefit of the OSS for cloud is the use of core algorithms such as MapReduce and Google Protocol Buffer that are core to the parallel computing and lightweight data exchange. There are hundreds of other open (source) standards and algorithms that are a perfect fit for powering the cloud.

              OSS lifecycle management: There is a disconnect between the source code repositories, design time tools, and application runtime. The cloud vendors have potential not only to provide an open source repository such as Sourceforge but also allow developers to build the code and deploy it on the cloud using the horsepower of the cloud computing. Such centralized access to a distributed computing makes it feasible to support the end-to-end OSS application lifecycle on single platform.

              OSS dissemination: Delivering pre-packaged and tested OSS bundles with the support and upgrades has been proven to be a successful business model for the vendors such as Redhat and Spikesource. Cloud as an OSS dissemination platform could allow the vendors to scale up their infrastructure and operations to disseminate the OSS to their customers. These vendors also have a strategic advantage in case their customers want to move their infrastructure to the cloud. This architectural approach will scale to support all kinds of customer deployments - cloud, on-premise, or side-by-side.

              The distributed computing capabilities of the cloud can also be used to perform static scans to identify the changes in the versions, track dependencies, minimize the time to run the regression tests etc. This could allow the companies such as Blackduck to significantly shorten their code scans for a variety of their offerings.

              Compose and run on the cloud: Vendors such as Coghead and Bungee Connect provide composition, development, and deployment of the tools and applications on the cloud. These are not OSS solutions but the OSS can build a similar business model as the commercial software to deliver the application lifecycle on the cloud.

              OSS as SaaS: This is the holy grail of all the OSS business models that I mentioned above. Don't just build, compose, or disseminate but deliver a true SaaS experience to all your users. In this kind of experience the "service" is free and open source. The monetization is not about consuming the services but use the OSS
              services as a base platform and provide value proposition on top of
              that. Using the cloud as an OSS business platform would allow companies to experiment with their offerings in a true try-before-you-buy sense.

              Tuesday, March 4, 2008

              Open source licenses and its impact on commercialization

              The choice of an open source license sparks a debate from time to time and this time around it is about using GPL as a strategic weapon to force your competitors to share their code versus use BSD to have faith in your proprietary solution as an open source derivative to reduce the barrier to an entry into the market. I agree with the success of mySQL but I won’t attribute the entire success to the chosen license. Comparing open source licenses in the context of commercializing a database is very narrow comparision. First of all PostgreSQL and mySQL are not identical databases and don’t have the exact same customers and secondly I see database as enabler to value add on top of it. EnterpriseDB is a great example of this value add and I think it is very speculative to say whether it is an acquisition target or not – the real question is would EnterpriseDB have accomplished the same if PostgreSQL used GPL instead of BSD.

              I see plenty of opportunities in the open source software license innovation and over a period of time disruptive business models will force the licenses to align with what business really need. IP indemnification of GPL v3 is a classic example of how licenses evolve based on the commercial dynamics amongst organizations. We can expect the licenses to become even more complex with wide adoption of SaaS delivery models where a vendor is not shipping any software anymore.

              People do believe in open source but may not necessarily believe the fact that they have a legal obligation to contribute back to the open source community every time they do something interesting with it and Richard Stallman would strongly disagree. The companies such as BlackDuck has a successful business model on the very fact that vendors don’t want to ship GPLed code. We should not fight the license, just be creative, embrace open source, and innovate!

              Tuesday, August 28, 2007

              Build, buy, or OpenSource

              JP has written up an interesting post, Build versus Buy versus Opensource. He argues that these are the three options that IT has when it comes to software. I would change these options to build, acquire, or consume and would also argue that these options are not mutually exclusive. Customers could build a system that runs on open source software and could pay for commercial support for the open source software and could integrate with a proprietary, free, but non-open source software. You get the point. It's intertwined and most of the times customers do combine the options and that's why I would say build when you have to on top of what you acquired (free or open source) and consume (services) whenever you can to avoid both. There are obviously other factors IT considers when they pick software and its deployment model but I don't see the world as black and white as open source and non-open-source. Though I see plenty of opportunities to structure and sell software to minimize the "build" part on the IT side - personalize against customize.

              I really liked what the V.P and Chief Marketing Officer of GE shared during their China Olympic sponsorship efforts. He said "Our number-one revelation is that customers don't necessarily organize their buying behavior the way we structure our business." I could not agree any more and this is applicable to software as well.

              Sunday, May 13, 2007

              Hello World from JavaOne 2007!

              Just came back from JavaOne 2007. The experience was as good as I expected it to be, well sort of. The energy and excitement have been going down at JavaOne year after year. This is my seventh JavaOne and I could feel that. Not to sure what to make out that but there are a lot of missed opportunities on Sun's side. On a positive side the sessions were good and the live demos did work! As promised Sun announced the OpenJDK with GPLv2 license. Finally the open source community will get their hands around Java. Sun is going to maintain the commercial (and free) version of JDK and that should allow organizations to continue embedding it without worrying about any GPL issues around derivative work. I attended a session by Eben Moglen and he was quite pleased with this announcement. He was also optimistic that GPLv3 will be aligned with Apache license when it is finalized. I really hope that happens.


              Apparently it was a crime if speakers did not to talk about Ajax. The Ajax discussion was hot last year but this year it was almost mandatory for all the sessions. SOA was not a big hit this year. I liked Sun's approach in embracing the popularity of dynamic languages and scripting. Instead of inventing something on their own, Sun pushed jMaki as a solution that wraps all the popular widgets and provides nice abstraction, compatibility, and inter-widget communication. The solution fits well with JSF. It was clear that I am not the only one who hated JSR 167. A couple of speakers expressed their frustration around JSR 167 and hoped that JSR 286 would solve some of these problems. The "convention was over configuration" was a popular message. It took these many years for the vendors to figure out that developers want something up and running when they install a toolkit. They don't want to go through configuration hell just to get few simple things done. Grails and Seam are good examples on "we get it". There were quite a few developers at JavaOne who also coded in .NET and PHP. Zend had a session and they demoed PHP to Java integration. There was a session on .NET interoperability as well. Sun pushed JSF as a flexible yet powerful application development framework. Since JSF is now officially part of J2EE, I hope it gets more tooling support, scalable runtime, and open source faces.
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