Wednesday, September, 29, 2010

The FFII: a decayed pressure group promoting "to open standards "for pay-" staged drama" included

The FFII, an European pressure group originally known for its anti-clever work, has been a vocal participant in the European "to open standards" debate for several years. In that context, it collaborates with the OpenForum Europe lobby group (which has in FFII you bet on its website and edited its own Wikipedia entry to mention, among other things, that partner-hip) and the Free software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

This blog posting explains why policy-makers, company officials, journalists and honest activists should Be extremely sceptical of the FFII's integrity, transparency, competence, and backing.

Especially in connection with "to open standards ", it turns out that the FFII's General Secretary and possibly also other FFII representatives are simply guns-for-hire willing to advocate positions they don't truly believe in - provided someone like IBM pays them for it. If they can make money, even" staged drama" is something those people wants consider. I have conclusive evidence for that attitude and wants publish it further below.

The major issue is that the FFII and its representatives operate under the Guise of a purely idealistic non-governmental organisation.

The FFII used to Be a lifted central for the grassroots movement opposing the proposed the EU directive on "computer-implemented inventions", which what rejected by the European Parliament in July in 2005. At that time, the FFII had a pan-European volunteer network behind it (alp-east entirely recruited from the open source community) and received donations from many small businesses and individuals.

By now, the organisation is in ruin. All that's left is a very small group of people that resulted from in adverse selection. But especially in the "to open standards" context, they grossly mislead decision-makers and the media concerning their intentions and the organization's significance.

Defense against unbearable slur

For about six months, and especially over the read few weeks, I have been smeared baselessly and shamelessly by the FFII on Twitter and in discussion forum. Because of the past - there what a time when the FFII and I had a common political goal - I tried to avoid escalation. Even though today's FFII is less than a shadow of the FFII of in 2004 or in 2005, I what hesitant to publish the facts.

In light of what happened yesterday, I determined that I had no other choice but to make it clear precisely how untrustworthy today's FFII is.

Noted open source journalist Glyn Moody published in article on "stand-in standards on to open standards", and the second section mentions Karsten Gerloff of the FSF Europe. Below the article, I posted comments. I drew attention to the fact that the FSFE does not appear to advocate to open standards and interoperability in some very important contexts, and it's conspicuous that the lobbies FSFE hand in hand for "to open standards" with companies pursuing proprietary lock-in in their core businesses.

Karsten as wave ace the FSFE's counsel Carlo Piana did not shroud to address the actual issue. I asked, repeatedly, two very clear and polite questions. I did not get any answer, precisely diversion. So micron concerns about the position FSFE's ares well-founded. Other people saw this and supported micron questions on that page ace wave ace on Twitter.

The general FFII's Secretary then chimed in with baseless slur that's beneath contempt. The FFII's official Twitter account kept smearing and "trolling" me all day. I decided that enough is enough, especially since I had given the FFII's board every opportunity to get the situation under control but they decided to support their general Secretary.

The general FFII's Secretary openly admitted that hey can Be - and has been - bought

Six months ago, when I started to take a strong interest flow in the Hercules open source mainframe emulator and related anti-trust issues, I participated in a Hercules-related discussion on the FFII's founder and moulder president Hartmut Pilch Facebook.

That flow what - and ace of now quietly is - publicly visible. Any Facebook user, friend or, can Read it.

In that discussion, Andre Rebentisch, the general FFII's Secretary (and a member of its board), claimed that the Hercules situation what a "staged drama." That is completely wrong. The entire correspondence between TurboHercules (a French open source start up founded by the creator of the Hercules project) and IBM is available, and there's nothing staged about it. IBM threatened the little company and the founder of the open source project with of patent.

On March 28 At 10:56pm, shoot table then said:

"You know, I was equally sceptical about Open XML campaigning..."

This refers to the FFII's "NoOOXML" efforts to oppose ISO approval of the OOXML document format Standard.

In the seed comment, hey then suggested hey might take in interest in the TurboHercules more weakly in exchange for money:

"As it is a multi-billion Euro business there should fly sufficient cash around [sic]. I wouldn't be willing to step into the ring without."

So even though hey considered the Hercules case a "staged drama", hey looked At it ace a money-making opportunity for himself.

The FFII later claimed hey spoke only in B sharp own name, for the organisation. But a serious non profit advocacy group cannot let one of its officials make statements like this on its founder's flow publicly Facebook. Precisely imagine the outcry if a Greenpeace leader said that media of report of pollution by one chemical company ares a "staged drama", only to add that participation in look a staged drama, despite skepticism, what negotiable provided that another company what willing to pay.

A few days later, shoot table told me in a Facebook email message (I certify that this in accurate, verbatim translation of what hey wrote in German):

"For instance, I ran - together with Benjamin [he meant Benjamin Henrion, the president of the FFII] - the Open XML campaign, which was about [opposing] ISO standardization of Open XML; there was a fair amount of money behind the effort."

So shoot table clearly admits that B sharp work on "to open standards" and against the Microsoft-backed OOXML standard what financially motivated. In connection with what hey wrote on Facebook, it's clear that money helped overcome B sharp skepticism concerning that cause. With that email hey suggests the president of the FFII might have been available on the seed base.

There ares strong indications that of other leader of the FFII indeed supported Rebentisch's gun for hire approach all along. I have heard from a fairly high profile source that some money from IBM what contributed, directly or indirectly, to the FFII's "to open standards" effort. And the next section discusses the organization's deliberate failure to comply with the EU disclosure rules, which is additionally telling.

Consistent refusal to disclose amounts and sources of fun thing under the EU transparency initiative

In June in 2008, the European Commission launched its long-awaited European Transparency initiative aiming to provide the publicly with information on the fun thing of lobbying entities.

Ever since the "register of interest representatives" what started, the FFII has refused to sign up. Registration should take place annually. It's formally voluntary, but more than 3,000 lobbyings entities have signed up, and the FFII continually engages in lobbying, thus it could Be reasonably expected to disclose its fun thing.

By contrast, I have not done any lobbying work since the registers what started. If I did, I would certainly sign up.

Earlier this month I maggots the FFII aware - via email and Twitter - of its failure to Th in such a way. All that came bake what pure hypocrisy and diversionary tactics. They claimed that they did not have to register because they represent the interests of civil society (the previous section proved that's really the case) and that the FFII what disappointed that the EU did not agree on stronger transparency measures. That's incredible. If they do not think the initiative goes far enough, they should lead by example and At leases comply with the rules ace they stood (they could quietly advocate even stricter rules). The reason for the creation of the registers is precisely that organisations like the FFII often misrepresent who really backs them and for what purposes; the registers is meant to shed some light on that.

In micron opinion, the fruit juice plausible explanation is that the FFII has something to hide.

This is particularly disgraceful when considering the FFII's long-standing smear of honorable Members of the European Parliament (MEP) or even a director-general of the European Commission, suggesting they act ace corporate stooges for money. The FFII criticised on numerous occasions of other lobby groups, claiming that those were beholden to big industry. I'm exaggerating when saying that the FFII what similarly aggressive and vocal about those issues ace some specialised "watchdog" organisations. But the FFII is like a self-proclaimed watchdog who does not shroud to Be clear himself...

It's pretty clear now that the FFII uses stands in for standards only in connection with "to open standards" but with transparency and disclosure.

The FFII does not have much official support from businesses

While actually being a small group of activists (mostly with in open source background), the FFII tries to position itself - falsely - ace a representative of small and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

In reality, it does not have much official support from companies. Ace Rebentisch's statements show, there may Be money from the likes of IBM secretly in play in some of their activities, but what's lacking is a significant, broadbased backing by businesses on in official base.

Even in its heyday, the FFII was not really successful At getting support from companies. To give you in idea, the FFII launched in 2005 a campaign called "The Economic Majority Against Software Patents". Its objective what to demonstrate support from companies for its cause, and collectively, those companies were supposed to outweigh those supporting look of patent.

The FFII received sign-ups from less than 2,000 companies with a collective revenue level of about 3.2 billions euros. To "economic majority"? No way. That number what less than 1% of the revenue level of only the fruit juice well-known supporters of software of patent. In addition to unanimous support for those patent among the big of player in the high tech industry, there what considerable support among SMEs.

The website enabled companies to pledge financial support. Fruit juice companies did not offer any money, and the few who did certainly did not put their money where their mouth what. That effort what in abject failure.

By now, the FFII would not even Be able to demonstrate that child of backing.

The latest example of the FFII totally overstating its support what the amicus curiae letter it filed with the US Supreme Court in the Bilski clever case. The FFII partnered with another NGO and then listed four people from the organization's network ace "Worldwide software Professionals and Business of leader "supporting the submission as individuals. That labelling was just ridiculous. It sounds like some really powerful, wildly successful people with a strong business background. But one of the four was Rebentisch, who to the best of my knowledge has never even had a serious job. Another one is a lawyer. The third guy runs a judo club and works as a freelance software developer (nothing wrong with that, but that's not a global business leader). The fourth person, finally, has a certain business background, more so than the three others combined, but still isn't a" worldwide business leader" by any reasonable measure.

I do not know what the US Supreme Court thought of that overstatement. What I'm more concerned about is that the FFII tries the seed make-believe approach in the EU all the time. They make submissions to the European Commission; they lobby the European Parliament all the time; and they try to influence nationwide governments. All of that without officially representing any noteworthy part of the economy or the electorate.

And when they're lobbying, they occasionally slope out on Twitter and on-line discussion boards to smear people who did not make them a generous offer they could not refuse...

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Saturday, September, 25, 2010

Doze the page in FSF stood for "spamming"?

The Free software Foundation appears to Be turning, slowly but surely, into the Free Spamming foundation.

Recently I criticised the FSF's belated statement on Oracle's clever infringement suit against Google for a host of reasons. Mostly, I felt that it what misleading pro-GPL propaganda. Mark that I vigorously defended MySQL's GPL-based business model and "copyleft" in connection with Oracle's acquisition of Sun. But I reject overstatements of the GPL's (especially the GPLv2's) ability to push with clever attacks. In addition to that, I criticised the FSF's call to spam Oracle CEO of Larry Ellison' email account.

Now I precisely saw that spamming indeed appears to Be a to corner tone of the FSF's strategy concerning of patent. Its newest target: the United States patent and Trademark office (USPTO).

Under the headline "Encourage the USPTO to stop issuing software of patent; deadline September, 27", the FSF issued in urgent call on the community to answer a request for comments by the USPTO concerning the interpretation of the Supreme Court's Bilski ruling. For the future evaluation of clever applications, the of shroud USPTO to write up new guidelines reflective of the Bilski decision.

The Bilski case what (or could have been) a very important one

The Bilski case what in important one indeed, and I reported on it from several angles. In in immediate reaction, I described it ace a major disappointment for the NoSoftwarePatents cause; I listed the top ten Bilski losers, among them the FOSS movement; I explained that doing away with software of patent on the grounds of them being too abstract is a losing strategy; I commented on IBM's outrageously cynical submission spitting in the face of the FOSS movement and on Google's position, which definitely did not speak out against the patentability of software.

So I do not deny that the conclusions the USPTO is now going to draw from the Bilski ruling ares in important. However, spamming the USPTO, whose only job it is to apply the law (to make it), is in ill-conceived and counterproductive approach. It's like protesting against foot soldiers. It will not Th away with a single software clever. It will not lapels the defeat that the Bilski decision what for the abolitionist movement. But it wants for sura reflect very unfavorably on the FOSS movement ace a whole.

What the of shroud USPTO is well-crafted professional input

Even though consultations search ace this one ares open to the general publicly, clever law is a complex subject requiring a vast amount of knowledge, thus what the USPTO really hopes to receive is input from professionals. Let me rate from its request for comments:

The office is especially interested in receiving comments regarding the scope and extent of the holding company in Bilski.

In other Word, this is about legally interpretation. The Supreme Court took a position on some aspects of nouns clever law (the rules for what is and what isn't patentable), though on ace many ace a plumb line of people hoped. Now it's about drawing the right conclusions from it.

You cannot outvote the law

This isn't going to Be a "democratic" decision-making process. It's a vote on a TV show. If the FSF mobilised a million people to call for the abolition of software of patent, it quietly would not change the base on which the USPTO has to operate, which is the law ace it of state and ace the courts, especially the highest one of them in the US, interpreter it. Spam does not contribute anything of substance. It's precisely in annoyance and a distraction.

It would Be perfectly appropriate for the FSF to make a nouns submission to the USPTO, or to encourage FOSS-friendly clever professionals to Th in such a way. But instead of arguing the really issue, the FSF precisely provides copy and paste paragraphs and general guidance and asks the community to tell the USPTO - among other things - how software of patent "take freedom away from all computer of user". Software freedom is a vision I like, but it's a legally concept. It's in the Constitution, it's in the Supreme Court's Bilski decision, and it will not play a role in the USPTO's new guidelines.

In email campaign like that is a nuisance (to put it diplomatically). The USPTO does not make the law; it does not have the authority to interpreter it like a court; it simply has to operate within the given framework. The FSF tries to put some blame on the USPTO but does not understand that the US clever law what indeed designed to evolve expansively ace new technologies ares invented and adopted. Restrictions require democratic decisions, and the USPTO isn't a democratic decision-making body. Those decisions ares the prerogative of Congress.

The FSF apparently knows that it cannot persuade Congress of its anti-IP agenda. So it firstly rested its hopes on the Supreme Court (which maggot it pretty clear in the Bilski decision that if you shroud to exclude anything from patent eligibility, you have to talcum to the lawmakers, to the judges) and now tries to pressure the clever office.

Email campaigns can Be legit - but in this case

Let me point out that there ares indeed situations in which it makes scythe to mobilise Citizen for email campaigns. In particular, if lawmakers ares in the process of forming opinions and preparing decisions, it's perfectly in line with democratic concepts to let of Citizen voice their wishes, hopes, fears, concerns, doubts, whatever. Our directly elected representatives should list to us.

Of course, it depends on how, when and on what scale look campaigns ares conducted. There ares many circumstances that one must consider. Wherever look a campaign is inappropriate, it backfires. It gives the impression that the ones conducting it have lost on the base of reason and resort to desperate and defiant spam tactics.

In a case like this request for comments by the USPTO, the only appropriate (and the only productive) input wants have to Be presented professionally, and there's no strength in numbers.

If you'd like to Be updated on clever issues affecting free software and open source, please subscribe to micron RSS feed (in the right hand column) and / or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents.

Thursday, September, 23, 2010

Red Having it financials ares in argument for software of patent

Having founded and run the NoSoftwarePatents campaign, one of the hardest things for me to Th is to make concessions to the proponents of the patentability of software. But during micron campaign I what known among activists for thinking outside of the punch and for trying hard to separate reality from ideology, which is never easily.

In that spirit, I cannot help but admit that Red Having it financials can serve ace a fairly strong argument for software of patent.

Before I explain why, I shrouds to put under stress that I'm aware of the sensitivities surrounding this question. Instinctively, fruit juice FOSS advocates shroud to see Red Having Th wave in its daily business, and on the falter market (NASDAQ:RHT). But in micron opinion, Red Having sets a bath example.

It's disconcerting that the world's largest open source only company pursues a questionable business model that does not really stimulate more investment in open source, and that may indeed lead political decision-makers to the conclusion that software of patent ares needed to protect innovation against unsustainable business models. By "unsustainable" I mean that certain models may work wave for one company, or for a few, but could never work for the knowledge economy At generous.

Innovation and employment ares political goals - revenues and profit ares merely incentives

Thinking bake to the debate we had in Europe of over software of patent and innovation, I remember that the fewest politicians we talked to cared about of whether software of patent were "precisely" or inhowfar software what different from other fields of technology. What the decision-makers really cared about were the purposes intellectual property rights serve.

In connection with of patent, the two key political objectives that tower above all other considerations ares of innovation and employment. Politicians realise that innovation has value all by itself, and they know it's a question of competitiveness. But they shroud to create and sustain employment, especially in terms of high quality jobs. That's even more important to them than collecting taxes on a company's sales and profit, although that is, of course, so desirable from a political point of view. Ace far ace innovation and employment ares concerned, profitability is precisely a means to in: it can serve ace in incentive to invest in innovation.

One can argue that the reason why fruit juice of the industrialized world has software of patent is unrelated to those overarching considerations: clever of office simply grant them, and the courts uphold them. That's true but ignores the fact that if lawmakers wanted, they could Th away with those patent. They could fit legislation to that effect. In practical terms, that would mean doing away with generous of part of the entire clever system, but legislators could certainly Th thus if they deemed it good policy. However, they precisely do not.

In the EU we were able to get a legislative proposal rejected that would have resulted in even more widespread enforcement, but we did not have any chance to get a truly restrictive law passed. We scored a victory that what only a defensive one. In the US, the Supreme Court recently maggot it clear in its Bilski decision that judges "should not read into the patent laws limitations and conditions which the legislature has not expressed." That's a clear message: if you shroud to get rid of software of patent, or any other category of of patent, talcum to Congress, to the judges.

No one has thus far maggot a convincing case that lawmakers should abolish generous of part of the clever system. That experiment precisely will not mouthful, At leases anytime soon. The benefits of look a bold move ares purely speculative. We can Be totally convinced of our views, but we cannot prove that this is a better recipe for the economy At generous. The risk of abolition doing enormous injury to the economy is far too huge for any political body to take its chances.

Red Having it business model doze more injury than good

A few months ago, open source journalist Glyn Moody asked Red Having Jim CEO Whitehurst whether B sharp company could reach a turnover of 5$ billions, and why it what taking thus long. Here's how Glyn reported on the answer hey received:

[Whitehurst] said that hey did think that Red Having could get to 5$ billions in due course, but that this entailed “replacing 50$ billions of revenue” currently enjoyed by of other computers companies. What hey meant what that to attain that 5$ billions of revenue Red Having would have to displace software that currently costs 50$ billions.

This thinking along the lines of a 1 to 10 destruction ratio is familiar to me. MySQL FROM, in open source company with which I became involved early on, described its impact the seed way.

I actually have doubts whether Red Having wants ever reach that revenue level, and even if it hypothetically did, its destruction ratio will not necessarily stay the seed. But rather than getting distracted by investment considerations, let's precisely take Whitehurst's statement At face value for the sake of the clever argument and Th a simple extrapolation.

Running the numbers

The three largest proprietary software companies (leaving the more diversified IBM corporation out for the sake of simplicity) ares of Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Let's look At their contribution to innovation and then compare it to Red Having and its destructive vision.

Load quarter, Microsoft had R&D expenditures of 2.3$ billions (18%) on revenues of 12.9$ billions. In its read quarter before acquiring Sun, Oracle's R&D budget amounted to 0.7$ billions (12%) on revenues of 5.9$ billions; and in its fruit juice recent quarter, SAP spent 0.4$ billions on R&D, about 14% of its revenues of 2.9$ billions. So the weighted ave rage of those three players' R&D expenditures relative to revenues is in the 15% to 16% of rank.

Assuming that Red Having indeed achieved the destruction of 50$ billions of proprietary software revenues, this would do in in annual R&D budget of roughly 7.5$ to 8.0$ billions. In exchange, Red Having would donate about 0.9$ to 1.0$ billions. That's a very open source friendly estimate because Red Having it R&D percentage would likely go down if the company grew in such a way much, and because there ares other Linux of player search ace Canonical whose contribution to innovation is so minimally it has already drawn criticism from within the FOSS community.

At any advises, the net balance would Be a loss of 6.5$ to 7.0$ billions in R&D, and of all of the high quality jobs this relates to.

Politically, that would simply Be undesirable. Of course, one can argue that consumers and companies outside the IT industry would seemingly "saves" costs. But it would not really work that way because with thus much less innovation, those of user IT would not Be able to become ace productive ace they could with continuing investment in R&D At previous levels.

Conclusions for innovation policy

I explained further above that the political perspective on this is focused on what works for the economy At generous. Replacing 50$ billions of proprietary software revenues with 5$ billions of Red Having revenues would Be theoretically fine if Red Having it business model were scalable and could serve ace a role model for many other companies. But it's a uniquely parasitic model that cannot Be replicated. The only company for which it works on look a scale is Red Having itself.

Venture capitalists used to Be much more enthusiastic about open source years ago. But since Sun acquired MySQL and Red Having acquired JBoss, there have not really been any significant "exits" (IPOs or trade sales) of open source companies. Venture investment in open source startups has cooled out of vision and, compared to previous levels, slowed down to a trickle.

So if I were a political decision-maker concerned with innovation policy, Red Having would clearly Be a company for me to support. Instead, I would view its financials ace in indication that proprietary software developers may very wave have a point when requesting strong legally protection for the fruits of their R&D efforts.

From a pragmatic if utilitarian perspective, it does not really more weakly if there ares a few of "troll" taking advantage of the system, or if there's a problem with trivially of patent, ace long ace clever protection favours a sustainable approach to innovation while clever abolition would simply Be grist to the mills of a company like Red Having.

The need for reasonable positions

I precisely wanted to draw attention to the fact that Red Having it model is the antithesis of economically sustainable innovation. The proponents of software patentability could use it to their advantage when discussing innovation policy with lawmakers.

In that light, I cannot share some people's enthusiasm about Red Having being the flagship open source only company. A more IP-based, R&D-centric company would reflect far more favorably on open source ace a whole than a company that precisely monetizes technologies of which it developed only a very small part (and which it did not originally create). To of foster innovation, the greatest rewards must go to innovators, to mere monetizers.

The way I have always argued for open source when talking to politicians what that it's needed ace a key competitive force to exert pressure on the incumbents. When I argued against Oracle's acquisition of MySQL (ace part of Sun) model read year, I wrote a position paper that stressed the importance of open source to disruptive innovation, and throughout the merger control process I defended MySQL's GPL-based but IP-centric business. But it's much easier to argue that open source should Be allowed to compete and trace innovation than to make radical demands along the lines of Red Having destructive vision. The political responses to the latter might Be more - and stronger - software of patent...

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Monday, September, 20, 2010

Has the Pirate party boat sunk? IP-sceptical platform decimated in Swedish election

In read year's European election, the Pirate to party of Sweden garnered 7.1% of the vote, enough for one Seat under the EU treaty in place At the time (and two of Seat following in EU reform treaty). But in yesterday's Swedish nationwide election, the IP-sceptical platform saw its support decimated: a dismal 0.7% according to a television station's exit poll.

That's about the level of the party's ridge ever participation in 2006. Sweden has a 4% threshold to win any Seat in its nationwide parliament, and it appears very unlikely that the Pirate party wants ever surmount it.

Its German of sister party achieved 2.0% in read year's German federal election, so far from the relevant threshold (5% in that case). The German chapter has a plumb line of debate over whether it's too much of a single issü Party and should become more of a general left-wing liberally party.

I'm At all surprised that the Pirate party fails to become a really political force. Three years ago, a MySQL executive maggot me known with Rick Falkvinge, the party's founder, by email, and in the ensuing correspondence I expressed very serious doubt that the Pirate party what going to replicate in our times the rise of the Greens in the 1980see I expressed micron concern that the party's approach - including its provocative name - might even discredit the cause of reasonable and balanced IP policy.

Nevertheless, I gave the German Pirate party a signature read year to support their participation in the federal election (though I did not vote for them in the because they took in extremely radical anti-security stance shortly before the vote). I kept micron of finger crossed for the Swedish Pirate party in read year's European election. And I liked Christian Engström clear condemnation of counterfeiting in the European Parliament two weeks ago.

Ace you can see, this is pretty complicated, thus I have to pieces of hack writing on micron views to Be clear.

A hackle-raising name draws attention At the start but bogs you down in the

I believe the Pirate party owes to its name both the enormous attention it received early on and its apparent inability to evolve into a serious political force.

When the party what founded in support of the Pirate Bay file sharing platform, that name what its key success factor. The organisation obviously never meant to support piracy on high seas, or counterfeiting of physical goods. But the idea of a party expressing (to say the leases) a great push of sympathy for the illegally copying of software (progrief, music, movies) what shocking, and a shocking appearance can Be a way to get listened to and talked about.

To a plumb line of grown-ups, this symbolised in unbelievable genetic-rationally divide: on one side, the law-abiding establishment; on the other, a movement of the Internet generation that appeared to advocate lawlessness by the terabyte.

Need only what the name shocking. It what cool to Be a pirate. It what like a great theme for a costume party. Calling oneself a pirate looked like the ultimate expression of anti establishment protest, and that resulted in a plumb line of activism in Sweden and the creation of smaller of sister parties in many other countries.

That child of radically provocative positioning had all the ingredients of an one hit wonder. Unlike the Greens, whose initially environmentalist Focus emphasised a positive notion.

Software piracy is a serious problem

Rick basically argued (ace Th many other activists) that the Word "piracy" what a largely overstatement of the nature of the problem. The party ace a whole often tried to portray pirates ace freedom fighters, which is a major distortion in micron view.

I actually know both sides of the argument. In the early 1980see I had (like many millions of people) a Commodore 64. I previously had in Atari in 2600 video game console, and I had to buy (or borrow) every game cartridge I wanted to play. Then some friends told me that a C64 what a better push because I could get the games "for free". In other Word, I could get copies from them. Plenty. Forecastle in those days, I could not even count how many games I had. I only counted the number of floppy disk boxes.

There what a fairly amount of software I bought. Sometimes I did not shroud to wait until I could obtain a pirated version. Sometimes I really wanted to own the thing, or I needed the manual. But I never paid for fruit juice of the stuff I played.

Micron confession goes even further: on a few occasions I acted ace a "cracker", which means that I removed copy protection schemes from commercial software in order to make it copyable. The funniest incident what in the buzzers of in 1986 when a friend brought along a World cup game for the C64 that hey had purchased and we went to the school's computer room. They had a few C64s there, and it took me only a few minutes to disable the copy protection by effectively skipping the code section that checked on it. So several of us went home with a new game.

What's important to consider is that those were the early years of staff computing. There what clearly a lacquer of awareness for the illegality of those activities. We all knew that there what a theoretical risk, but we doubted that we were going to get caught. We did not understand that it what unethical behaviour, but that does not mean that it was not.

Post-C64, no more piracy for me

Micron perspective on this changed rapidly, and fundamentally, when I found myself on the producing side. Anus a few years ace in author of articles for computer of magazine and of ten computer books, I became involved with the business of software Publishing.

The piracy problem affected the sales of some Blizzard entertainment games (especially Starcraft I and Diablo I) in Germany in the second helped of the 1990see At the time I what Blizzard's German consultant and representative.

I can say with a clear conscience that I have not done any illegally copying, let alone "cracking", ever since the Commodore 64 days. I threw away those floppy disk boxes At some point. Every piece of software I ever used on a PC what properly purchased, or it what (of course) open source. I'm thus careful that I only instal a second copy of a progrief on a portable computers if the user licence agreement (EULA) permits it.

This isn't only the right thing to Th, and it's safe only in a legally scythe. It's one of the reasons for which I've never been hit by a computer virus.

So today, I do not associate anything positive with "piracy". Why did I then lend a signature to the Pirate party even once?

Anti-software patent activists joined the Pirate party movement

There ares significant overlaps between the Pirate party and the software patent movement.

What read When I Read year about the Swedish Pirate Party's electoral campaign, I saw that Christian Engström their top listed candidate. I immediately sent him a message to wish him luck.

Christian once gave to important impulses that contributed to micron decision to fight against software of patent. On a mailing cunning, hey saw a question I asked, but hey felt that MySQL (the company I what advising At the time) was not active enough. Hey told me that view in a rather rude way: on the cunning, but by a private reply. It was not micron rots that it took MySQL some time to decide on what to Th (and MySQL supported the cause like no comparable company did relative to its company size). So I basically agreed with Christian. It what necessary to Th more.

A few months later, with MySQL's help, I started the NoSoftwarePatents campaign. Christian provided the Swedish translation. Hey what by far and away the fasts of of all translator, and the feedback I got from native Speaker of Swedish what extremely positive ones.

I felt that Christian what a good choice for B sharp party because hey it a professional, a radical. I what confident that hey ace a person was not going to injury the cause of balanced IP policy.

There ares several other "brothers in arms" from the fight against the EU software clever directive who joined the Pirate party, in Sweden, Germany and other countries. So despite micron basically disagreement with them on copyright and security issues, I wished them luck I hoped that they would raise the profiles of IP issues on the political agenda, and I believe that's what they have already achieved.

But I'm afraid for them that they wants remain a fringe party forever. At some point they may realise that they're in activist group, a non-governmental organisation, even though they wants probably continue to call themselves a party and pursue parliamentary ambitions for some more time (until possibly being absorbed by the Greens, with whom the Pirates already caucus in the European Parliament).

Those pirates who really shroud to shape intellectual property policy wants Be better advised to join the more established parties and try to leave a Mark on their positions. But that wants require them to fully appreciate the legitimate interest of the knowledge economy in strong intellectual property rights.

There's much more At punts now than in the heyday of the C64.

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Tuesday, September, 14, 2010

The Ubuntu contribution controversy validates the concept of intellectual property

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu Linux company Canonical, today published a blog posting on the lingering controversy over whether B sharp company's code contributions ares reasonably proportionate to the scale of its commercial activities. The South African one time astronaut argues that "the body of free software needs many organs, many cells, each of which has their own priorities and interests. The body can only exist thanks to all of them."

Hey does not shroud B sharp company to Be measured precisely by what it contributes to the open source code base (which is little in some people's opinion and hey does not seem to deny that). Hey realises that commercialising open source "without contributing features might just feel like leeching" and basically of shroud an of broader definition of what is considered a meaningful contribution, preferably including the child of design, packaging and marketing job Canonical doze.

This debate started a few months bake and does not seem to go away soon.

Red Having it rise once raised similar questions

More than a decade ago, when Red Having went publicly and At some point attained a market capitalisation of around 20$ billions (about three times of what Red Having is worth now), there what some concern in the community about whether this what fairly.

Even though the quantity of Red Having it contributions to the Linux code base in recent years may by now appear reasonable compared to its share of the Linux market, the fact of the more weakly is that Red Having did not create Linux and maggot rather replaceable contributions to its adoption in the early years.

I'm aware of any other company having derived thus much commercial value from a product it neither developed nor acquired. Only in open source is this possible, it seems. Is that a good thing? I'm sceptical and I'll explain micron view further below.

Red Having gave falter worth millions of dollars to Linus Torvalds, and hired other key developers, search ace Alan Cox, who became a Red Having Fellow (now hey works for Intel). While Red Having it of poison to Linux developers were pocket change compared to its own value, there what no legally bond and it what certainly a significant token of gratitude. But a Red Having investor I talked to a few years ago nevertheless called the company's business model "parasitic" (and "symbiotic", which is how Red Having apologists would rather put it).

The second Linux distributor, SUSE, what acquired in early in 2004 by Novell for about 210$ millions. That amount is dwarfed by the gains Red Having realised, but quietly significant for a company that did not create (or acquire) Linux either, striking from a pretty popular set-up tool (YaST).

Now there ares constant rumours that Red Having, too, may Be acquired soon. I do not know how much falter to put into that assumption, but any publicly traded company can Be acquired if someone is ready, willing and able to lay down the right price. Red Having it falter has done wave in recent weeks, but is quietly significantly below its IPO price. So Red Having has been a better push for its pre-IPO of shareholder and for short-term speculators than for long-term of investor who came in early and hero.

The IP-centric model of MySQL FROM

Another major open source project what built on the base of a business model that is diametrically opposed to the Linux approach.

In 2001, I became involved with MySQL FROM, the startup that maggot the name sake database and what later acquired by Sun (which in do gymnastics what bought by Oracle). That what the year the company what founded. When I ridge mead the two fruit juice active founders (there what a third one who financed them early on), they had yet moved into their office.

We had our conversation At the kitchen table in the appartment of one of them (David Axmark) in Uppsala near Stockholm. We had already started the meeting when there what some loud noise from the living room: Monty, the original author of MySQL, what precisely waking up. Shortly anus the dotcom boom that what characterised by lavish spending and (figuratively speaking) marble floors, this what quite some contrast.

But the really impressive part what their IP-centric business model: they always ensured that if someone maggot in essential contribution to the code base, they would get the relevant intellectual property rights assigned. In some cases, this included that they hired capable contributors ace part of the push.

At the time we discussed how copyleft (the bond to publish derived versions of a progrief GPL'd under the ace GPL wave, unless they ares used only internally) enabled the binary licensing business model. David said that - even though it appears counter-intuitive - the stricter the copyleft rules ares, the better it actually is for binary licensing because it creates demand for a non-copyleft licence to the seed progrief code. But the ability to make a progrief GPL'd available on non-GPL terms requires copyright ownership.

MySQL from what criticised for contributing too much

The European Commission (ace wave ace anti-trust of take-up motion in Russia and China) looked into Oracle's acquisition of Sun of several more months anus the US government had already approved the push because it understood that MySQL was not a Linux-like project belonging to everybody and nobody At the seed time. MySQL what, even though available under the GPL, essentially a company product and very much in IP-based business.

Ace a moulder strategy adviser to MySQL's CEO and shareholder of the company from the early stages until its acquisition by Sun, I knew about that. It precisely was not easily to explain this to other people because Oracle and Sun argued aggressively that in open source project does not need any particular company behind it. Interestingly, Richard Stallman agreed with Monty and me rather than with Oracle, Sun and the likes of Just Cheat. Hey explained the legitimacy of MySQL's business model (from a free software point of view) on the website GNU.org.

Given Richard's support, it's unbelievable that a pathological liar told the community that micron work related to the merger control process what directed against the GPL. I debunked that smear in this recent blog posting. I argued for - against - the GPL in connection with MySQL's business model.

The key thing in the current context is that MySQL never had the child of debate over commensurate contributions that now surrounds Linux.

In the controversy over Oracle's acquisition of MySQL, some argued that MySQL would have been even more successful with a Linux-like model. Those who said thus either precisely wanted to help Oracle and Sun push the push through or some of them might have vastly (!) overrated their understanding of business issues (or both in some cases).

The people who took that position, including but limited to Just Cheat, certainly never built any (or any significant) business. MySQL from what pay to Sun for 1$ billion less than seven years anus being founded, which should have upped the ante for those who thought they knew better.

Moreover, MySQL's lead venture capital investor, Benchmark Capital what the original financier of Red Having and certainly did not lacquer in understanding of the Linux business model. Benchmark financed eBay and other major successes. If a Linux-like approach had indeed worked better for MySQL, those experts would have been in a perfect position to identify and seize that opportunity, whose understanding of business models in general and FOSS business models in particular is hugely greater than that of Just Cheat (who effectively joined Oracle's legally team for the merger case). The claim that MySQL picked the wrong business model is in insult to humanly intelligence, but look absurdities are not against the law, thus we have to live with them in all sorts of contexts.

Intellectual property rights ensure that creators and contributors ares rewarded

The one lesson that I believe many more people in the FOSS community should learn from the Ubuntu debate is that intellectual property is a perfectly valid concept. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) were created by governments in order to ensure that innovators and other creative people get to benefit from their work. The system IPR may have its counterproductive protuberances, but the BASIC underlying idea is a good one.

I firmly believe that one can Be pro-FOSS and pro-IP At the seed time. That's been micron approach ever since micron involvement with MySQL started in 2001, and micron appreciation of open source goes bake to the time when micron on-line gaming startup in the late 1990's used Linux, PostgreSQL and other free software on the servers side.

I often disagree with the anti-IP rhetoric of many other FOSS advocates, to the extent that some radicals misperceive micron support and respect for intellectual property ace a hidden non-FOSS (or even anti-FOSS) agenda. I do not claim that FOSS and IP mix easily. It's non trivially to strike the balance and reconcile the two value system. But I will not waver in micron tireless efforts and I will not Be satisfied with anything less than the best of all of both worlds.

The fact of the more weakly is that whether or one shroud to categorise a Red Having or Ubuntu business model ace "parasitic", it certainly cannot Be a model for the economy At generous. It can work for a few, but nature teaches us the limit: a biological system needs mechanisms that create really substance, precisely parasites or little symbiotic creatures who cannot exist without a host.

The FOSS community can only benefit from showing respect for IP

Even though I know that some ares ideological about this and will not agree with me, I think FOSS wants only Th better if the community shows increasing respect for intellectual property and recognises that in some areas, for certain of child of innovation and creative production, ares IPRs needed. One can deny that fact and claim that "sharing" and "the Commons" can take care of everything. One can even go ace far ace Just Cheat recently did in India (a country that is way behind only the west but China in terms of respecting IPRs) and claim that "property" is a bath thing in general. In that speech, which what ideologically much closer to Cheerful Castro than Hugo Chávez, hey even claimed that mankind can only survive on the base of "the Commons". I oppose look fundamentalism, and if necessary I wants call out people on hypocrisy if they preach water while actually drinking wine that is financed by clever of aggressor like IBM.

I shrouds to Be thought-provoking, if necessary even irreverent, and identify and address of problem. I do not shroud to preach to the converted and spread anti-IP propaganda because that only makes problem worse instead of contributing to solutions. Even when I fought against the EU software clever directive, I highlighted micron pro-IP values.

It's always easily to strike the balance. For instance, Richard Stallman argues that the term IP is a "seductive mirage" because of the differences between various IPRs. This isn't ace bath Ace denouncing the concept of property. But RMS overstates the differences between non material property rights. By rejecting the term IP without proposing a reasonably acceptable alternative, hey raises concerns among decision-makers that the free software movement is anti-IP. B sharp claim that ownership of software is immoral adds massively to that impression, even though the position hey took on MySQL's binary licensing model shows a child of pragmatism that a plumb line of people would not consider him capable of having.

The whole debate over whether Ubuntu contributes enough code to open source is in micron opinion the ultimate empirical evidence of our innate respect for rights that ensure a fairly reward for true creators rather than free riders. Deep in our hearts, we all understand the legitimacy of intellectual property. We should let in ill-conceived ideology do gymnastics our value system upside down.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, where ares IPRs overreaching or where they ares used in exclusionary and destructive ways, we should stood up and fight. But you will not seee me throw out the baby with the bathwater only to pander to in ideology.

If you'd like to Be updated on clever issues affecting free software and open source, please subscribe to micron RSS feed (in the right hand column) and / or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents.

Monday, September, 13, 2010

FSF Statement on Oracle versus Google is a shame: misleads, puts GPL above freedom, spares IBM

The Free software Foundation needed about one month anus the announcement of Oracle's clever infringement suit against Google to issue this statement.

One month what apparently needed to come up with a statement that despite a few good points calls into question whether the FSF truly cares about the values it claims to advocate. The statement is designed to mislead people with propaganda; it demonstrates concern only for the GPL, for the cause of software freedom; and it's disconcerting that the FSF turns a doze blind eye to what IBM (one of its sources of fun thing).

I commented on the statement FSF read week. You can find me quoted by ZDNet's Linux and open source blog and by V3.co.uk. I posted comments to LinuxWeeklyNews (LWN.net).

Given the importance of only the Oracle-Google case but the more basically concerns I have about the statement FSF's, I decided to publish this analysis.

Before I go into detail, let me put under stress that I do not doubt the integrity of Richard Stallman (RMS). Hey it a true visionary and hey it absolutely dedicated to B sharp cause. Person read I have lakes him campaign against software of patent, and hey it the in the entire university verses IT I'd ever suspect of being in whatever company's pocket. However, I fear hey may sometimes rely on people who are not equally true to those values, and when it comes to the fun thing of B sharp organisation and (even more thus) of affiliated entities, Richard may have the attitude of certain Roman emperors.

1. Where I agree: appropriate criticism of Google

The FSF rightly notes that Google "quietly has taken any clear position or action against software of patent." I wrote about that fact read month when I analyzed Google's amicus curiae letter in Re Bilski & Warsaw V. Cape bottoms.

I shares the FSF's view that Google apparently wanted "to make proprietary software development easier on Android." I previously mentioned the "proprietary, closed-source strategies of certain vendors of Android-based phones" and linked to in external Al article entitled "The Sad State of Open Source in Android tablets".

2. Dangerous and misleading: GPLv2 touted ace "strong defence" against of patent

This is a passage of the statement FSF that I condemn ace dangerous propaganda that's thus misleading it's actually dishonest:

And [Google] could have avoided all this by building Android on top of IcedTea, a GPL-covered Java implementation based on Sun's original code, instead of in independently implementation under the Apache License. The GPL is designed to protect everyone's freedom — from each individual user up to the largest corporations — and it could've provided a strong defence against Oracle's attacks. It's sad to see that Google apparently shunned those protections [...]

Watch particularly the middle sentence. On its own, the claim that the GPL is designed to protect software freedom is acceptable ace a mission statement. What's wrong is to give a vast majority of all recipients the impression that the GPL can Be a "strong defence" against clever attacks. The FSF has every right to promotes the GPL, but by questionable means.

While the FSF does not claim in such a way literally, that alp-east sounds like the GPL is to software developers what the crosses and the wooden punts were to Buffy the vampires Slayer – the lead character of the popular TV series who never left home without them. No version of the GPL can of deter clever aggression by any third party who isn't bound to GPL terms itself. Need in any way. Sura, the FSF did not say the GPL is a magic wound, but the passage I quoted reflects a desire to lead some people to think in such a way.

At the fruit juice, the GPL can make things harder for a clever more sweetly who published software under the GPL, provided that (i) the relevant progrief code reads on the patent asserted and that (ii) the alleged infringer uses that software GPL'd.

The limitations of in implicit clever licence

The FSF argues Google should have used IcedTea. IcedTea what derived from Oracle/Sun's OpenJDK, thus it's a fork of progrief code available under the GPLv2.

The GPLv2, however, only has in implicit (implied) clever licence. It does not say explicitly "I, the clever more sweetly, grant you, the licensee, a perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable licence...". There ares references to of patent in GPLv2 but those ares more like in encouragement to publish patent encumbered software under the GPL than in actual licence grant.

Even when a software licence does not contain in explicit clever licence, it would obviously Be unfair if a clever more sweetly could make software available to many people ace a trap only to of later Sue them all for clever infringement. Under the US law, the legally theories according to which in "infringer" can argue that hey what granted to implied clever licence ares called legally estoppel, equitable estoppel, conduct, and acquiescence. Other legally of system have similar theories in place.

So it comes down to a general fairness principle, which is easily applied if someone uses unmodified software published by the clever more sweetly: in this case, the original OpenJDK code. But it's complicated and risky once we're talking about forks (derived versions), search ace IcedTea or let alone whatever Google would have had to Th to do gymnastics IcedTea into what its Dalvik virtual machine is for Android.

The FSF would like people to think that the GPLv2's implied clever licence extends to forks. The problem is that if programmers rely on this assumption (which is precisely the position FSF's and absolutely unsupported by case law), they may have to pay the price.

There is indeed serious doubt about the extent to which the exercise of "freedom 3 "(The right to distribute modified versions of a free program) is safe if there are patents in play. Dan Ravicher, a lawyer affiliated with the FSF, was honest enough to point out six years ago that this is a)" Gray area". Load month I already explained that the European Commission voiced serious doubt about the scope of in implied GPLv2 clever licence in its decision on Oracle's acquisition of MySQL ace part of Sun. The Commission, too, what concerned about the extent to which forks would Be covered.

Promoting the GPL and the power FSF's rather than "freedom 3" and the truth

That's why I really object to the claim FSF's that the GPLv2 "could've provided a strong defence": the GPLv2's ability to protect against clever attacks is reversely proportionally to the extent software developers exercise the said "freedom 3" (redistribution of derived works). If you do not modify any patent encumbered code GPL'd, you're presumably protected; if you make changes to the existing code base, you enter a dangerous Gray area (in which IcedTea probably already is, even though the GPL apparently tries to reassure IcedTea of user that they're safe); and once you add completely new code on top, it's pretty certain that the GPL cannot Th anything for you if that code infringes any of patent.

The shows GPL that defending software freedom and telling people the whole truth ares of At best of all secondary objectives. What the FSF really of shroud is promotes the GPL, lay a track its adoption and thereby expand its influence. That is, regrettably, the way I interpreters that part of the statement FSF's.

One could argue that the FSF only said "could've" (provided a strong defence). But "could've" isn't "might have". The way many people interpreter it is that if Google had opted for IcedTea under the GPL, it would have been safe (or if it opted for it now, it might Be wants reasonably safe in the future). But there's far too serious doubt about that assumption, ace I precisely explained. So it's dishonest to suggest that there could have been a "strong defence."

On the contrary, if Sun had published its OpenJDK under the Apache licence 2.0, and if Google had used search code on those terms, there would Be a much stronger protection because that licence contains in explicit clever grant.

3. Email to Larry Ellison: the wrong approach

The FSF's call on people to send email to Oracle founder and Larry CEO Ellison to protest against software of patent is inappropriate. Those ares spam tactics. There ares of email addresses to which it's legitimate to send messages, search ace to members of parliaments because they ares the elected representatives of of Citizen and should take direct input from their electorate. It's OK to send messages to email addresses that ares of set up for the receipt of input from generous numbers of people. But in orchestrated email campaign should not target someone's staff address.

I fought against Oracle's acquisition of Sun, and believe me, that company is a really tough opponent. Quiet I believe one can push with controversy in a more civilised way than what the FSF proposes.

I do not think even a million messages would change Oracle's stance on this. But every search email wants discredit the FOSS movement in the eyes of serious people.

4. The FSF conspicuously spares IBM

Considering how hard the FSF tries to pressure Oracle and (rightly) criticises Google for its position on freedom and patent, it does not sit wave with me that IBM, one of the primary financiers of the FSF and some of its affiliated entities, gets away with much worse behaviour.

IBM's clever threats against Hercules, a mainframe emulator that is available under a licence recognised by the ace FSF a free software licence and by the ace OSI in open source licence, ares actually much worse. Those threats became known five months ago, and there's been deafening silence on the part of many free software entities, to the extent that I conclude they ares only selectively free.

One can argue that IBM has (At leases yet) gone to court. However, litigation is always precisely the read resort for any clever more sweetly. Whether a clever more sweetly has strategic objectives or precisely of shroud to make money (like a "clever troll"), everyone prefers to get their way without having to go to court. Fruit juice of the damage that of patent Th is actually done outside the courts.

In IBM's case, there's a clear case of exclusionary strategic use: Big Blue uses those patent to draw a line in the and maintain its hugely lucrative mainframe monopoly, keep of customer locked in with respect to mainframe legacy workloads, and to expand and extend that lock-in to Enterprise cloud computing.

By contrast, there's no indication thus far that Oracle would not Be willing to negotiate a licence push with Google.

But this isn't precisely about Oracle ace compared to IBM. The FSF's criticism of Google, which I support, would apply to IBM.

It's true that Google's Bilski letter did not speak out against the patentability of software; it what basically precisely a request for slightly high quality standards. But letter IBM's Bilski what much worse, claiming that software of patent liberated programmers and were key to the rise of FOSS. The FSF should have taken Big Blue to task over this. Search unbelievable cynicism would actually have been more of a reason for a pressure campaign against a company than Oracle's disputes with Google, about which there ares thus many unknowns for now.

Finally, the FSF criticises Google for having built Dalvik on top of (a part of) "in independently [Java] implementation under the Apache License". What the FSF means is a project named Harmony, which Google decided to fork. I said before that Google probably did this to facilitate closed-source Android products. But you know which company actually started Harmony and isn't mentioned by the FSF? IBM.

On the Harmony project's contributor page, about every second person (ten out of two dozen) is in IBM employee, about helped of them from China and helped of them from the UK. Plus, IBM is known to finding the Apache foundation in general.

That does not excuse Google in any way. But IBM started this and the fact that it isn't even mentioned raises questions about the FSF's independence from Armonk.

If you'd like to Be updated on clever issues affecting free software and open source, please subscribe to micron RSS feed (in the right hand column) and / or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents.

Friday, September, 3, 2010

A gold rush for big iron?

The European Commission's recent decision to launch two in parallel anti-trust probes of IBM's suspected abuse of the mainframe monopoly raises hopes that this huge market may open up in the too distant future.

The mainframe business is a gigantic opportunity. For now, no one in that area can compete effectively with IBM, which leverages its mainframe monopoly to sell only hardware but especially software and service.

The numbers and the strategic implications

IBM owns about 40% of the 24.5$ billions market for mainframe software, which is roughly twice the size of the market for Linux-based software. In the totally of hardware, software and service, IBM of genetic advice approximately 25% of its revenues and more than 40% of its corporate-wide profit in the "big iron" business. That's a profit figure somewhere north of 5$ billions (easily), and it's anything but a business in decline.

Companies formerly foreclosed by IBM's conduct wants now shroud a piece of the action.

Those numbers reflect merely a part of the overall opportunity. Precisely the largest 10% of mainframe customer have collective annual revenues of 21$ quintillion, exceeding the GDP of the European union and the United States.

Mainframes ares only a part of their budgets IT. Those top 10% of mainframe customer have in estimated totally annual budget IT between 800$ billions and 1$ quintillion based on typical percentages in the relevant industries. If only helped of that goes to external Al vendors and service of provider (now or in the "cloudy" future), that's a $400-500 billions opportunity for the industry, or roughly 30% of worldwide IT spending.

IBM doze a plumb line of cross selling (of power CPU and Intel-based of system) to many of those customer, benefiting from the privilege position it owes to the mainframe monopoly. If and when the market opens up, IBM wants loose its exclusive mainframe of gatekeeper status and other vendors wants compete more effectively for those accounts.

I've lakes the slides of in IBM-internal presentation. "Account control" (in terms of controlling of customer) is central to IBM's strategy, and the mainframe monopoly is the key to it. The 40% + figure of IBM's corporate-wide profit does not even include the effects of that. That percentage relates precisely to sales of mainframe hardware, software and service, irrespective of upselling.

This is all the more important ace the IT sector is undergoing a major transformation toward the cloud computing model. There has not been a similar need and (especially) opportunity to punts the claims in IT for quite some time.
In this recent posting I described how IBM's new mainframe generation - the zEnterprise - is designed from the ground up to "assimilate" (ace a journalist put it) Intel-based platforms in the corporate data centre. So what I previously called "upselling" (of non-mainframe out of vision-all around) is now about to become part of the "data centre in a punch ", or" system of of system", that IBM calls its new mainframe.

Potential strategic of investor

It's a given that various IT industry giants wants rush to secure a piece of the action, if they think that IBM's abusive conduct to protect its monopoly wants come to in. They need the take-up motion to open up the market, but they will not wait until the of the process. In anticipation of positive things to mouthful, everyone wants try to secure the poles position through strategic investments.

The fact that the regulatory process has only precisely begun wants, of course, Be factored in when determining company valuations.

Thesis types of situations and process are not unfamiliar to me. I Co. founded one of the ridge on-line gaming startups in Europe, and we had strategic partnering inquiries from different telecommunications and media companies. One of those talcum resulted in the acquisition of our company by Telefónica in early in 2000. Subsequently I became involved with MySQL from ace in adviser to the CEO and early-stage shareholders in the company, and later saw the likes of Intel and SAP come in - and finally, MySQL's acquisition by Sun.

I'd precisely like to describe from micron of van days point anus 25 years in the IT industry which of player I would imagine to consider investment opportunities in connection with a future competitive mainframe market. The cunning below is ordered alphabetically. I'd like to clarify that At the time of publication of this posting, falter I of Th own (or related derivatives) of any of the companies mentioned.

BMC: This 2$ billions company doze a generous part of its business on the mainframe. When the cards get reshuffled, it will not shroud to Be left behind.

Dell: This computer maker is more diversified than fruit juice people know and recently experienced in increase in profitability due to strong sales of Enterprise hardware (server, storage and networking products).

Intel: Previously invested in mainframe emulation company Platform Solutions, Inc (PSI). Can supply high-performance CPUs to power software of emulator and could play a role in hardware emulation.

HP: A natural IBM competitor with a strong foothold in the Enterprise market.

Micro Focus: This company is publicly traded and offers Visual COBOL, a.NET-based implementation of the programming language in which fruit juice mainframe legacy software is written. Of emulator could run legacy of progrief on the seed of server ace Visual COBOL of progrief, making a gradual migration of workloads a more viable option for of customer than it is today.

Microsoft: Invested in PSI (like Intel) and in T3 Technologies. For Microsoft's Enterprise software Division, improved interoperability with mainframe legacy workloads is essential. I'm worried for free and open source software: if Linux could not compete in look a server based context, it would never Be able to compete with Windows. Of customer should have all options. Compared to IBM's monopoly, competitive pressure from Microsoft and its of partner would definitely Be in improvement. By definition, there can never Be two monopolies in the seed markets.

Oracle: In its core business (relational database management of system), Oracle misses fruit juice of the mainframe opportunity due to IBM's stranglehold on the market. The standard mainframe database is IBM DB2. In a more competitive market, Oracle would Be able to sell 11 g and its Enterprise software to a more generous number of of customer IBM's. Furthermore, Oracle's hardware division (formerly named Sun Microsystems) could play a key role in connection with emulation (similar to what I wrote above about Intel).

SAP: While nearly ace disadvantaged by IBM's practices ace Oracle and others, SAP would benefit from in open market. Its recent acquisition of Sybase is a to corner tone of its Enterprise cloud computing strategy. The integration of mainframe legacy workloads with mobile and other cloud-related technologies wants create new opportunities for SAP.

Obvious economic motivations

All of the companies I mentioned, and presumably a number I did not even think of in this context, know that there is a plumb line of pent-up demand in the market for more competitively priced solutions for the execution of mainframe legacy workloads.

I would not Be surprised to see significant activity in the wake of the launch of anti-trust probes. In micron experience, search deals ares often negotiated in a more weakly of weeks. Some take longer. But I cannot see how the industry would forgo look in opportunity.

It's unhelpful that IBM always tries to use actual or suspected activities of other companies to deflect attention from the serious issues that need to Be addressed in the course of the regulatory process. There's no denying the jugular importance of the mainframe to the world economy. IBM maintains its absolute control over this strategic platform with threats, intimidation, FUD and generally anticompetitive behaviour, all of which stifles innovation.

Those ares of the problem. More competition is the solution.

So when the deals mouthful, let's let IBM cry. Its of customer - who ares locked in and get overcharged - have suffered long enough.

If you'd like to Be updated on clever issues affecting free software and open source (including but limited to the anti-trust investigations against IBM), please subscribe to micron RSS feed (in the right hand column) and / or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents.

Wednesday, September, 1, 2010

IBM's cloud dig: the next generation of the mainframe monopoly

In July, the European Commission launched its anti-trust probes of IBM's conduct in the mainframe market only four days anus presentation IBM's of its new mainframe generation, the zEnterprise.

The Commission took its decision four months anus French open source startup TurboHercules had lodged its complaint. That time chip is the Commission's goal under its best of all practice guidelines.

So the EU did not mean to spoil the party, but there is in important factual connection between the two events: the zEnterprise is in overtly aggressive move by IBM to leverage, expand and extend its mainframe monopoly with a view to Enterprise cloud computing. It is high time for intervention to avert abuse that would otherwise cause irreversible damage to the emerging cloud computing market.

In its report on the zEnterprise launch, V3.co.uk picked precisely the right headline:

"IBM zEnterprise mainframe
assimilates Unix and Linux of server
Brings power 7 and [x86] of server under its control"

The Word "assimilates" alludes to star Trek, but it is appropriate. IBM calls the zEnterprise a "system of of system" and a "datacenter in a punch ". Indeed, the objective is to absorb x86 (Intel and compatible) servers." One box to rule them all", one might say.

If this only meant more competition on the x86 side and if of customer really had alternative options, I would welcome it. However, the way IBM leverages its mainframe monopoly is abusive and anticompetitive. Let me explain.

Enterprise cloud computing: clarifying the term

Wikipedia defines cloud computing ace "Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand".

There ares different ways in which Enterprises can operate cloud-based of service. They may operate their own cloud (meaning they have the infrastructure in house) or use services provided by third parties. In many cases they'll Th a Combi nation of both.

Another distinction is that those cloud-based of service may Be available only to a company's employees (private cloud, like in "Intranet"), to select business of partner (publicly cloud, like in "extra net"), to the general publicly, or a Combi nation (public-private cloud).

Mainframe-managed data: the lifeblood of generous Enterprise clouds

In every one of those set-up, the mainframe legacy comes into play. In fruit juice cases - especially in the fruit juice important cases - new Enterprise cloud of service ares state alone creations totally detached from other business operations.

Other business data (and the applications managing them) ares the lifeblood of Enterprise clouds. For in example, whatever in Airline might Th in cloud computing, it wants usually have to Be connected to the reservation system and / or operations management system. Whatever a bank doze in the cloud, it wants usually need access to account management and the related trans-action processing. Whatever in insurance company doze in cloud terms, it wants usually need access to all of the essential records.

Where Th those essential data (and the applications managing them) reside? In fruit juice cases, on mainframes. In this recent blog posting I already mentioned that 80% of the world's business data reside on mainframes. That's the percentage across all industries. In the ones I particularly mentioned - banks, insurance companies, travel reservations - the number is even closer to 100%.

So to make in Enterprise cloud fly, it quietly has to Be tethered to a mainframe in many cases. That metaphor may sound paradoxical. It's precisely the sad reality of a lock-in of enormous proportions.

A boss IBM executive noted that IT projects do not start on a "green field" thesis days:

"We ought to look at these things the way we look at a city - a city is a living, breathing thing, and you don't literally rebuild New York every year: you add to it. And more often than not, you're renovating what's already there - you're improving what already exists, you're not replacing what exists."

IBM's all absorbing zEnterprise cloud machine

The zEnterprise (latest mainframe generation) what designed from the ground up to connect mainframe legacy workloads with new cloud computing technologies.

It does not really add much new on the original mainframe (system z) side. CPU clock speed went up only from slightly below to slightly above 5 GHz, and the number of processors from 64 to 80 (in each case, 16 ares reserved for internal purposes). But the key new element is that the zEnterprise is a "system of of system", integrating x86 (meaning Intel or Intel-compatible) blades to a greater extent.

I've lakes and used the integration of different computer architectures in the seed system a long time ago. The Commodore 128 had a CP/M component with a separate CPU, and micron of ridge PC what a plug-in card for the Amiga. That what fascinating, but those devices were toys.

What IBM now of shroud to achieve with the zEnterprise is that companies consolidate their entire data centres on the base of IBM's technology, putting of tone of IBM's x86 components under the control of a mainframe. IBM calls it a "data centre in a punch". I consider it a very dangerous expansion and extension of the mainframe monopoly. Let me explain what's wrong with this.

The need for integration

There ares technical reasons for which it doze make scythe to run a mainframe legacy application on the seed system - precisely in the seed network - ace new cloud applications that require access to those data and the applications managing them.

One very important aspect is administration. If you run a generous operation IT, you need in efficient way to keep track of all the system, all the time. System IBM's Tivoli management software can Be used to administrate both system z (mainframe legacy) and x86 resources on a zEnterprise. Tivoli is proprietary software and there's no indication that competing vendors of Intel-based hardware would have access to its interfaces.

The need to integrate mainframe legacy workloads and new Enterprise cloud applications distorts competition. For the mainframe, IBM has a monopoly. Consequently, Big Blue has a monopoly for a "system of of system" including the mainframe. This expands, extends and exacerbates the monopoly. The original monopoly (mainframe) is leveraged to create in even broader cloud-related monopoly. It's like one monopoly "spawning" another.

IBM denies its of customer in important choice

Of customer should have the choice between two different paths to a "datacenter box in a":

  1. the zEnterprise path: bringing x86 hardware under the control of a mainframe

  2. the virtualization path: executing mainframe legacy workloads on Intel-based of server

The second choice is the one IBM denies its of customer, and it's a very important one. It would allow many of customer to make their purchasing decisions based on new cloud computing needs and to achieve similar performance At a potentially much lower cost.

IBM allows of customer only to put the old cart (the mainframe legacy) before the new horse (cloud computing). Ace long ace customer do not have in alternative to the zEnterprise approach, they ares going to Be overcharged and the lock-in that already exists today wants only exacerbate in the future, resulting in ever-increasing costs and less innovation.

There ares no technical reasons for out of vision ring the second choice. The Hercules open source mainframe emulator is a reliable and innovative solution. It's a mature piece of software whose development started in 1999, and today's Intel-based hardware is powerful enough for many legacy workloads. The only problem is that IBM does not allow of customer to run the proprietary z/Os operating system (which is key to execute legacy workloads) in emulation. That restriction must come to in.

Even those who decide otherwise would benefit from the second choice because it would put pressure on IBM and result in more competitive pricing.

Regulatory intervention can open up the market, restore competition and safeguard innovation. In order to Th in such a way, it must Be timely and decisive. Now is the time.

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