SpikeSource's Polese cites open source complexities

CEO also comments on Java, outsourcing

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InfoWorld: One more question about Java. Do you think Java needs to be available in an open source format, or should they stick with the Java Community Process?

Polese: That’s one that actually I prefer not to weigh in on right now. I [haven't been] examining the community model lately and contrasting that to a pure open source model, so rather than stating an opinion without having thought about it, I’d like to hold off on that one. 

InfoWorld: Are there any restrictions as far as which of the open source licenses you support at SpikeSource?

Polese: No. We basically tack on the licenses that are already attached to, associated with, those components.

InfoWorld: Do you carry any Sun software?

Polese: We are not currently certifying with Sun software, Solaris, but that is on our road map.

InfoWorld: I don’t know if proprietary is the right word, but say, for example, with Linux distributions, if you get an enterprise package from one of the major vendors, they often come with portions that are more or less non-free device drivers, that kind of thing. Do you also provide support for those?

Polese: We provide support basically at the operating system level or above, and specifically what we’re doing is certifying the common components that you find in the core stack, in the basic infrastructure stack -- like the application server, Web server, and database -- and then additional supporting components. So we’re not getting down to the device driver level.

InfoWorld: So then a different table type for MySQL, for example, that might be a commercial product?

Polese: If it’s part of the mainstream MySQL release, we are supporting it.

InfoWorld: Let’s say there was some sort of add-on that was popular but was more or less commercial software, you wouldn’t be interested in providing [support for that]?

Polese: We do certify with proprietary and commercial software, so Windows is a good example of that. If there was a popular commercial software product that was used in combination with open source, we would likely add it to the set of components that we validate.

InfoWorld: And as far as the technical support side of it, how does that work? You say your main service product is SaaS, how does the technical support work?

Polese: We have coverage for 24 hours a day and 365 [days a year], traditional enterprise-class support. We have teams here in the United States as well as Europe and in India who are experts in various components in the stacks and in technologies like Java or PHP. So we have a set of very well-qualified experts here on open source who are ready and standing by for customer’s calls as they come in.

InfoWorld: So that is traditional phone-based type of support?

Polese: Yes.

InfoWorld: And so you have partnerships with, for example JBoss, and if you need to get escalated to developer-level support, you’ll pass this along from the one phone number?

Polese: That’s right. So the customer [has] to make one call to us, although we can, as they need it, provide third-level support from JBoss or MySQL or other commercial providers. And we have strong relationships also with open source [providers] and the open source community in general, so we’re able to tap into that expertise as needed. And we’re also building relationships with other providers that are not household names necessarily, but commercial providers of open source, support providers of those components.

InfoWorld: You mentioned you have some people working overseas.  Do you want to weigh in on the outsourcing issue? Sun Chairman Scott McNealy last week said that there’s a false notion that if a job is outsourced overseas, that means a job is lost here. Do you have any perspectives on that?

Polese: Yes, well I agree with that statement. I don’t think we can make an assumption that it’s a job lost here. In fact in our case, we were a global startup from day one. We started with a team in India, and specifically because we believed that talent is everywhere and [we access resources] from the global market when we’re aggregating and supporting open source [software]. We’re selling to the global market. Our first customers, in fact, were U.S.-based companies [but] we’re finding great demand outside the U.S. as well as inside.

So it makes sense that we would have development and support teams that are located outside the U.S. as well. This is a team that’s very much part of our engineering team. We didn’t decide to shift jobs over to India, these are positions that we [intended] from day one to be based there, but we continue to hire here.  So I think Scott’s point is a good one, you can’t always draw a sort of black and white conclusion about having an offshore team. It does not mean a job loss over here necessarily. In fact, it can mean growth straight across for the companies, and as we get bigger, we’ll add more headcount here too as well as over there.

InfoWorld: Do you have any other topics you wanted to discuss?

Polese: I think the main points that I would want to get across are that we are seeing a very [strong] demand for our offering in the marketplace, and that is because of the complexity of managing and maintaining open source on an ongoing basis. And that’s something I think maybe people who aren’t emerged in the world of open source often don’t see.

There’s a lot of discussion about [LAMP] or Linux, but in fact it’s not commonly known that a typical open source application is comprised of dozens of components, and many of which are not at all household names. And the overhead of managing those has really cost the companies significant money and created risk internally as well, so that’s why they’re actively looking for third parties to offload these tasks.

The other thing I just want to emphasize is at the root of what we provide as a company is this automated test framework that’s running today over 30,000 tests nightly, as I mentioned earlier, across six operating systems, including Windows as well as Linux. Six language runtimes and over 100 components, and that’s what’s enabling us to know at any given time what works with what, what the potential conflicts are, dependencies, and therefore deploy a tested, validated cache to a customer site. So this is all to say that what we’re doing is not providing a sort of traditional professional services function. We are a software company, we’re delivering that software in the form of a subscription on an ongoing basis. But this is very much a technology solution based on automated testing.

InfoWorld: As a global company, would you say that the majority of the demand for SpikeSource is presently in the North American market or elsewhere?  And how do you expect your revenue to pan out as far as the different markets globally?

Polese: Based on the interest that I’m seeing, I would expect over time for at least half, if not more, of our revenues to [come] from outside the United States, and I would expect that to happen on a more compressed time table than in the past. And that is because there is so much aggressive open source adoption in Europe, in Asia, in other parts of the world -- South America. And those companies are actively seeking third-party solutions to help them reduce the cost in overhead of managing that open source.

But they’ve made a strategic decision that’s from the top and oftentimes even is prompted by a government mandate within that, in China, in Brazil, in the United Kingdom. Even here in the United States as well, and in certain states are starting to see it. But certainly outside the United States there’s been a tremendous movement to open source in the last year, two years in particular, and we’re seeing that continue to accelerate.  So I expect, as I said, more than 50 percent of our business ultimately to come from outside the United States.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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