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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Open Source Business Conference (OSBC)

What a great show put on by Matt Asay and the rest of the crew. Kicked off by a compelling presentation from Matthew Szulik, the buzz during the first day was wonderful. Just about anyone who is “anyone” in Open Source was there, with a few notable exceptions (I didn’t see any folks from Sun or IBM). During Matt Asay’s welcoming remarks, he commented on the value of the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) and what we are trying to do there.

I served on one panel session discussing the traction of open source in the channel. My fellow panel members included Ranga Rangachari (CEO, Groundwork), Lars Nordwall (Sales VP, SugarCRM), and Anthony Roby from Accenture. Some great points were raised about the role of the channel and how important it is to optimize heterogeneous environments in order to leverage open source within existing environments.

I also delivered one of the breakout keynotes on Open Source in High-Performance Information Systems. The group asked some good questions around how business executives determine which open source projects are right for their particular strategy and how to go about integrating within legacy environments. I also presented some case studies around Reuters, SHK (largest non-bank financial services company in Hong Kong), and Redmayne-Bentley (largest independent stockbroker in the UK) and how each of those companies is using open source in mission-critical environments to modernize their business.

It was also very nice speaking to many companies about the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) and the work that organization is doing to drive the development and consumption of open solutions. Plus, with a nice plug from Matt Asay during his kickoff presentation, I received a lot of questions about how to go about joining OSA.

One of the surprising elements was the amount of Microsoft bashing that went on in public presentations. Certainly MSFT has its share of detractors, but they are also doing a lot of work in the open source space (Bill Hilf’s team are top notch with a great vision). I suppose people have a need to identify villains and victimizers (helps make us feel better perhaps). But, in a few cases, the villainous statements directed toward MSFT were flat out wrong. The curse of being big.

Another surprising element (at least to me) was the lack of business users at the conference … you would think with the title of “open source business conference” that there would have been many more customers and potential customers. However, the show seemed to be comprised of vendors, their partners, some VCs, and a lot of lawyers. Interesting, even with so many lawyers there, I did not hear a lot of debate around GPL 3.0 (nor a lot of lawyer jokes).

It was also very nice seeing some old friends there like Tom Costello, CEO UpStreme in Pennsylvania; Derek Rodner, marketing executive for Enterprise DB; and Peter Gallagher, CEO Devis. And, since I’ve gotten in the habit of commenting on the hotels I’ve been living out of over the past year, the Palace Hotel on New Montgomery Street in San Francisco was superb. The rooms were decent and the ambiance was great. My only complaint: they have this air-conditioning system where you can set the temperature to anything you want (down to 65 degrees), but it is controlled by a motion sensor. So, once you stop moving around in the room (ie sitting at the desk working or sleeping in bed), the A/C turns off and the room gets very warm.

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