Search Pad is Coming

Update 9 July ’09: I tried it… nice additional feature but not a game-changer. Actually I believe I’m very underwhelmed.

Actually, reader, I’m a little tired of all these search posts. But new things keep happening and this one is compelling enough to note. I really miss Google’s notebook feature (actually a lot of people do). It was like BasKet for the Web. It sounds like Yahoo! is about to launch a new app called Search Pad that will be like Google’s notebook but with a teensy bit of intelligence.

This sounds like a right combination. If the search engine can be intelligent enough to figure out that you’re doing some sort of research and then help you with an easy-to-use note-taking, organizing system, fantastic. But if it becomes even more intelligent and can offer even more useful things than just archiving notes, that would be a powerful assistant.

There is some nice potential here. I wonder if Yahoo! will take advantage or underwhelm. Either way Google please take note, your competitors’ efforts to improve how people use the search results they get are becoming more sophisticated and intelligent. Will Wave make up for the loss of notebook?

Dell Mini & Ubuntu Love

Near the end of December I bought a Dell Mini 9. If there is such thing as a Mini closet, I’m coming out right now and professing my love to this computer. It is my favourite among all that I’ve owned. That has nothing to do with processor power or that sort of stuff. For the last several months we’ve gotten along very smoothly and the only times I questioned our relationship were not the Mini’s fault (more its sometimes unreasonable parents–Dell–or the not entirely on-the-ball tech support setup). The Dell Mini is there when I want it without feeling like an obtrusive appliance in my home. Perhaps the chemicals just haven’t worn off yet but here are my impressions. Continue reading “Dell Mini & Ubuntu Love”

Microsoft Flunked Comparing 101

It’s the thing to do since everyone is linking to the page–I just read Microsoft’s new page comparing Windows to Red Hat ( The marketing group at Microsoft does impressive work. They successfully got a large number of article writers and bloggers to keep their name floating on everyone’s mind (myself obviously included).

Nevertheless, if there was a school teaching how to compare products, Microsoft would’ve flunked. The first issue is a basic logical fallacy. You cannot necessarily apply a characteristic of one specific instance to the larger group and claim it to be true of the group as well. I happen to love spicy food, does that mean everyone named Josh loves spicy food? No. Microsoft’s link labeled “Compare Windows to Linux” goes to a page called “Compare Windows to Red Hat” so they’re comparing a specific linux distribution, Red Hat, with Windows but a visitor to the web site has clicked something leading him or her to think that s/he is reading information about Linux in general. Slimy as spam, that is.

The page is arranged like a large grid where the Y axis has a list of criteria on which the products are “compared” in two columns. The first criterion is total cost of ownership. In this criterion, Microsoft mentions Red Hat’s subscription fees for support (again Red Hat, not Linux distributions in general) but doesn’t discuss other costs that one would figure go into calculating total cost of ownership. The explanation glosses over how additional software components can be adopted in the first place, which may not require certain fees that would be present with Microsoft products. Though to its credit, Microsoft provides a report discussing support fees over time. I have not fully read that so I will not comment on it.

The more problematic issue is that when you read Microsoft’s own response to TCO it slants far from an apples-to-apples comparison of what it says about Red Hat. Even though it cites certain prices and issues with Red Hat it doesn’t offer parallel information for Microsoft. In other words, it is not a direct comparison and the reader is left in the dark about how the two actually compete here.

A well-constructed comparison would consistently and systematically compare the alternatives on the same criteria, using the same types of data so that the reader can understand what is similar or dissimilar. Forget that this is a marketing vehicle and forget that this is on Microsoft’s web site, which obviously has a strong interest to publish information biased toward its own products (I don’t mean to imply anything necessarily wrong with that). A critical reader of this comparison however, ought to be suspicious because it is constructed in such a way that it does not permit the reader to actually make a comparison on the terms it purports to. I think Microsoft would have a much more compelling page if it did a proper comparison rather than trying to trick readers with lousy logic and inconsistently responded criteria.

One last thing that interested me (I won’t go over these point-by-point), is at the bottom of the page. Microsoft states that open standards do not equal open source. Actually the page says

“Open Source is a software development and distribution model, which does not equate to how easily the software interoperates with other software or how open or standardized the interfaces are.”

I tend to agree with that characterization. I love that a typically proprietary vendor is saying this when so often I see proprietary software vendors flout their work on open standards as a method of deflecting the fact that their software is not open source. It’s as though they hope the similar sounding terms will stun questioners seeking open source.

Having said that, Microsoft talks about its own products in a way that attempts to make the reader feel the products are designed to be interoperable with everything. Reading carefully, Microsoft is not claiming so much to adhere to open standards as they are claiming that their products work with their own products and their partners’ products. They also mention competitors’ products and “engaging” in standards setting activities. Search news articles about open standards processes and they’ll be rife with commentary about Microsoft tactics at thwarting standards that don’t originate from a place sustaining Microsoft product dominance. Is that how it engages in standards setting activities?

I would argue that while open source doesn’t imply open standards, it could make developing open standards easier, since none of the software is locked behind proprietary secrecy. Rather, free and open source software enables anyone to study it and tinker so that common grounds can be engineered for standards–but then, from the outset, Microsoft also mischaracterizes free.

Addendum: nice comment from Barbara French, refreshing a good link to an article about the previous campaign. 

Corporate Wiki, a TWiki Announcement

After a lengthy post yesterday about TEC’s internal use of a corporate wiki, I read an announcement today from TWiki about the launch of its enterprise wiki service TWIKI.NET. TWiki is a venerable open source wiki system, with a huge quantity of interesting and useful plugin functionality. The company’s press release says

“TWIKI.NET will provide premium support to a tested, reliable and secure version of TWiki. “We’re adding a professional company to a proven software platform so Fortune 500 companies and organizations of all sizes can feel safe, supported and secure while also accessing the innovation and flexibility of the TWiki solution,” added Beckström.”

Looks like they’re taking one of the common open source business models in hand, providing services to ensure dependability, upgrades, security, features, etc. A few years ago wikis seemed to be the little booth in the corner at trade shows, without a huge amount of people paying attention to why these would be useful in an enterprise context. Persistence seems to be paying off as these wikis continue to mature and gain acceptance, and most seem to be growing from their open source seeds. The list includes SocialText, Atlassian’s Confluence, XWiki, DekiWiki, and a lot of others.

One other thing of note, TWIKI.NET has a page with brief reasons why companies use an enterprise wiki–lots of interesting reasons.

Wiki While You Work

The Globe and Mail published an article about using wiki applications in the workplace. While not a new notion, this is the first time I’ve seen it in a regular newspaper and not an IT business rag. A point the article touches on is the wiki’s security. I think wiki security may be one of the more misunderstood issues about using a wiki for work and an important differentiating factor in determining when to use an enterprise content or document management system (CMS/DMS) and when to use a wiki. In fact, I think it’s hard to beat a wiki if you need an application to capture and disseminate employee knowledge.

“One drawback is security. Much of the hype around wikis concerns their ability to place everyone from the receptionists to clients to chief executive officers on the same virtual playing field.”

The key phrase above is that it puts people “on the same virtual playing field.” Useful things take place when people are uniformly able to document their activities, collaborative or otherwise. Simplicity is a defining aspect of wiki applications–they make it incredibly simple to collaborate on developing, publishing, or otherwise contributing to company information, documents, in some cases products, etc. I’ll talk about an internal wiki only, as I realize that one open to clients as well may present a slightly different set of issues. Still, I’d argue that in most cases the somewhat loose security issue is more of a benefit than a drawback. Let me illustrate this with how the company I work for, uses one.

Some time ago, frustrated with the problems of repeatedly sending mass e-mails to everyone in our company, I set up an internal corporate wiki. A wiki is excellent for work that is in constant flux or must be accessible by everyone in the company.

  • communicate important news or announcements
  • inform about policies that must be adhered to
  • distribute documents
  • collaborate on work issues
  • capture and disseminate the day-to-day knowledge that employees develop

I think these things fail through e-mail but work with a wiki. I think most of these things are usually (though not always) too encumbered with hierarchy structures, metadata entry, and access controls to be the most effective for the types of things I mentioned above. Even when people save e-mail messages, they must make repeated archaeological expeditions through their e-mail histories. If announcements need to be referred to in the future, there’s no guarantee people will be able to find them in an inbox. Policies and problems that have been solved are likely to be forgotten if they’re not easily present and visible, as they are in a wiki. Ensuring that people always use the most up-to-date versions of documents means making them easily accessible and that is so nicely accomplished with a wiki. Using e-mail to collaborate on projects can become a nightmare of criss-crossing information, which often leaves people out of the loop. If people are in the habit of working with a wiki on all sorts of general day-to-day tasks, it becomes an automatic, company-wide storehouse of employee knowledge.

Using a wiki facilitates these activities. For example, at TEC, internally we use the fantastic, open source Wikka Wiki application. It’s simple enough that people can be productive with it after about five/ten minutes of instruction. It doesn’t confuse with over-sparkly and burdensome features. It’s fast–takes fractions of a second to access and edit in a web browser. It doesn’t require manipulating difficult access permissions. These are all important features because they make it at least on par, if not sometimes easier than sending an e-mail or accessing a DMS. If you want to change peoples’ work habits from constant e-mail use, then I think the alternative ought to be at least as easy and efficient or else offer something so incredibly good as to compel its use.

Before the wiki, people would forget what an important policy might be after six months. Now, even if forgotten, it can be easily found for reference. Before the wiki, frequently used documents were sometimes difficult to disseminate in their most up-to-date form. Now they’re updated, in short order, on their corresponding wiki page.

Before the wiki, information about projects that different groups in the company had to collaborate on, was spread across different people’s e-mails. There was the risk that someone wouldn’t get all the information s/he needed. Now it gets collaboratively updated on pages that anyone within the company can see, which has the added benefit that sometimes people without an obvious, direct connection to the project can discover it and contribute or use it in positive ways that nobody would have imagined previously.

I don’t think a wiki replaces a DMS or vice versa. A DMS might sound like it is designed to capture and better enable such collaboration but I don’t believe that is necessarily its strongest point. I think a DMS is probably better-suited to developing documents that require tight version control, traditional hierarchy structures, and cannot necessarily be developed as content within web pages. A DMS might be more useful for archival purposes or for documents that are sensitive and absolutely must have special access controls. But a DMS tends to be more cumbersome in the security and access area, and thus loses utility in the area of capturing and disseminating employee knowledge.

Spreading the wiki. In the past, people sometimes would tell me about some sort of project they needed to work on or information they wanted to store in an easily usable way. I’d recommend they try the wiki to facilitate it. So they’d ask of course, “what’s that?” and I’d spend five/ten minutes explaining it. The interesting thing is that then they go off and explain it to other people on their teams, then the different teams work on things with the wiki, word-of-mouth makes its use spread. I’m sure this isn’t a 100% effective way to promote its use but I was pleasantly surprised that after implementing the wiki and announcing it, people started pushing its use of their own accord.

A system that requires a lot of security, perhaps needing more of a top-down approach, wouldn’t permit this type of usage to happen. Setting up access controls, accounts, and maybe designing structures for how a company uses its systems of collaboration and knowledge sharing may be time-consuming and ultimately not do the job for which they’re intended. On the other hand, a wiki method allows this to self-organize. The chaos of knowledge that frequently gets developed and lost throughout a work place gains a facility in which to reside and that attracts use.

An OpenPro Impression – 1 Reason for a Scripted Scenario Demo

First impressions don’t always hold up to in-depth examinations. My impression that it was an open source product went awry because of a few omissions on OpenPro’s web site. I asked whether the software was offered under an open source license. The nature of the answer was part of some past events that reinforce, in my mind, how beneficial it can be to script scenarios for vendor demonstrations before finalizing an important software selection. What does my license question have to do with vendor demonstrations? I’ll explain, because it’s just a part of a larger example.

My colleagues and I research different sorts of enterprise software. We’re constantly revising analysis models that we use in obtaining and reviewing data about software functionality. Typically we ask vendors to respond to an RFI as though it were a real customer’s. Once we have that information we review it for completion and accuracy. The important part of the review takes place when the analyst provides a scenario, from the RFI response, for the vendor to demonstrate.

As an actual customer, asking for a demonstration per your script is your chance to see if your impression of what the vendor says it provides, will hold true to its claims and if the reality of those claims will be of a satisfactory quality for the needs you’ve outlined. This is not to imply something nefarious might otherwise occur, one never knows how the wording of a certain criterion might be interpreted or misunderstood.

If you request a demonstration from several vendors and do not provide a script to follow, there’s no guarantee that the vendors will show you parallel functionality to compare. They may show you what they think are the most impressive features. But those might not cover the requirements that are most important to you in terms of getting the job done or better, improving how its done. Several of my colleagues wrote a much more detailed article on this subject a few years ago, How Some ERP Vendors Demonstrated – Warts and All.

Back to OpenPro. Looking at the company’s web site today, it doesn’t appear very different from how I remember. In just about every possible instance, the company writes about its relationship with open source but if we examine it in more depth, where is the project page? How do you get access to the code? What is its license? I apologize in advance if I’ve missed this information. It’s just that I’ve come to expect these things from companies offering open source solutions. Often, it’s easy to try open source apps before getting involved in a more sophisticated purchase, so perhaps an argument could be made that, in general, there is less necessity to get a scripted vendor demo. It’s certainly not so in this case.

Although it promotes the impression that it’s an open source product, when I talked to the company some time ago, I came to understand that the ERP system itself wasn’t open source, but rather it ran on top of open source software and was programmed using open source languages. Maybe this status is different now, admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve had contact with anyone at the company. The point is, I don’t think the first impression given by the company is necessarily the reality and indeed, this became a pattern when pressed for demonstrations.

I’d received one demonstration from the vendor on a scripted scenario for some of its ERP functionality. It wasn’t spot on but I’d rather give the benefit of the doubt and assume that perhaps questions in the script weren’t as understandable as possible, which requires some more clarification work. Upon requesting further review and suggesting ways to clarify responses the vendor was, at best, not forthcoming with its revisions.

Had I or my colleagues been an actual customer, we would have had the impression that OpenPro does far more than any existing major ERP, SCM, and CRM vendor combined. Consider that even well-known open source ERP solutions like Compiere, OFbiz, opentaps, and Openbravo don’t offer that extensive a range of functionality.

We wanted our demonstration of a scripted scenario based on our RFIs. If the company simply misunderstood a thousand criteria or so, well, that would be a good opportunity to clarify and find out what the product really could do. Unfortunately that never came to pass.

To sum it up, notice how you get one impression from the marketing of a web site (that OpenPro appears like an open source ERP system), which upon seeking details, no longer seems accurate (it relies on open source systems and languages)? Did the company’s marketing personnel not fully understand what they were projecting (an honest mistake) or is something else going on? Does that even matter if you’re the customer?

You ought to get what you think you’re getting. When it comes to the system’s capabilities finding out whether the vendor understood your RFI and can actually provide what it said it can, makes a difference in how you evaluate your options.

Services and Expanding Borders, Sun, MS, Novell, Red Hat, Oracle, and the Others

A few short comments as I wake up to the morning’s catch. It sounds like Sun is about to make a move, which may effect the field in which the Novell/Microsoft situation took root. But first, a Forbes article frames the Microsoft/Novell agreement as a Novellian surrender. Is it? I think the telling part of why they’d frame it that way is the following point:

“Novell tried to put a brave face on things, even claiming that its chief executive, Ron Hovsepian, had initiated the talks with Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft’s lawyers have been quietly pressuring open-source companies like Novell for more than a year and warning their customers that they could be vulnerable to patent infringement claims because they’re using Linux.”

I like that quote because it feeds the suspicion I raised in my previous post on the topic, in which I said that I felt their constant affirming not to sue each other over patents, yet to pay weird licensing fees was some sort of red herring for something not being said publicly.

The Forbes article also notes

“But Novell also is admitting it cannot compete on its own against Red Hat. After two years of struggling, Novell holds only 20% market share of commercial Linux shipments; Red Hat commands virtually all of the rest.”

So this is curious motivation. Consider the 451 Group’s idea that Red Hat is becoming “The Poland of Software Vendors.” Is Red Hat sitting between Microsoft and Oracle initiatives, which may drive it into the ground (not that I’d characterize Poland that way–all analogies are only designed to go so far)? If Forbes’s stats indicate some of the motivation behind Novell’s deal with Microsoft, it will be interesting to see how many inroads it really will get from the Microsoft side.

The 451 article quotes Mark Shuttleworth from Canonical saying their strategy is unchanged. Canonical seems to have local partners spread-out in different geographies, which makes their service model feel like it may drive down a subtly different road than Red Hat’s or Novell’s. There is also the issue of the other companies competing in the enterprise service/support game. Mandriva is an example. Mandriva has a bevy of service offerings for enterprise customers, including migration, business performance analysis, and certain enterprise app consulting services with its partners (Compiere would be the example here). I’m not sure what this all should entail in terms of Novell and Red Hat and their gargantuan neighbours, except maybe it’s too soon to see anyone off via a nebulous nepenthe.

Back to Sun. CRN is reporting that Sun is likely to choose the GPL to open source Java. Although I wouldn’t think this is necessarily related to the Novell/Microsoft news, there is a lateral connection. If, as some people have theorized, the Microsoft/Novell deal will help increase .NET adoption via embracing Mono improvements and popularization, then Sun has more to worry about in terms of its Java agenda. Many have argued for a long time that Java’s lack of real FOSS status has prevented it from exploding in greater popularity. I suspect that may be at least partially true, so let’s see what comes to bear as it gets GPLed.

Oh NOvell

Novell and Microsoft, what are you doing? The news is out, Novell and Microsoft are partnering for the sake of office document interoperability, virtualization, and service oriented arch smoothness. After reading the press, I’m left with a few irksome thoughts on what this amounts to. In spite of the potential upside to what this agreement may result in, as well as the fact that it appears Microsoft is publicly recognizing a requirement to somehow support Linux based on real customer demand, it also sounds like a dodge of something that isn’t being explicitely said.

1) Virtualization. According to Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Novell, “As a result of this collaboration, customers will now be able to run virtualized Linux on Windows or virtualized Windows on Linux.” But this is not accurate. Customers are already able to run virtualized Linux on Windows or virtualized Windows on Linux via applications like VMWare, Parallels, and others. So the virtualization hype produced in this announcement sounds a little much, at least on the surface. Perhaps the two companies will produce something exciting and effective but the customers’ ability to do what they’re saying is not coming as a result of the Novell/Microsoft collaboration since that ability already exists.

2) Web services. “Microsoft and Novell will undertake work to make it easier for customers to manage mixed Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise environments and to make it easier for customers to federate Microsoft Active Directory® with Novell eDirectory.” Ok, that sounds good. Though what does it portend for the future? Mitch Ratcliffe comments from ZDNet:

“I’m not saying Microsoft is evil, only that it makes these interoperability deals to defeat its partner, not help them. In the 90s, when both Windows and Novell Netware were under assault by IP networks, they tried to co-exist. Microsoft started making Netware-compatible versions of its local area network management and operating system software.”

One wonders if this is a matter of history repeating itself.

3) Document format compatibility. This seems to focus on improving the compatibility between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice (as Novell distributes it anyway). Err the document formats these applications use. Considering OpenOffice defaults to the Open Document Format (ODF) standard and Microsoft has been under increasing pressure to adhere to that standard or at least support it in addition to its own formats, this doesn’t really seem like huge news. This move toward compatibility has been ongoing anyway.

4) The thing that gets repeated over and over throughout the press release is the mutual affirmation not to kill each other over patents. And this is what I find a little weird about the whole thing. For the number of times this was mentioned and the lack of detail in why this is so important, it feels like a red herring to me. I wonder if this was designed to ward off or compromise on certain actions the companies may have been considering against each other. Here is a point on the monetary side of things from the press release

“Under the patent cooperation agreement, both companies will make upfront payments in exchange for a release from any potential liability for use of each other’s patented intellectual property, with a net balancing payment from Microsoft to Novell reflecting the larger applicable volume of Microsoft’s product shipments. Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.”

Jason Matusow writes in his blog:

“What it really means is that customers deploying technologies from Novell and Microsoft no longer have to fear about possible lawsuits or potential patent infringement from either company.”

I wonder how much customers really had this fear. It seems like such a fear surfaced for a little and a number of companies began offering indemnification programs for open source solutions. But that faded rather quickly. Perhaps because the threat isn’t real enough to pick up many clients. I don’t remember exactly how this went, but the last LinuxWorld Expo I attended, there was a session in which conversation shifted toward the legal aspects of just how real or likely such lawsuit threats were. The opinion seemed to be that they were mostly FUD. Considering how “successful” ones like the SCO case are, it doesn’t seem like this has had a huge impact to many customers. Yet here Novell is, apparently ready to make royalty payments to Microsoft based on open source solutions it sells and so I am reminded of Mitch Ratcliffe’s comments again (which I cited above), where he likens the agreement to Dracula’s modus operandi.

In all of this, nobody hesitates to point out that this may be, at least in part, a response to Oracle and its recent Red Hat move–competitors to Microsoft and Novell. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols of Linux-Watch has an insightful write-up about this. If there’s going to be a dominant enterprise Linux platform, Novell would certainly rather have SUSE be the one and I’d expect Microsoft can only stand to gain by appearing aligned with a strong distribution that could give it comparable access to enterprise customers using Linux.


Addendum – 22:51

The red herring of this deal that I mentioned I suspected, may have been revealed by Bruce Perens. He theorizes that this is actually a means for Microsoft to set up the conditions for an environment, which enables it to sue. It would seem to need some “correct” paths available before pursuing patent suits against Free software systems.

“Even if everyone were to be protected regarding software that Novell distributes, there’s the tremendous collection of Free Software that they don’t distribute. A logical next move for Microsoft could be to crack down on “unlicensed Linux”, and “unlicensed Free Software”, now that it can tell the courts that there is a Microsoft-licensed path. Or they can just passively let that threat stay there as a deterrent to anyone who would use Open Source without going through the Microsoft-approved Novell path.”

That’s quite a strategy. Except there is some question as to whether Novell would still be able to even offer something under a GPL license. Furthermore, I have a hard time seeing how this could ever truly be that effective. A GNU/Linux system has many heads, which appear in a widely dispersed environment of physical and virtuals realms, governed by a multitude of laws that are not all US-based, and embraced by many people that just don’t need to care. I don’t see them all being cut off.

Oracle–Linux Knight that isn’t Quite

After persistent media rumours of an Oracle-based GNU/Linux distribution, Mr. Ellison finally announced it. Sort of. It’s offering Oracle support services around the Red Hat Linux distribution. It makes sense–I think companies need to make the entire life of the software solutions they sell a seamless continuum lacking problems and time-wasting intervention from their customers. Yet, a lot of people are writing about how this is a move to hijack Red Hat’s support business or is a forking manoeuver. Some are saying it’s a warning to Red Hat, which is true, but I think the warning does not come in the sense of a support business hijack or fork. Oracle must have a more comprehensive picture in mind. Rather, I think Oracle’s move makes sense in order to steer its solutions into a comprehensive and lean offering. So I’ll explain why the fork doesn’t matter and why the support services on their own aren’t the real threat.

I refer to an idea I put forward some time ago for what needs to happen with the Linux desktop to catapult it to widespread adoption. I was asserting that there needs to be a Linux vendor changing the entire OS market game by offering: A full computing solution should come from a company that pre-bundles everything its customers want, consistently supporting it, for the duration of ownership. It should not require anxious intervention from the owner when the owner desires a new component or new system, and the new system should have all data and applications from the old system installed, setup, and accessible upon delivery. I would expect this to apply just as well to business software systems as individual user systems. I further believe that such a solution is only possible to fulfill, in all its complete glory, within a FOSS ecosystem (read that idea link at the beginning of this paragraph for details on why). This latter point can play to Red Hat’s favour. How does this relate to Oracle’s Linux move? Well, let me clear the threats that have been proposed already, which I mentioned were passing around the blogosphere/news article space.

First, if Oracle intends to eventually fork Red Hat’s distribution, so what? It’s been done more than once before. Mandriva is such an example. The GPL licensing mechanism has proven over and over that FOSS forks do not necessitate a negative outcome. Often they lead to a spread of improvements in the ecosystem as a whole and all the companies that continue to participate in that spread tend to benefit. I mean, Red Hat is still around, and strong. Forking in the open source world ought to have earned a default view as growth rather than as problematic division. The freedom of the licensing schemes makes a FOSS fork wholly different than one in which the prongs are proprietary.

Second, I don’t see why this should be viewed as Oracle just trying to hijack just Red Hat’s support business. Maybe I’m missing something but that’s only one aspect of what is at play. The fact is that Oracle offers products that run on Linux. Red Hat offers products that run on Linux. Some of these compete (application servers, database servers, etc.). Furthermore, competitor Microsoft offers enterprise solutions and the OS. These companies are getting their tentacles around more comprehensive offerings for their customers. At least that’s what the advertising is always promising. So what is going to be the easiest, most painfree choice for a customer? Getting pieces of a solution from a combination of vendors? Or getting something from start to finish that eliminates

  • further evaluation time and effort
  • additional sales points-of-contact
  • extraneous support sources when trying to solve problems
  • integration woes

It seems to me that all of these eliminations would result in a much more attractive choice for the customer. It would save a lot of time and cut down on the efforts required to get well-designed and supported enterprise systems. Consider how Oracle has positioned this move, reiterating its “unbreakable” theme and stating that

“Oracle validated configurations provide easier, faster, and lower-cost deployment of Linux solutions in the enterprise with pre-tested, validated architectures–including software, hardware, storage, and network components–along with documented best practices.”

If this support move is Oracle’s warning shot, then I think it’s a shot of the lean and comprehensive solution nature. Their phrase, which I quoted above, is spot-on with the model I outlined for a real year of the Linux desktop, it’s just focused on the enterprise software space instead.

Considering Oracle, Microsoft, and Red Hat, who can actually do this? The all-proprietary vendor, Microsoft? The mixed proprietary/open source vendor, Oracle? Or the all open source vendor, Red Hat? Based on those three options, only Red Hat is actually in the position to fulfill this comprehensive model because it’s the only one that operates entirely in the FOSS ecosystem and for that, again I refer to the comprehensive and lean model, which I outlined previously.

I’ll leave this post with a question. Where is Canonical in this? Every blog and article talking about Oracle/Red Hat seems to ask or fantasize about Canonical and Oracle teaming up. Thus far Canonical is publicly touting only support services. Will it catch up on the OS market game change to offer the sort of solution Red Hat currently has the potential to? That Oracle seems to want to do? That Microsoft tries to do but limits itself under pounds of proprietary rope?