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Open source software and the innovation evolution

There were dozens of open source vendors pitching service and support at the OSBC, but sometimes all a customer needs is a little innovation.

NEWTON, Mass. -- There were dozens of open source vendors pitching service and support at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), but sometimes all a customer needs is a little innovation.

One such customer, James McGovern, chief security architect for the Hartford Financial Services Group, said just that during a conference session on the evolution of enterprise applications to open source software (OSS).

What are your favorite open source software (OSS) applications?

"The best project that I have come across is something called SQL-Ledger. It employs ledger and accounting software and has today become a useable application, with a significant amount of support for one small project." -- Kim Polese, CEO of SpikeSource

"I don't have favorite software, not necessarily, but I am impressed with the notion of OSS industry analysis, especially with [Denver-based] RedMonk. I like their approach to how the analyst community is starting to approach OSS." -- James McGovern, Chief Architect for Hartford Financial Services Group

"I like JBoss a lot and another company called Spring is also very useful for us. They have no interest in creating a big company, and are happy enough going out and consulting." -- John Newton, Founder of Alfresco

McGovern said his Hartford, Conn.-based financial firm would be more receptive to open source products if they existed in a format that would address specific components of the financial industry off the shelf.

"In our particular industry, selling insurance, we have some things that are common amongst all other players in our vertical [including] notions of rating engines [and] claims and policy administration," he said. "If there were OSS components that we could pull off the shelf and [that] get us closer to solving our real business problems, we would be very interested in those things."

Kim Polese, CEO of Redwood City, Calif.-based SpikeSource Inc., said she believes that changes are coming in the applications market that could help address such concerns over OSS.

"What has surprised me is the growth and speed with which the applications market in the world of open source has emerged," Polese said. "It has accelerated fast right off the block, especially when looking at companies like Alfresco, SugarCRM and GroundWork."

Polese attributed the explosive growth to the fact that these companies have either have built tremendous communities or have already had a significant customer base from their inception.

Polese shared the stage with John Newton, founder of U.K.-based open source content management firm Alfresco, who continued Polese's thoughts on the evolution of OSS.

Newton said certain applications were becoming more like open source platforms for customers like McGovern to build upon.

"Ultimately, people want a complete resolution and that's ultimately what they are buying; whether it is a platform or application they don't really care," he said. "What they care about is how it is going to be applied to their particular business."

Polese said she hoped the fact that SpikeSource had partnered with companies like SugarCRM to address open source concerns would encourage companies to join the open source community. One of the things SpikeSource is working on through partnerships is creating an integrated installer for OSS.

"One of the big challenges to date has been downloading the application and then having to configure the underlying stack in a day-long process," Polese said. "This is not just with SugarCRM but also with Apache and MySQL."

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