Open source software ready for big business

The combination of pumped-up technical features and relatively low prices are giving vendors with open source-based products more inroads

Established open source company Talend is worth watching as it expands into master data management (MDM) technology. The company, which competes with other open source vendors such as Jitterbit, offers a suite of data integration tools. The MDM piece extends Talend's tools across data integration, data trust and data consistency, according to Yves de Montcheuil, vice president of marketing. The tools are available for internal deployment or as a service.

On the enterprise search front, Lucid Imagination is offering commercial support, training, consulting and software add-ons to its certified distributions of the Apache Lucene search library and the Solr enterprise search server.

The company is working on LucidGaze for Solr, an open source visual framework for monitoring Solr performance. Solr, which runs in a Java servlet container, features XML/HTTP and JSON APIs, hit highlighting, faceted search, caching, replication and a Web administration interface. Doug Cutting of Cloudera, who created Lucene along with Hadoop and Nutch, sits on the company's advisory board.

On the collaboration front, MindTouch, touted by Forrester Research as the best product alternative to Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus, offers both a standard and enterprise version of its open source platform that is part wiki, portal and application server. It includes integration with Microsoft productivity tools, database and CRM adapters, charting tools and directory integration.

"Quite frankly one of our challenges is explaining it," says Aaron Fulkerson, CEO and former distributed systems researcher at Microsoft. "It is kind of like an app server with a wiki-like interface. I can use it like a wiki, like a portal or like an app server for developing apps on." Amazon's Shelfari.com social book site is built on MindTouch.

Another collaboration player is CubeTree, which isn't a traditional open source vendor but its free collaboration suite based on social networking tools is built using Debian, MySQL, memcached and Ruby on Rails. The service integrates with Twitter, Google Docs and Salesforce.com. The company has received seed funding from Mitch Kapor, who founded Lotus and designed Lotus 1-2-3

The platform offers familiar features including user profiles, activity feeds, micro-blogging, wikis, blogs, polls, file sharing, link sharing and search.

Last, but definitely not least (in terms of size), are Microsoft and Google.

Microsoft bears watching on two fronts. Earlier this year, the company contributed its first open source code to the Linux kernel in the form of virtualization drivers. But the company turned around and angered the open source community when it tried to sell off some Linux-related patents only to be intercepted by Open Invention Network, which saved the patents from questionable buyers some labeled as "patent trolls."

In August it raised eyebrows again, opening the CodePlex Foundation to bring together open source and proprietary software companies to participate in open-source projects. The interim board of directors was so laden with Microsoft employees that many are waiting to see how the organization will develop when permanent officers are in place.

But Microsoft clearly understands that it must interoperate with open source platforms, even closing earlier this year its first collaboration with Red Hat to test, validate and integrate their respective virtualization platforms.

Google on the other hand has always been a heavy user of open source technology, including software that runs its internal systems.

The company's Open Source Programs Office maintains a link to the open source software development community, releases Google-created code, and aids in the education of open source software developers through its Google Summer of Code program.

Google Android, Google Chrome, and later this year, Google Chrome OS are some of its most visible open source efforts.

But those three also offers threats to other open source projects. So while Google is more trusted than Microsoft, it still gets a long, critical review from the open source community.

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John Fontana

Network World
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