Startups vie to make Linux more attractive with bundled offerings

Greenplum, ActiveGrid, SourceLabs offer prebuilt configurations to ease integration of open source applications

Integrating open source applications is a task daunting enough to lead some companies toward proprietary products. To that end, several startups this week revealed plans to offer prebuilt, certified solutions so customers have fewer integration migraines.

Greenplum, JasperSoft and Kinetic Networks all banded together on Wednesday to offer a BI reporting, data warehousing, and ETL (extraction, transformation, and loading) combination, while ActiveGrid set its flagship prebuilt LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl/PHP/Python) offerings to sail. Both Greenplum and ActiveGrid detailed their wares at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention in Portland, Ore. Also, SourceLabs on Tuesday announced what it calls the SASH Stack for Java.

"Prepackaged solutions make open source much more palatable to a much larger percentage of the market," said Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at Burton Group. "Many companies don't have the technical expertise and staff to manage 'raw' open source projects."

She added that most of the successful open source projects have some sort of commercial entity attached, typically supplying a prebuilt solution and professional services offerings.

Linux, MySQL, and JBoss, are obvious examples, she said.

Greenplum integrated its Bizgres open source data warehouse with Jasper Reports, JasperSoft's front-end BI reporting tool, and KETL, Kinetic Network's ETL software. The result is an open source environment in which customers can get information out of their data warehouse, run analytics on that data, and, ultimately, deliver it to users in the form of BI reports.

"[Business intelligence] used to be guarded by the big guys because it is a very complex problem to solve," said Sam Mohamad, Greenplum's CEO. "Our goal is to make it easy to use and easy to install, and to do so at an affordable price."

Cost and ease-of-use are two of the main factors that attracted Pfizer's Global Pharmaceutical Group to use ActiveGrid's Enterprise LAMP, said Martin Brodbeck, director of the global applications architecture group in the Pfizer unit.

Brodbeck is currently using ActiveGrid's LAMP stack product, which is the group's first foray into open source, because of cost, ease of use, and, perhaps most important, its ability to scale for high-performance applications, Brodbeck said.

The fact that it comes packaged "makes it easier for the LAMP stack to be a supportable platform within our enterprise," Brodbeck added, because it "helps figure out how all the pieces fit together."

ActiveGrid on Wednesday announced the Versions 1.0 of Application Builder and LAMP Application Server. Application Builder is a RAD environment for building rich user interfaces and integrating those with existing back ends. It supports XML standards including XML Schema, BPEL, XForms, XPath and WSDL. LAMP Application Server brings session management, Web-services interoperability, and transaction management to the open source stack. It serves as a deployment platform.

The LAMP stack that ActiveGrid supports consists of Red Hat or Novell Linux, Apache, MySQL, and the languages PHP, Perl and Python, according to Peter Yared, CEO of ActiveGrid.

"It packages up both the innovation and economics of open source," Yared said.

Yared explained that a commercial edition of the LAMP Application Server with additional features will become available in December. It will include integration with identity servers, dynamic data caching, and EJB support.

Also this week, SourceLabs announced the SASH Stack for Java. SASH is the acronym for the open source application frameworks (Apache Struts, Apache Axis, Spring Framework and Hibernate) that it pulls together into a tested and supported stack for building enterprise-class Web applications.

Pfizer Global Pharmaceutical Group's Brodbeck said the recent smattering of pre-configured open source offerings changes the way he looks at open source. As such products continue to mature, he said, he will consider them, but only if they are good for his business, and not merely because they are open source.

"There are some really strong value propositions being made by startups around the pieces of the LAMP stack," Brodbeck said.

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