ISV Learns Open Source Lessons To Meet User Needs

manageStar, a business software firm in Walnut Creek, Calif. is among a growing number of commercial software firms looking to blend its commercial software with Open Source practices to better meet customer needs.

manageStar’s flagship software suite, Harmony, is comprised of modules that help businesses automate some key internal and B2B processes, including asset management, employee services, contract management, lease management and facilities management. Automating these types of practices in software can often require manageStar to customize the base modules, as one might expect.

To help contain costs and speed deployment of these customized solutions, manageStar engineers in 2001 hit on the concept of bring Open Source principals to their software — and their customer base. The ability to let customers “tweak” its core Harmony package is supported by the manageStar’s Equal Source Initiative, which execs say simply boils down to a simple idea — a balancing act between commercial and Open Source offerings that lets the customer use the right tools for the job.

In an interview with OET, Jason Henriksen, server technologies lead at manageStar, describes the balancing act at manageStar this way: “I’m responsible for code that is useful in a variety of software applications. However,” he added, “I am also responsible for the implementation of very client-specific solutions. Equal Source helps my team gain the advantages of Open Source for generic libraries, while maintaining tight control over the work that our clients would like to remain private.”

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Using Open Source To Secure Online Purchases

Lokitech Inc., a small software security firm in suburban Washington, D.C., has crafted an Open Source-based security solution for credit card processing that will run with .NET and Java enterprise systems.

Lokitech’s approach allows a business to store encrypted credit card lists and other sensitive information, says the company’s CEO, Serge Knystautas. Lokitech developed the encryption solution for an Internet-based casino project, involving teams in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Costa Rica, but the resultant easy-to-deploy two-way encryption platform is finding a larger audience, taking the risk out of using Open Source solutions for securing mission-critical data.

“We needed a way to store credit card numbers and account information without making the integration between different teams overly complicated. The technique we came up with allowed us to ensure that backups and communication were secure without adding significant costs or complexity,” Knystautas added.

Lokitech also needed to find a method that would help eliminate developer error. Company engineers hit on a solution that, with a little re-engineering and some Open Source libraries, moved the encryption function from the application layer to the data layer.

The encryption/decryption libraries are available as Crytpo++, an Open Source (and free) C++ Class library for encryption. To make the transfer of the encryption logic to the database layer, Lokitech wrapped the C++ encryption code inside extended stored procedures of an off-the-shelf SQL database (in this case, the casino used Microsoft SQL Server). Using the .NET Framework Class Library, Lokitech took advantage of many encryption APIs that can be called from any .NET-capable language, such as VB .NET, VC++ or C#

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IBM Applies Open Source Lessons to Commercial Apps

IBM is borrowing some important pages from the Open Source playbook in its pushes to re-architect its most valuable software assets, including Websphere and Tivoli.

OET speaks with Doug Heintzman, head of IBM’s Community Source program, to learn more about what Open Source approaches Big Blue finds the most valuable as they move from tightly-coupled to component-based appdev.

IBM software execs have aggressive goals in place to convert many of their core software products, including Websphere and Tivoli, from tightly-coupled offerings to a collection of integratable loosely-coupled component-based apps.

To get their software inventory to that destination, IBM managers have invoked some tried-and-true software development practices from the Open Source arena. The result: IBM’s aptly-dubbed “Community Source” Program. Doug Heintzman, director of Technical Strategy for IBM Software Group, said Community Source has been in existence for more than 2 years and now involves just over 10% of IBM’s 25,000 in-house developers, and involves more than 100 projects.

How Open Source is Helping IBM’s SOA Sea Change
Heintzman conceded that Community Source has been “like turning a big boat,” as far as getting long-time IBM programmers to update how the think about, design and do appdev. But, with the “sea change” coming from SOA and composite apps, it’s an important turn for Big Blue’s boat to make.

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Open Source Graphics Take on Adobe, Microsoft

The Open Source desktop app sector is gaining another player, as the Xara Project speeds towards a 1.0 release. The Xara Xtreme project is focused on building an Open Source version of a commercial-standard vector graphics. The team just released its Xara LX 0.5 for Linux, and is available under the GNU Public License.

“Linux needs a top-tier commercial-standard graphics program,” the team wrote in the release announcement. “The Linux desktop has come on leaps and bounds in the last year or so, but it still lacks any vector or general purpose graphics program to genuinely compete with Windows and Mac commercial products. And although desktop Linux is evolving at a rapid rate, the platform is behind in the graphics market. We intend to change that,” the team added.

So what can Xara 0.5 do now? The list of functionality is pretty impressive:

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MySQL CEO Mickos Looks to Present, Future Opps

MySQL CEO Martin Mickos is always looking to the future, and not one to bugged by the past. OET had the chance to speak with Mickos about the immediate and long-term future of MySQL. Among the topics: relations with Oracle, a growing MySQL partner network, the dramatic uptake in MySQL 5 in the enterprise, and even his views on the webification of the enterprise. For a quick read and a great interview, read on.

An Open Enterprise Trends
Interview with Martin Mickos, CEO

OET: What is this theme MySQL would like to put forward for 2006?
Mickos: I think the overall theme is that we are building something fantastic for the online world, and that the whole world, the enterprise and everyone, is going online.

OET: So, the message is that it takes MySQL to go online?
Mickos: To really get ready for the online world it takes a strong LAMP stack with partners. This year was great for MySQL’s partners. The [MySQL User Conference] was oversold and huge. My first LinuxWorld was smaller than what we had this year. And it’s just little us.

OET: Speaking of partners, things seem to be getting a bit better between MySQL and Oracle? Can Oracle be both a partner and a competitor?
Mickos: Yes, the world was a little bit shocked when Oracle acquired Innobase. . And yes, we thought there might be negative impact on our company and our users. But, we come out of it all even stronger. We have renewed our contract for innoDB with Oracle, and we even nominated them as a MySQL Partner of the Year.

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Madriva Adds OpenVZ Virtualization to Linux Offering

OpenVZ operating system virtualization software will be included as part of the latest commercial distribution product from Mandriva (formerly MandrakeSoft) Mandriva Corporate Server 4.0.

With virtualization technology, a Linux server running either Intel or AMD CPUs, can effectively be split into many small ones, each running its tasks so that the whole server is utilized more efficiently.

Mandriva is the publisher of the popular Mandriva Linux, which is used by IT departments in enterprise, government, and education. OpenVZ is OS-level server virtualization built on Linux, which creates isolated, secure virtual environments on a single physical server.

“Embedding the OpenVZ technology directly into the Mandriva kernel will give Mandriva customers unparalleled virtualization functionality,” said Kir Kolyshkin, manager of the OpenVZ project.

As a result of the partnership, Mandriva users will see greater server utilization and availability with fewer performance penalties. Further, bundled OpenVZ virtualization will let Mandriva admins ensure that applications do not conflict, and allows apps to be re-booted independently. Read the OpenVZ Project’s blog on virtualization.

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Enterprise Data Protection Goes Open Source

Enterprise IT managers concerned about costly or proprietary data backup and recovery now have an Open Source option.

Start-up firm Zmanda Inc. has optimized the Open Source Amanda data backup project for academia with new enterprise-class features. Zmanda has also hired many of the Amanda Project committers, and has thus become the de facto commercial arm of Amanda, Zmanda CEO Chander Kant told OET.

[Initially developed at the University of Maryland in 1991, Amanda has been in use as an Open Source data protection project by academia for more than decade. Now in all major Linux distributions, Kant estimates there are more than 20,000 deployments of Amanda worldwide.]

“At a time when protecting corporate data is becoming a top priority for all businesses, most data protection solutions are simply too costly and too complicated,” said Chander Kant, CEO at Zmanda. “Zmanda gives businesses proven, enterprise-grade data protection at a cost savings of up to 90 percent over proprietary solutions. The data protection market is ripe for commoditization, and Zmanda now offers a low-cost, simple and secure open source alternative to help drive this.”

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Use Case: An Open Source Alternative to HP OpenView

A growing number of Open Source sysadmins and developers are working on web services projects, and are finding themselves mixing their Open Source and commercial software to deliver innovative solutions.

Massimiliano Panchi, a system administrator at an Italian financial software company, needed a way to monitor and log uptime history for a number of Oracle applications in a high availability configuration. Using PostgreSQL as his backend, Panchi built a Perl-based system that would check the status of his applications, populate the PostgreSQL database with these results, and send alert messages if something required human attention.

Now, this innovative solution left Panchi looking for ways to solve his management of his new blended commercial/Open Source software.

After his company evaluated proprietary (and expensive) solutions such as HP OpenView, Panchi wanted to look elsewhere, noting that commercial packages were too expensive and way over-engineered for his needs. OpenView “had a few too many great features that didn’t really address [my] specific problems. It was a bit too wonderful,” Panchi told Open Enterprise Trends, noting OpenView’s sophisticated GUI as an example.

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IBM, Novell Differ Over Linux Indemnity for Users

Even among those companies that favor Open Source Linux use, there are differences over just how much those companies need to do to protect their enterprise users from liability.

During last month’s LinuxWorld, it became clear that not all major Linux providers are on the same page when it comes to indemnifying customers against any fallout from SCO’s $3 billion still-pending Linux copyright infringement lawsuit.

Notably, IBM and Novell execs last months outlined their views on indemnifying customers against any fallout from SCO’s Linux lawsuit. IBM remains steadfast that the suit has no merit and looks to original Linux providers, including Red Hat, SuSE Linux AG, and others. Meanwhile, Novell execs say that despite what Linux vendors’ opinion of the lawsuit are, they need to assure prospective customers.

For his part, Novell CEO Jack Messman told attendees that Novell would protect customers under a limited indemnity program. Novell will offer indemnification for copyright infringement claims made by third parties against registered Novell customers who obtain SUSE Enterprise Linux 8 after January 13, 2004, upgrade protection and a qualifying technical support contract from Novell or a Novell channel partner. Details of Novell’s program are available.

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Open Source vs. Shared Source – Hunt for Value

Vendors are beginning to take a few pages from the Open Source playbook, offering devs more access to code and community for paid software. OET takes a look at the back-and-forth over the question of how much value “Shared Source” truly offers,

Microsoft is one of the more visible of a number of vendors (including Oracle, Sun, Macromedia, SAP, among others) that has emerged with a variant on the traditional tight-gripped license on software source code. These new “Shared Source” licenses for commercial products give developers much more access to code than ever before.

But, despite the move to adopt some Open Source principals of sharing and community, some core Open Source devs are speaking out against the moves as half-measures. Not surprisingly, Microsoft is aggressively defending its approach as a realistic balance between “free software” and “the need to protect intellectual property”.

Meanwhile, the average commercial developer working for a commercial company is stuck somewhere in the middle, wondering what is the real truth (or the real hype) behind the emerging Shared Source saga. OET takes a look at the concerns Open Source devs have over Shared Source, and how Microsoft is responding to criticisms, and in some areas, adjusting its program.

In a nutshell, shared source is a take-off on the open source model without all the benefits that open source offers. Shared source licenses do not allow developers to modify the source code and certain portions of the source code remain hidden and it cannot be redistributed.

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