We just signed a Simple Subscription Service agreement with Covalent. Nice job Stephen. As I have said before, RedMonk is doing very well in the commercial open source space. If there is an analyst firm to touch us in that market in I dont know who it is. The other main firm we see is probably The 451 Group, with its VC sales model explaining some of its success in OSS, but also Raven Zachary‘s leadership, and the deep knowledge and experience of its editorial team.
But this post is supposed to be a company now entering its third and perhaps most compelling act.
Covalent was a commercial open source vendor before the model became established, or even understood. Certainly there wasn’t VC money pouring into the space as there is now when the company launched in 1998. But Covalent helped write the book we now see as the dual foss/commercial model (maybe we should call them “fosscoms”) It began as a company created by core Apache contributors, who wanted to sell professional services around the tools they were building – a model later leveraged by JBoss. So Covalent offered a range of services around the Apache web server, and subsequently the Tomcat app server, and won some amazing customer references such as Bear Stearns. The company also built software it didn’t open source to, for example, harden Tomcat.
I first met the firm back in 2001 in the bar of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and it was one of the inspirations for an Illuminata report, Java On The Cheap (check out the illo, I bet any Apache contributor would be proud to have one of those Mini Coopers), in which I argued that Tomcat was a perfectly capable app server for scale out workloads.
Covalent got a bit confused and started trying to expand its offerings by becoming a more generic tranditional software company selling systems management products. I can remember the sinking feeling when I got a briefing from the firm and it was telling me about managing Oracle databases and even ERP componentry. Well that’s an interesting company that has lost its way, I felt at the time.
Covalent gets its mojo back and refocuses on its core competence – supporting open source code, and doubles down on Apache projects, going back to its roots. The latest example of Covalent seeing an opportunity and nailing it is the company’s announcement of support for the Roller blog platform. That’s now two companies, IBM and Covalent, making direct revenues from a platform originally built by a Sun employee, but for which Sun has no business model. Here is a hint Sun – perhaps its not software you need to sell but service and support. That is what Covalent is nailing.
So if you’re looking at Apache Axis or Geronimo, HTTP Web Server, Roller, Struts, Tomcat, Hyperic monitoring, with Terracotta for clustering, then Covalent is ready to offer subscription or incident based support.
It also moving into Europe through an alliance with Sourcesense.
We’re really looking forward to working with Covalent, and helping it with its third act. Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American Life. Evidently he was wrong.