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New OSA Group Takes Alternative Tack On Linux/Windows Interoperability

Out of the Gate

  • February 14, 2007
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

At IDG's LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit today, ten enterprise open source players will launch the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA), a group that will bring together developers, systems integrators (SIs), and quite possibly Linux operating system (OS) vendors in a drive to further the commercial success of open source applications through better interoperability across Linux, Windows, and other environments.

"This will not be a standards organization," maintained Barry Klawans, chief technology officer (CTO) of JasperSoft, one of the OSA's founding members.

Interoperability standards are already being addressed through other mechanisms, including the Linux Foundation, Klawans noted, during a briefing for LinuxPlanet.

Klawans also contended that the OSA will not compete with the Vendor Interoperability Alliance--a group formed last fall by Novell, Microsoft, Sun, and some of their partners--or with one-on-one integration efforts previously announced by Novell and Microsoft.

"But the business community will be better served if people have other choices. The [Novell/Microsoft] deal is a little hard to read right now, and there's been a lot of posturing," according to Klawans, who is also a spokesperson for the OSA.

The OSA will instead pursue an approach that will combine the promotion of industry best practices around interoperability issues with tools and a "metaforum" for online discussion among members, he said.

Essentially, these best practices will be aimed at doing a better job of meeting customers' needs by encouraging greater architectural consistency in open source software, not at the underlying OS level but at higher levels of the stack.

For example, an enterprise might run into a situation where one open source application runs only with the Postgre database, whereas an application that might otherwise be complementary works only with MySQL, he illustrated. "Maybe the customer doesn't want to use both databases," according to Klawans.

"But if your application operates only on Debian Linux, and mine runs only on Fedora Linux, then we have another [type of interoperability] problem," he acknowledged.

Some of the best practices created by the OSA, known as "guidelines," will be mandatory for use by members, whereas others, dubbed "recommendations," will be optional.

The new group in planning several membership levels: ISVs, SIs, community members, and "Friends of the OSA."

Although membership at all of these levels will be available free of charge, organizations joining at the ISV or SI level will be required to donate some staff time--amounting to one-fifth of a full-time paid position--to the OSA.

"You might donate [an employee] for one day a week, for example," according to Klawans.

Some Linux OS distributors have also expressed interest in joining the OSA. "But we haven't decided [in which category] to put them yet," he said.

Also in contrast to the Vendor Interoperability Alliance, membership will be open to all application developers, so long as they produce software which is either "open source" or "open source-based," according to Klawans.

Klawans pointed out that many ISVs in the open source space offer both open source editions of their applications, which are downloadable free of charge, and "professional" or hybrid editions, which blend in some proprietary components.

Aside from JasperSoft, other founding members of the OSA include Hyperic, Adaptive Planning, Centric CRM, CollabNet, EnterpriseDB, Openbravo, SourceForge.net, SpikeSource, and Talend.

Some founding members of the group--including both JasperSoft and Hyperic, for instance--produce Java-based software that runs across Windows in addition to Linux and other flavors of Unix. Others use development tools which do not support Windows. "We won't be advocating that you run on Windows," Klawans said.

In a separate interview, Hyperic CEO Javier Soltero said that Hyperic decided to join the OSA to help smooth enterprise adoption of "best-of-breed" open source applications.

Also at the LinuxWorld show in New York City today, Hyperic will introduce the 3.0 edition of its HQ software for cross-stack management of open source, commercial, and hybrid software.

The latest edition introduces new features for event analysis, corrective control, and alert acknowledgement and escalation, along with a Web-based management portal called Operations Dashboard.

Soltero told LinuxPlanet that, in HQ 3.0, administrators can now correlate log files and configuration data with event information, for example.

As JasperSoft's Klawans sees it, the benefits of open source software extend way beyond just a matter of price.

"'Cheap' should not be the overriding factor," Klawans said. Open source applications can be much higher in quality than new versions of long-standing proprietary applications, in that "mistakes made during the 1980s still exist in some of those [proprietary] products," he elaborated.

Peer review, a staple of open source development, can be particularly useful in achieving quality, according to Klawans.

"If a proprietary application is gross and brittle, you can check it in and hope nobody notices. But [as an open source ISV], I couldn't try to pass off garbage code," the JasperSoft CTO told LinuxPlanet.

The OSA's Web site is slated to go live today.

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