Glyn Moody wrote recently a blog post on Computer World UK concerning the problems related to FRAND in connection to free software. Glyn is correct in thinking that FRAND is a problematic addition to the free software gestalt.
More worryingly, FRAND is a direct attack on the fundamental individualistic culture of free software.
Better late than never, I discovered that the video of my speech from the OSSIDO conference in November 2010 was posted online. The speech is in Danish and the topic was the project I had been working on for the National IT and Telecom Agency on establishing a public sector open source community centered around the OpenLayers-derived VisKort web GIS component.
Looking from my admittedly narrow vantage point over European public IT procurement, I see today a structural and very fundamental incompatibility between how enterprise IT is expected to be transacted and how open source lends itself to commercial activity.
The symptoms are easy to spot. Take the recent example of the Hungarian government allocating over €40 million to open source. Part of the reason they were forced to such a drastic gesture was that the value of the contract they were putting out to tender was above the threshold set forth in the European directives (in Denmark, I think this is roughly around DKK 1,400,000 or roughly €200,000). Think about that, two hundred thousand euros. With proprietary licensing models, it isn't too difficult to hit that kind of threshold. The threshold is in fact set that high because it has been geared to traditional software procurement, which has been proprietary and expensive enough to suggest a threshold of €200,000.
Alfresco could turn Europe open source, but the company needs to care more about its community first
Towards the end of last year, I was advisory solution architect on a project where I assessed that Alfresco was the right base product to build on. This was a very large project for the Danish public sector (high 8 digits at the very least in Danish kroner), and the bid team understandably wanted commercial technical recourse. Making a long story short, I got in touch with Matt Asay who got us on the phone with the European representatives (one of whom was actually on vacation), and pretty soon we had technical and economic estimates from Alfresco. All within 120 minutes, at 8 in the evening. I think that anecdote obviates the need for any superlatives; if I ever have my own company, that will be my benchmark for responsiveness.
I must confess, I'm writing this as part of a conspiracy with Roberto Galoppini. Alfresco is on our maps, enterprise open source is on our maps, and public sector open source is also. I have not seen much Alfresco in the European public sector and none in the Danish public sector, and this is an unfortunate misrepresentation of what Alfresco could represent.
I was privileged to be invited to speak on open source at Videnskabsministeriets IT Arkitekturkonference (The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation) this last Thursday in Århus. Those who attended my speech at Open Source Days 2008 will know that I have some points but my delivery can be lacking; I managed to overcome that this time with a bit of preparation. A video of the speech is embedded after the jump.
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this article are those of Josef Assad and do not necessarily represent the views or position of Rambøll Informatik.
The situation of free software in the Danish enterprise is an odd one. Nationally, we sport an awareness level which I would classify as far above international average, and yet adoption rates consistently fail to match this. We know of the free software option, we're just not doing all that much about it (note to self: I could probably reuse that statement in another blog post about my dripping faucet).
This is a bit of an odd situation. If my memory doesn't fail me (which it does frequently enough, natch) then I think it was David Wheeler who pointed out that the classical adoption cycle went something like this:
- No open source. Everyone's using windows 3.1
- The IT people hiding out behind the big iron in the mysterious data center discover GNU/Linux and free software
- 5 to 8 years go by. The IT people grow in open source competence. Their spouses rejoice; no longer must they worry over birthday presents, for anything with a penguin on it will do
- Management read about Linux and possibly open source in a trade publication. "That's a whole new skillset," they say, dismissing the idea.
- "Not so!" comes a discordant chorus from behind the big iron. "We've been using open source for 5 years now!"
- Open source begins permeating the enterprise.
- IT vendors and entrepreneurs perceive the demand and create open source-based supply.
- (obligatory) Profit!
Back from Open Source Days 2008, exhausted, and appreciating the great work that went in to the event
I just got back from day 1 of the Open Source Days 2008 conference where I gave a speech entitled "Free Software in the Enterprise: from Use to Community Membership". At this point, I have slept 4 hours in the last 72 so this won't be a long post. I'll just say that the conference organizers have done a brilliant job and I'm glad to have helped fill the speakers roster.
I am also very very happy with the content of my speech (presentation deck uploaded here in this post), but I dread seeing the uploaded video; my delivery was very far below standard. Still, I am happy not to have clogged the conference with yet another generic "business open source" rehash; I think the ideas in mine are solid and quite new.
Again, a pat on the back to the organizers and conference staff. Embedded slideshow after the jump.