SpikeSource CEO: Linux all grown up

Kim Polese talks about wikis and his company's role in the open source movement

The recently concluded LinuxWorld Conference & Expo looked like any other big tech industry conference as the logos of Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Dell, IBM and other big names filled the exhibit hall at San Francisco's Moscone Center. That's a change from LinuxWorld shows of a decade ago, when open source was a renegade, even subversive, concept.

Kim Polese, CEO of SpikeSource, says that's because Linux and open source are now battle-tested. SpikeSource helps to integrate various open-source applications in a software stack.

Polese speaks about the open-source movement and new products SpikeSource introduced at LinuxWorld.

You've introduced a new SpikeSource software suite that helps companies integrate wikis and blogs used for collaboration. How are they coming together?

Most enterprise users, if they have a blog, typically want to post to a wiki so others can respond and get engaged. Similarly, many people who post to wikis have a blog. So there's an intermixing of the applications inherently. More and more enterprises want to standardize on a suite. They may want to use blogs, wikis and maybe RSS technology, encouraging [people] to collaborate and exchange information. Standardizing on a suite is becoming increasingly important for CIOs, where maybe a year ago, they were saying, "What's a wiki?"

SpikeSource has entered into a partnership with Funambol, which you say is Italian for "tightrope walker," an apt metaphor for the IT manager's role today.

They are an open-source company providing mobile software. They are becoming embedded in the leading handsets and back-end systems software for big providers like Nokia and others. We're adding mobile capabilities to the applications that we deliver to businesses, including CRM (customer relationship management), content management, e-mail and business intelligence. We provide users with easy mobile access to those applications. Funambol is a natural addition to our portfolio.

You say that one expanding market is for mobile phones in China that run on Linux. How is the Linux market changing?

We're seeing open-source go everywhere. It started on the back-end data center servers, and we're now seeing it become a part of the standard mobile infrastructure. And as Web-based applications become more popular and Linux becomes more mainstream, midsize businesses will start seeing standard business applications based on Linux. We also see a combination of Windows and Linux in environments. Our customers are running Linux on the back end and Windows on the front end, so we do certify all our applications on Linux and Windows.

So as all that expands the use of Linux, does it also expand the opportunities for SpikeSource, for that software integration?

Integration and interoperability has always been the bane of software, and that challenge is compounded in the world of open source, because all these applications come from a different source, whether it's from a company or a project, and they are all on a different release train and are always changing. So the integration of them up front, and the ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the applications, is critical.

Someone here told me they thought LinuxWorld has become too "corporate" with big players like Dell, Oracle, IBM, etc. What do you think happened to change Linux over the years from its renegade, revolutionary attitude to being corporate?

I think what happened was Linux proved itself. The more companies used Linux, the more clear it was that this was an industry-strength, battle-tested operating system that is flexible, that scales and that runs the most demanding applications in the world. And that the most conservative companies in the world are depending on it. As that became more apparent, open-source as a model became more accepted, and so we're seeing the results of that with big names [here] like Intel, AMD and Motorola.

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Robert Mullins

IDG News Service
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