At his PC, about 15 years ago, one person sparked a revolution: Linus Torvalds. He developed a new operating system – Linux -- with a unique approach: open source software. That is, great programmers around the world would contribute to the code base.
Now, Linux is a staple of organizations around the world. And, it even has its own conference, LinuxWorld, which took place this week. Held in San Francisco, Ca., the event attracted more than 10,000 attendees.
Prominent Stanford Law School Professor, Lawrence Lessig, gave the keynote. The theme was powerful: sharing has meant much better software. Why not the same for other things, like music and videos?
Ok, this is not exactly something that resonates with companies like Apple, Microsoft, and thousands of others – except for some upstarts, like YouTube.
However, for enterprise software, "free" is certainly a scary word. For example, one of the companies at LinuxWorld, Ingres, is gunning for Oracle's database business. Dave Dargo, the company's Chief Technology Officer and a former senior officer at Oracle, said that the goal is not to kill mega companies like Microsoft, Oracle and so on. "To be wildly profitable," he said, "all we need is a small piece of the database market."
Another company at the show was Zimbra, which develops a collaboration product that goes beyond Microsoft's Exchange. "It's great to see Linux moving off of a traditional server model," said John Robb, VP of Product Management of Zimbra. "New developments around challenges such as virtualization and mobility are really showing off the power of the open source community."
Jitterbit's CTO, Ilan Sehayek, weighed in (his company develops open source integration software): "Red Hat's absence was interesting, but clearly the open source community's focus is expanding from systems and OS to business applications. The real value to businesses is in the applications, and all the major horizontal categories were represented including: SugarCRM and CentricCRM, Zimbra (collaboration and messaging), Pentaho (Business Intelligence) and Greenplum (Data Warehousing). I learned of a new company with HQ in Spain called Openbravo in the ERP category. The proprietary world of software went through a similar evolution, but with Web Services and lightweight open source integration tools this time around we should be closer to realizing the dream of best of bread applications."
One of his fellow employee's at Jitterbit, Daniel Oxenburgh, said: "Sharam, Ilan, and I spent the day roaming around the crowded exhibit hall at LinuxWorld. The floor has an interesting - and very telling - layout, I think. Most of the big guys (Motorola, HP, etc.) are trying to make a splash with huge flashy booths in the center of the hall, while smaller companies are set up around the perimeter of the show floor. Well, guess where all the foot traffic was? People grabbed their chotchskies from the middle of the room and headed to the busy edges."
Tom Taulli is the author of various books, such as the Complete M&A Handbook and operates InvestorOffering.com.