OSBC: SAP exec cites IT consolidation wave

SpikeSource's Polese touts open source effects

SAP and SpikeSource executives on Wednesday emphasized IT consolidation and the effects of open source, in different presentations at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco.

Consolidation of systems will come about as IT shops address complexity, said Peter Graf, executive vice president of product marketing at SAP. Users are dealing with thousands of systems and must decrease that amount "because the mess that companies have in their IT today is unmanageable," Graf said.

This raises the question of which open source technologies are mature enough to survive the consolidation wave, Graf said. Linux, Eclipse and Mozilla are good bets, but for other technologies, it remains to be seen.

"The question that customers ask themselves is, Can I bet the farm on this platform?" Graf said.

"They don't have confidence in everything that's going on in open source," he said.

SAP itself seizes opportunities in open source, running its software on Linux, leveraging Eclipse and the Hibernate Java persistence framework and contributing to the MySQL database, Graf said. The company is both a consumer of and a contributor to open source.

"We're very opportunistic when it comes to open source," Graf said.

But open source has its shortcomings. "We believe the open source business applications do not have enough time to mature before this consolidation wave hits," Graf said.

SAP is inviting the community to start thinking about how to move from programming in open source to programming in open models. As users model business services and consolidate systems, CIOs will become more of a CPIO, as in chief process innovation officer, Graf said.

"We believe that software development evolves into modeling; and people, in an increasing way, will not program solutions. They will model solutions and these models are executables," Graf said in an interview after his presentation. SAP's approach to service orientation and SOA is to take Web services and add business semantics to them, he said.

Pitching SAP's NetWeaver platform, Graf said NetWeaver enables users to take systems either from SAP or others, combine them, and use composite applications.

"Right now, we have about 500 of those enterprise services published," Graf said.

SpikeSource CEO Kim Polese stressed the change in the software landscape due to open source.

"What's happening here is that software is becoming a true free market and open source is the driver of that change. The result is abundance [in factors such as participation and business models]," Polese said.

Meanwhile, the impact of open source on the free marketplace has caused unexpected events. These include the growth in Linux server sales, the importance of Firefox, and Eclipse becoming the de facto standard for Java development, Polese said.

The growth in open source accompanies a larger transformation in society in how people use markets. Tightly controlled, hierarchical command and control markets are giving way to people taking control of markets themselves, Polese said. She cited examples such as the town of Ithaca, N.Y. issuing its own local currency.

The more open disclosure of security issues in software also represents a change, from years of being hidden to being exposed and fixed. Polese said.

"We're finding that the software industry is behaving like the real world. For example, no one asks which platform your box runs on," she said.

The proliferation of open source, though, has brought about new issues, Polese said. "Abundance really creates the problem of what works with what," she said. In 2005 alone, for example, almost 500 combinations of PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor), Apache and MySQL were released, Polese said.

Polese cited her own company's offerings as a solution to this problem. SpikeSource fills a need for "chaos consolidators," gathering information from various sources and doing testing to validate interoperability.

SpikeSource at OSBC this week unveiled Spike Stack for Sugar Professional, she noted. This serves as an integrated stack between SpikeSource, SugarCRM and MySQL, she said.

Like SAP's Graf, Polese sees consolidation of systems. A system may be developed, for example, to combine e-mail, a phone, CRM and accounting she said.

"Software itself is getting better at an incredible pace," she said.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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