Andy McKay

Mar 19, 2008

OSS Watch Conference

Yesterday I travelled down to the OSS Watch event in Oxford. The conference had one of the nicest locations I've seen in a while. Even I could find it, cross from the train station and is the first door on the left.

There seemed to be about 65 people there, with about 20 of those being companies providing OSS solutions or speakers. The conference started off with a few talks and then in the afternoon a panel. Thanks to a few hitches on the train, I got there half way through the first talk.

One talk by Imperial College was interesting on their move to Linux. At the end a question focused on the fact that his department of 4 (5 including himself) maintained a Linux distribution for around 7,500 computers, which i thought was neat. An offside was that at the request of the organisers, the speaker tried hard not to mention the name of vendors. Spoke about the "large Linux vendor from Germany" and the "large Linux vendor in the US" (although his screenshots mentioned RHEL).

In the afternoon I sat on a panel (twice) about "Working with the OSC". This was a little odd to me because within Blue Fountain I have no idea what relationship we have the OSC. So I just came out and said so and waffled a bit more about Plone.

The questions were mostly about procurement, it was interesting to hear the same points raised again, things (which might be cyncial in my summation) like:

  • Size and scale of open source companies is a perceived barrier. In reality if you wanted to a large support contract with the international consultancy Flibberty, Pooch and Posh they would go out and set up a support infrastructure anyway. Just like smaller companies would.
  • Risks are reasonably arbitrary and often weighted on cultural differences, the more different you are from what they are used to, the more those risks are weighted.
  • The end outcome of a procurement process isn't as important as being seen to have done the process (and hence your job) properly.

The end result is that the procurement process does not result in the solution is necessarily the best for the procuring organisation. Rather it's about finding an organisation who's structure meets the clients needs. Not how well the job can be delivered the needs. One panelist said that on most large procurements the focus is purely on the company structure, not on the solution.

It made me think of what Paul Everitt said at the Plone Planning Summit: "Enterprise customers buy whatever Deloitte tell them to".

One the way out I chatted to Michael from Alfresco because I was curious about their licensing, something that was brought up at the Plone Planning Summit. Plone provides itself on being free as beer and free as speech. It also has an incredibly open development process. Michael said that there have been issues with the Alfresco license in the past, but those are mostly past issues. The current licensing is a simple dual licensing. The community edition is released before the enterprise version. The community version is GPL, the enterprise one isn't. There isn't support on the community edition. He compared it Fedora and Red Hat's official licenses.

Then it was time to hop on the train back home shame that took 5 hours. Bloody rail in Britain.