Strange beast distresses BT

The head of BT's open source unit has become distressed by sales calls from the software business' answer to werewolf: half open, half proprietary.

Jeremy Ruston, who was made head of open source innovation at BT after it bought his collobaration software business, told the British Computer Society yesterday that he was getting harassed by a "strange beast" that was neither fish nor fowl.

Was it an open source company trying to be a corporate businesses or proprietary software company trying to be an open source businesses? It was hard to make it out.

"Its a beast that can dress itself up like Oracle so that it can plug into the bits of BT that expect to talk to Oracle," he said.

It had distinctive characteristics: it had a community edition of a software product, which was open source, and an enterprise edition, which cost real wage money.

"And they employ sales people," said Ruston. "And you end up with a very strange beast".

"I find it distressing because the whole way they are structured is around the choke-them-off-as-high-as-possible sales approach."

Just when you think you're dealing with an open source supplier, you see the light of the moon catch in his fang. Then you notice his coiled sinews and that, strangely, he is salivating.

Beast freaking OSS developers

The beast also created distress among open source software developers, said Ruston.

"If you've got some job to do and you think this package might help you, damn it you can only access the community edition. The good stuff is in the enterprise edition but you've got to go through the conventional friction of adding your email address and talking to the sales guy," he said.

In true Gothic style, the beast was forgetting what that made it human, or open. And its heart, or its value, was obscured by its animal passions.

Mark Taylor, chief executive of Sirius Corporation, a business that makes real money selling services for open software, said the beast was "dishonest". Call it open core, call it neo-proprietary, but it's not open source.