Open Source and Offshore Development

Recently, my friend Todd McGrath has written about the symbiotic relationship of open source software and offshore development. He builds a case for the relationship between building trust in developers you might never meet (or mitigating risk in an offsourced project) with the use of open source software in the project.

In combining Open Source software and offshore development, high quality, cost effective software is more easily obtainable... Open Source provides a foundation of trust and confidence when using and/or providing offshore software development services.

In this article, my definition of Open Source is intended to mean complete products, tools, libraries, etc. with a vibrant community.

When implementing an outsource development strategy, choose developers that will use Open Source software in the overall solution. Using Open Source in the solution provides a shorter path to confidence and trust in outsourced software developers. Put another way, open source plays a positive part in the risk management of the decision to outsource. By choosing offshore software development partners that deliver based on community established Open Source with appropriate license for your needs, quality and the most competitive cost can be obtained.end quotation
-- Todd McGrath in Flat World Software Development » Open Source and Offshore Development

Those excerpts give his premise and conclusion, but you must read the whole article to see how he builds his case.

Todd focuses on outsourced, especially offshore, software development. There are, however, other things being offshored by businesses today. Business processes such as accounting and human resources, IT operations & maintenance, telecommunications management, design and development projects, and manufacturing are only a few examples. And there are many reasons for businesses to outsource. Some of these are reducing cost, enhancing skills, suplementing personnel, and taking advantage of economies of scale.

Having a common architecture or framework can be important in mitigating risk. But the assumption here is that if the first outsourced project fails, another team can pick it up because open source software provides common themes throughout software development, and you can find other developers with familiarity with the open source software that forms the basis of the project. I don't believe that this constitutes bulding trust in the original team, or even in the offsourcing tactic. So, I disagree with the premise that bulding trust is equivalent to mitigating risk. I would agree that using open source software in a software development project can help mitigate risk.

More importantly to building trust and to mitigating risk is assuring that the culture of the outsourcing partner matches your own culture. Can both partners truly communicate? Not just speak the same language, or a dialect of the same language, but truly understand each other's written and spoken dialogues, specifications, emails, messages and meeting notes. When offsourcing, societal, cultural and language barriers will complicate matters, and you may not have much control over these factors. [Excepting some artificial and unsustainable rules, such as a USA firm should only choose offsourcing partners in the Philippines because of the good blend of cultural match and economics.] You do have control over corporate culture aspects that affect the project, process, program or people being outsourced. For the type of software development projects of which Todd is speaking, you might want to consider:

  • decision making
  • documentation
  • specification
  • in-code comments
  • project management
  • QA
  • configuration control
  • version & release management
  • testing
  • bug fixes, enhancements and problem escalation/resolution
  • meeting protocol
  • team structure/team building
  • interfaces across and interactions among business untis/users, operations personnel and developers

I think these types of factors will be more important in building trust across distributed workgroups than the software architecture to be used.

Having said that, I do agree that there is a symbiotic relationship between offsourcing and open source development methodologies, in that both use the priciples of distributed workgroups, both are enhanced by the TeleInterActive Lifestyle™ and the two movements have feed off each other to a certain extent.

Bayon Technologies :: That whole "Freedom" thing pays

We've written before about commodization and consolidation in the software industry, and the imteraction of trend toward open source with these two trends. One result, as Nicholas Goodman writes, is that open source companies are generating income...

To put that in perspective, I bet that surpasses the annual revenue for JBoss, MySql, SugarCRM, Alfresco, Zimbra, Suse Linux revenues etc. The only open source play I don't think it tops is Red Hat. I'd love comments on this if you think my guesses are incorrect (all private companies so no way to know for sure).end quotation
-- Bayon Technologies :: That whole "Freedom" thing pays

I remember reading an estimate that JBOSS had a gross income of US$40 million, but as I write this I can't find the article, so don't trust this figure at all. Suse is part of Novell, though I don't believe they report figures for Suse separately. So, Nick, you may be correct in saying that Mozilla's 72MM USD income is tops, other than Red Hat. And Ingres is likely to far exceed that, once they've completed their first year as an open source vendor.

Nick cites quite a few other bloggers. I've done a trackback to them as well - mostly to show Nick how trackbacks can add to the conversation. Nick - thank you for turning trackbacks on at your blog.

OSC Podcast Pentaho Overview Part 3

Welcome to the conclusion of the conversation held on March 1st with James Dixon, Chief Geek, and Lance Walter, VP of Marketing for Pentaho, Clarise Z. Doval Santos, and Joseph di Paolantonio. In this third podcast, we talked mainly about community, and how Pentaho supports its community. Community is one of the most important aspects of an open source project. And communication is the most important means of building that community. Pentaho uses their forums, analysis of the conversations going on, and email to bring the community discussion directly into the heart of Pentaho development.

James points out that, by the very nature of business intelligence, the Pentaho community comes from other businesses. Because Pentaho has built a stack through cooperation with other BI open source projects, there is also a great deal of interaction among the members of communities from all of these projects, such as JasperSoft and Mondrian. But one incredible strength that the community brings to Pentaho is in the area of QA. Not just in bug identification and fixes to assure that the code conforms to specifications, but in contributing real-life use cases so that the specifications conform to real business needs and satisfies the users. Pentaho can release a version or module and begin getting feedback by the next day.

Another interesting difference between open source and proprietary software, is that a project can finish in open source. There doesn't exist the need to continually push our new, and possibly unneeded features, that exists in proprietary software, as the revenue stream for open source isn't dependent on forced upgrade license fees. In open source, when the community has determined that the project meets the needs, there are no more contributions. The project may not be releasing new code, but is far from dead. It has reached the required state of usefullness, and meets the users' needs.

Lance appreciates both the feedback, as well as the ability to turn-around the product rapidly, with freedom from the giant 18-month release cycles. Lance also discusses the training that Pentaho is making available through WebEx and other training plans. Sign up at:

Pentaho Overview, Part 3

This podcast is about 26 minutes long.

Don't miss the other two parts of this conversation: Part 1 and Part 2.

We would like to thank DOVAL for permission to use excerpts from his hit single "Love Lost" for our opening and closing tracks.

OSC Podcast Pentaho Overview Part 2

Continuing our conversation with James Dixon and Lance Walter of Pentaho, we explore open source licensing, advantages and challenges. We talk about the needs of the users, and the drivers for open source business intelligence. One observation from James and Lance is that the professional business models that have recently come about for open source projects has provided the framework for open source enterprise applications to be developed. Some topics we covered:

  • The complexity and challenges of bringing together different open source projects into the Pentaho suite or stack, with different license types.
  • Current legal status of open source licenses
  • Motivators for developers to consider open source
  • Adoption of Open Source in the enterprise space
  • The growth of Business Intelligence overall
  • Open Source facilitates BI prototyping, customization, implementations and acceptance
  • Making BI transparent

Pentaho Overview, Part 2

Don't miss Part 1 of this podcast, OSC Podcast Overview.
We expect to post the final part of this podcast on Thursday, 2006 March 09. Come back then to listen to James and Lance talk about the Pentaho Community.

Update: Part 3 is now available for download.

We would like to thank DOVAL for permission to use excerpts from his hit single "Love Lost" for our opening and closing tracks.

OSC Podcast Pentaho Overview

More open source conversations at the open source café and this time, we were very fortunate to have Pentaho's James Dixon, Senior Architect and CTO (a.k.a "Chief Geek"), and Lance Walter, Vice President of Marketing. They were good enough to spend over an hour and an half with us on the phone. We've broken this up into three podcasts.

Part 1 is about 19 minutes and provides an overview of the Pentaho open source BI suite. James provides insight into the technology, the capabilities, integration with other applications, extensibility and how the various components were brought together into an open source BI stack. Lances talks about the Pentaho strategy in regard to capabilities and functions, components, building the suite, partners and verticals.

Pentaho Overview, Part 1"

Update: Part 2 is now up at OSC Podcast Pentaho Overview Part 2.

We expect to have part 3 posted on Thursday, 2006 March 09.

Update: Part 3 is now available for download.

We would like to thank DOVAL for permission to use excerpts from his hit single "Love Lost" for our opening and closing tracks.

Quantifying BI Benefits

One of the questions I am usually asked is: "How do you quantify a successful BI Solution?"

Computing ROI becomes a challenge for most because a BI solution brings both quantifiable and qualitative benefits. The key to calculating ROI is being able to define, measure and quantify specific benefits in terms of dollars and cents and then compare that monetary value to the cost of your investment to achieve those results. Calculating ROI is easier said than done because the challenge lies in putting monetary value to some of intangible benefits of the BI solution e.g. performance improvement, time savings, etc.

In a TDWI Report Series: Smart Companies in the 21st Century: The Secrets of Creating Successful Business Intelligence Solutions by Wayne Eckerson, the diagram below shows that BI solutions have more intangible benefits than tangible ones.
BI Tangible and Intangle Benefits
Click to view original size

The value of a BI solution increases with the number of subject areas it supports as well as the number of happy users. The BI solutions must support the business requirements. In our experience, successful BI projects are incremental. We start small but add value exponentially by adding new subject areas and users. Incremental implementation makes it easier for the users and project sponsors to see the value of the BI solution right away. It helps builds the trust and confidence hence, is able to pick up momentum and funding for the next increments of the implementation. Over time, it matures and becomes a valuable enterprise resource.

jFreeReport Added

Lance Walter, VP of Marketing at Pentaho, let us know that we had neglected to include jFreeReport in our blogroll and lens. I plagerized his email in describing jFreeReport in the lens links to reporting tools.

This site is a great resource. A consultant referred me to it and said it was the best consolidated source of information on osbi that he had found.

I had one suggestion. In the OS Reporting Projects - would you consider adding a link to JFreeReport? . We use it as part of Pentaho, but it's also a standalone java reporting library with some pretty nice capabilities and a decent community around it.end quotation
-- email from Lance on 2006.02.23

Thank you, Lance.

OSBI Thirsty Bear Get Together

We want to extend heartfelt thanks to Nicholas Goodman, who hosted Julian Hyde of Mondrian fame, and James Dixon, Senior Architect and Chief Technology Officer ("Chief Geek") and Lance Walter, Vice President of Marketing for Pentaho, and Clarise, and me at the Thirsty Bear, the night before the Open Source Business Conference. We had over three hours of great conversation on open source, the conference, BI, the Oracle rumored purchase of JBoss, Sleepycat & Zend, and just rambling along on a bunch of topics.

Some of the more interesting geeky areas of discussion centered around data modeling, UDM, CASE tools, data stewardship and metadata management and use.

But I think that the most interesting area of discussion was in supporting the community around an open source project, and identifying the target audience for our OSBI book [update: no publishers are interested in the OSBI book as of 2007], for open source BI projects, and for BI programs in general.

While we weren't able to attend OSBC, we got a taste of it through drinking Thirsty Bear ales and bears &#59;) and we've added a module to our OSBI Lens providing links to disucssions about the OSBC.

Squidoo Lens in Top 100

We're quite proud to announce that for the past week our OSBI lens, concentrating various resources for Open Source Business Intelligence, has been in the Squidoo top 100, generally ranked between 50 and 90. Take a look at our lens, and let us know what you think in the comments below. How can we improve it?

Commodization of Commercial DBMS

An interesting meme seems to be forming. After my post of February 4, "Can Ingres Challenge Oracle for SAP?" and my remark that Oracle may find it worhtwhile to pursue the F/OSS path for even more of the RDBMS technology [Oracle currently offers a free version of Oracle 10g], I came across "Newly free databases validate open source pioneers"

Nowadays, the biggest traditional database companies are making free availability and open source development an increasingly significant part of their product lines. In the latest such move, this week IBM announced it would make its DB2 Express-C package available at no cost, though still under a proprietary license.end quotation
-- Newly free databases validate open source pioneers by Jay Lyman in Newsforge

Contrast this with the comment to my earlier post from drady:

As for the F/OSS'ing of Oracle/DB2/SqlServer, would they open enough of the RDBMS to actually be usable? Seems like an opportunity for them to redefine what is an application "option/feature" and what is an RDBMS "option/feature".end quotation
-- From drady's comment to Can Ingres Challenge Oracle for SAP

I think that over the next five years, we will see more F/OSS, FL/OSS and even OSS versions of Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server. The model will likely be dual-licensing, plus up-sell of certain features. This process of commodization can only be accelerated by the [re-] entry of Ingres into the database market as a stand-alone, OSS player, as well as the features inherent to PostgreSQL, and being added to PostgreSQL by EnterpriseDB and Greenplum [Bizgres].

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At the beginning, The Open Source Solutions Blog was a companion to the Open Source Solutions for Business Intelligence Research Project, and book. But back in 2005, we couldn't find a publisher. As Apache Hadoop and its family of open source projects proliferated, and in many ways, took over the OSS data management and analytics world, our interests became more focused on streaming data management and analytics for IoT, the architecture for people, processes and technology required to bring value from the IoT through Sensor Analytics Ecosystems, and the maturity model organizations will need to follow to achieve SAEIoT success. OSS is very important in this world too, for DMA, API and community development.

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