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9 questions to Nick Davis, Linux Honcho from IBM (part 2)

We have had the opportunity to do an e-terview with Nick Davis who IBM's Business Development guy for Open Source and Linux. Read more as we ask him ten questions about IBM's involvement in OSS and much more. Part 1 of the interview was published yesterday.

6. The title of your session at the last Linuxworld is Viable or Vapourware and you will talk about a Viability Matrix during your session. In a nutshell, can you tell us more about that Matrix.

The maturity level of different software segments vary significantly, customers need to understand these differences and effectively evaluate the risk associated with deploying an open source project. Essentially the matrix plots the maturity of the software against the increasing adoption rate by customers.

So we see that Open source is mature in some areas, for example:

Web servers – such as Apache

File/Print servers – such as Samba

Operating systems – such as Linux

Development tools – such as Eclipse

In other areas it’s starting to make progress and be adopted, such as:

Email servers

Application servers – such as JBOSS and Apache Geronimo

Databases – such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Apache Derby

And in still other areas, Open Source is really just emerging:

Applications – such as SugarCRM

Systems Management

Using tools such as the Linux Value Assessment we can help customers to measure the financial benefits of going to a Linux/Open Source solution while drawing their attention to potential pitfalls.

7. How is IBM as a for-profit organisation, gaining from Open Source and Linux?

IBM has a wide variety of HW and SW products that have been enabled to run on Linux, but, IBM’s Linux strategy is much more than just selling HW and SW that runs on Linux.

IBM has built an entire infrastructure dedicated to the improvement, maintenance, and support of Linux.

Everything from Worldwide Porting Centers which are designed to help companies port applications to Linux, to the Linux Technology Center which is one of the largest contributors to open source projects, to the Linux Integration Center which pulls all these efforts together creating proof of concepts.

The reason why we do this is simple - it makes business sense. Linux is the fastest growing part of the IT market and last year Linux accounted for over $6bn of revenue to IBM.

8. IBM has its own Open Source Public License; called the CPL. What are the main differences between the CPL and the GPL for instance?

The CPL (Common Public License) is an open-source software license, the terms of which have been approved by the Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation.

The CPL's stated aims are to support and encourage collaborative open source development, while still retaining the ability to use the CPL'ed content with software licensed under other licenses, including many proprietary licenses.

The CPL is similar to GNU GPL but with some key differences:

- Relicensing. One may compile a program licensed under the CPL without modification and license it under a proprietary license

- Patents. This clause is designed to prevent unscrupulous contributors from contribution code which infringes on their patents, and then subsequently attempting to charge royalties. The CPL requires the contributor to grant a royalty free license to all recipients. It is this requirement that renders CPL incompatible with the GPL, though it is possible that a future version of the GPL may incorporate such a clause.

9. What is the open source project/application/solution that has impressed you the most in the past year?

The Eclipse project - or is that just my IBM bias coming out. I like the fact that Eclipse has become a universal platform with wider applicability beyond software development, so we are going to see it encroach into many other areas, such as a Rich Client Platform.

IBM started the Eclipse project back in 2001 by donating the WebSphere Studio Workbench code to open source, and in parallel setting up the Eclipse Foundation. This became an independent not-for-profit Foundation in 2004, which has 120+ members, including major Java, Linux and Embedded vendors (Actuate, HP, IBM, Sybase, BEA, Borland, JBoss, SAP, RedHat, Novell, Nokia, Monta Vista, Wind River, Mentor, ENEA, QNX)

Eclipse now supports over 50 open source projects, with 670 committers from 30 organizations. 840 third party plugins are available for the Eclipse IDE. According to Forrester, Eclipse has a 55-65% market share of the Java IDE market.

IBM continues to contribute to Eclipse, both as a participants in the community, and by donations. For example, IBM contributed a subset of the Rational Unified Process to Eclipse in October 2005 and we recently announced that we’ll be donating code as part of the OpenAjax project that is now part of Eclipse.

The rate at which it is maturing and the support shown by the range of IT vendors (Business Objects, HP, BEA and Sybase in addition to IBM) means there is much more to come.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.