Day 1 at OSBC is in the books, and it’s going in as an educational experience. Hasn’t been the equal of the last OSBC, to be honest, but it’s still been pretty useful. Without going into any serious depth, a few of the takeaways from some of the sessions I attended:
- Jonathan Schwartz:
While some of the material – businesses founded on free, etc – was familiar, some of the analogies were not. Comparing open source to the Amazon river (a large river composed at least partially made up of tributaries) was interesting, but the real news of the day was the announcement of the intention to release under the GPL the OpenSPARC details. While I’m very assiduously not a hardware guy, I have no trouble seeing the significance of the move, nor did Richard Stallman who endorsed the move in a supplied quote. Will this change the perception of Sun amongst that community? Tough to say, but it can’t hurt.
- Bill Hilf:
Microsoft’s replacement for the departed Jason Matusow gave what I’d characterize as a basic talk to what may have been the wrong audience. As I told a couple of folks, the panel discussion that I moderated this past weekend in Burlington at the MIT Conference was accused of being a bit open source 101ish, but that was very much the audience. The folks here at OSBC have seen much of what Bill had to say, I think, with but a few exceptions. Some of his thoughts on coopetition were of interest, however.
- Nicholas Carr:
I happen to agree with Matt Asay who described Carr’s blog as a must read, and Carr himself as very bright, but I nonetheless did not find much to internalize within his talk today. As I told Dan Farber and Steve Gillmor on the Gillmor Daily this afternoon, I thought – as I have before – that Carr’s argument lacks meat. For those that haven’t heard it before, it’s much like the pitch that Schwartz has given in the past, namely that IT staffs are set for an overhaul much as electricty was in the last century. Where the personal power plants and the staffs that run them – once so common with rich individuals and large corporations – are now pretty much history, Carr sees the IT industry going. This transition, which I do not fully disagree with given my strong belief in the future of SaaS, is fueled by a simple macro-economic argument of the tendency of markets to become more efficient – a trait which hardly describes IT today. I’m with him that far. Where we part company is in the almost 1:1 comparison of IT to electricity – to me they are very, very different things. There are, to be sure, things that can and will be outsourced: general offerings like CPU cycles or storage, or specific offerings such as email, CRM, and perhaps ERP. But will this spell the end of the individual IT staff in the foreseeable future, much like we don’t keep folks on staff to build our own power plants? Maybe it’s just my ex-systems integration bias, but I can’t see it. I’ve been hearing about how we were factoring people out of the equation for years now, and guess what: people are still a fundamental part of the equation.
- Stacking the Enterprise Deck:
Any time you can stock a panel with bright folks like ActiveGrid’s Peter Yared, Sun’s Tim Bray, and Zend’s Doron Gerstel, you know you’re in for an interesting discussion and today did not disappoint. Bray, for example, championed his dynamic-language-on-Java approach, while Yared – who is ex-Sun from way back – expressed some enthusiasm but much skepticism. Bray also, as have a great many of technologists I respect, discussed just how impressed he was with Ruby on Rails and its abilities. Yared made the point, one I heartily agree with, that the assumption of the past couple of years – that there would or could be one stack within an ‘enterprise’ – is more or less a myth. Even should the ‘enterprise’ get to the state that they’ve stabilized on, say, WebSphere the minute they go and do an acquisiton they’re right back in heterogeneity. What matters, then, is whether the stacks can interoperate – it’s just a matter of choosing the right tool for the job. Zend’s Gerstel declined to address some of the current speculation on the rumored Oracle acquisition, but expressed discussed in some detail some of the work that IBM is doing with the upcoming PHP framework, as well as their Eclipse based efforts in the IDE and BIRT spaces.
So those are some of the major findings as far as I’m concerned; as always the real value to the conference has been a.) in offering the opportunity to meet with vendor clients that are attending, and b.) the chance to catch up with industry colleagues and get their takes on a variety of topics. Dinner, for example, was highly educational as I got to speak with Optaros’ Wallis, Eclipse’s Milinkovich, and Apache’s Susan Wu. Not every day you can grab some Italian food with those folks.
All in all, it’s been a day well spent even if there was nothing particularly revelatory in nature. Look forward to some of tomorrow’s sessions.