LinuxTag 2010: Call for Papers Ends Today

LinuxTag is the most important place for Linux and open source software in Europe. Last year, LinuxTag had over ten thousand attendees, and over 300 speakers. This year, the 16th LinuxTag will be June 9-12, 2010 at the Berlin Fairgrounds in Germany.

LinuxTag seeks exciting and suitable proposals for presentations in the conference tracks. The Call for Papers ends today.

I am proud to be a member of the LinuxTag Program Committee. Although a lot of proposals have already been submitted, there are some topics missing that I’d personally like to see covered. So, if you’re up for a last minute submission, get your inspiration from the following list:

  • Is/was the recent economic crisis an opportunity for Open Source?
  • More real-life case studies on how OSS is being used in mission-critical scenarios.
  • A European or global perspective on Open Source in Public Administration.
  • How to make use of Amazon EC2 or Google AppEngine with Open Source apps?
  • Technical tutorials for beginners, especially for building Web apps (e.g. PHP/Ruby/Java/etc. for beginners).
  • High performance Web environments with Open Source tools
  • Security in the Cloud
  • What’s the status of some of the regional Linux distributions?

I can’t promise that your talk will be accepted if it covered one of the above topics. The review process is of course a joint effort of the whole Program Committee. Anyway, it’s definitely worth a try. Of course, any other topic I did not think of is also highly welcome.

Go here to submit your LinuxTag proposal.

Commercialization of PHP Software

I’ve just published an article that explains how a PHP-based product can gain a good position in the market and be made appealing to customers by using marketing communication. The focus is on products licensed under an Open Source license. Yet, most of the recommendations also apply to proprietary offerings.

The article has initially been published in German by PHPmagazin. It has now been translated to English and is available on the Initmarketing website: Commercialization of PHP Software.

2nd IKS Workshop: The Web 3.0 and Open Source Semantic Search

Rome is a great city and it will host a bunch of great people (including me 🙂 ) at November 12-13. This is when the second IKS Project workshop will take place. The goal of this workshop is to start working on an Open Source software stack that allows other Open Source projects and software vendors to leverage semantic search technologies.

IKS is an EU-funded project with an overall budget of 8.5 million Euros. The first workshop back in May saw two dozen of bright Open Source CMS minds discussing a semantic stack in general. This time, it will also make sense for non-CMS-related Open Source projects and vendors to join.

There will be interesting presentations from some key figures at the second workshop in Rome, such as Peter Mika of Yahoo! Research talking about “The Role of Semantics in Search”.

If you’re up to joining the Open Source Web 3.0 train, then hurry up, because the October 22nd deadline for registering for the 2nd IKS workshop on semantic search is approaching quickly. See you there!

Calendar of Open Source, IT, Industry-specific Events

World-wide Free and Open Source Software EventsInitMarketing has made its calendar of world-wide conferences and trade fairs related to Free and Open Source Software, IT and specific industries available to the public.

It currently includes 122 events in 17 countries taking place in 2009. 43 of them in Germany, 69 in USA. We use this calendar when planing events for our customers, thus we’ll regularly update it. Please let us know of any events which are not on our radar yet by commenting to my blog or commenting at the bottom of the events page.

The Brand Value of MySQL

Totally expectable, the sun has gone up and down for the past two weeks since Sun bought MySQL for $1 billion and we still trust in MySQL – do we trust in Sun?

In fact, Sun paid a high premium for MySQL’s credibility (aka brand value) to benefit from the high profile of the cute dolphin publicly. MySQL simply knows how to play the Open Source game right, that’s their largest asset. How high is it actually?

Let’s look at MySQL’s reputation management:

  • MySQL is everybody’s Open Source darling. Their consistent brand design created trust and allowed for the amortization of goodwill.
  • In the past 5 years, there was no proof of the viability of an Open Source business model without mentioning MySQL. MySQL is an Open Source thought leader.
  • MySQL is the M in LAMP. Any doubts?

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • MySQL’s revenue is assumed to be $65 million in 2008.
  • MySQL’s profit is paltry.
  • I estimate MySQL’s lines of code to be approximately that of PostgreSQL worth $8 million.
  • When calculating MySQL’s forward-looking revenues and optimistically assuming growth of 100% per year, revenues should reach $1 billion in 2012 – but that’s still not profits amortizing Sun’s acquisition costs.

None of these numbers really explain the $1 billion price tag: forget about revenue, forget about profits, forget about the code – all irrelevant. Forward-looking revenues? Maybe, but they rely on assumptions about the continued business relevance of MySQL – something that is highly related to its brand.

Together with Lars, I tried to find a way how to reasonably calculate MySQL’s brand value. This is what we came up with:

  1. Equate MySQL’s fictious market capitalization with the $1 billion price tag.
  2. Estimate MySQL’s profits to be $10 million (remember, “paltry”?).
  3. Let’s keep in mind that MySQL’s fictious market cap is a 100 multiple of its profits.
  4. Take Sun for comparison: Their market capitalization is roughly 15 times their profits.
  5. When applying Sun’s brand value to MySQL’s profits, the expected acquisition price would be $150 million.
  6. What about those additional $850 million that Sun paid?

As of today, a whopping 85% of MySQL’s economic value added can be attributed to its strong Open Source brand. If you are in general skeptical about the brand concept, The Brand Gap will open your eyes.

Let’s compare MySQL’s brand value with some of the top 100 global brands:

  • Xerox has a brand valuation of $6 billion accounting for 93% of its market capitalization.
  • Coca Cola is the leading global brand with $70 million brand value, that’s 60% of its market capitalization.
  • Hertz is bottom of the top 100 table, with a brand value of $3 billion.
  • Sun is not part of the top 100 and MySQL’s $850 million won’t qualify it either.

MySQL was able to negotiate a good price due to its brand value – and rightly so!

Everyone I ever met at MySQL is straightforward, honest, simply credible and focused on creating a trustworthy Open Source business. I am very sure that MySQL’s founders and top management agreed on the acquisition because they were able to develop a trustful relationship with Sun in the past years and realized that Sun is truly embracing Open Source.

MySQL will be able to provide a lot of input to Sun on how to become a widely acknowledged authority in the Open Source domain. Even better: MySQL will lead by example. You can tell from Kaj Arnö’s blog post about his new role as MySQL’s Ambassador to Sun that MySQL is well aware of their strong role within Sun: “We want to take Sun by storm”.

Does MySQL orbit Sun or Sun orbits MySQL? As MySQL’s co-founder Monty Widenius put it in his recently opened blog:

Sun is a hardware company who has been for a long time in a transition to also be a software company. In their software space they where first closed source but has lately started to change most of their software to open source/free software.

MySQL AB on the other hand is a company that was originally totally committed to free software / open source but who has lately changed to be more closed.

This deal will allow both companies to learn from each others successes and failures and build a stronger company than we would have been able to do separately.

I am very confident that MySQL will successfully help Sun become one of the main centers of the Web universe and it seems that some MySQLers hope for the best from sun. We will see Sun’s brand value grow significantly this year – not sure though if they will already make it into the top 100 global brands.

Corporate Identity in Open Source Markets

The potential for successfully building or extending a corporate identity based on Open Source depends on a company’s relationship towards an Open Source product. The graph below relates the extend of product ownership to the level of awareness potentially available for marketing:
Open Source Corporate Identity
Basically, the more you own the product, i.e. the more it is directly correlated to your company, the more you can make out of it.

If you’re the creator of the product (e.g. MySQL, the company, is the creator of MySQL, the database), you can utilize maximum awareness in your market. Your whole ecosystem will support your marketing efforts. For example, those providing extensions to your product, will automatically market your product while promoting their extension.

If you’re an external contributor to a product (e.g. providing patches with bug fixes), you might only be known amongst the developers community and your company will have a hard time transforming your contributions into business value via marketing. Nevertheless, being a contributor is not worthless. It allows you to build tight relationships within an OSS community, helping you to spot early trends and to mobilize visionaries and early adopters for whatever your offerings are.

System integrators market their specific expertise and experience, their goal is to build up a good reputation amongst customers. Of course, large system integrators (such as IBM) can leverage quite some awareness with all sorts of marketing tools, while small to medium ones typically try to score with their expertise (see for example Optaros White Papers).

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) typically market to a certain industry. For example, they provide extensions or add-ons for an OSS product connecting to proprietary CRM systems (e.g. SAP connectors).

Distributors, such as the major Linux distributors, can utilize a similar level of awareness like large system integrators do – of course, depending on the fact whether their offerings are industry-specific or of general nature. Product ownership of distributors is two-fold: They don’t really own the OSS products they assemble, but they do provide tools which they own (e.g. installers, updaters, etc.) and which are crucial for a distribution’s business relevance.

Find more Open Source marketing articles in my Wiki.

Defining Commodity Features of Open Source Software

Open Source software is often being referred to as commodity products. This is particularly true for OSS databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL. Developers of such systems can heavily make use of defined standards. In this case, it’s the various SQL standards. These standards define the general functionality set your product should have. They help you define the commodity features of your software.

The question is: where do you get your software requirements from if the OSS product you are developing cannot rely on any or only a few standards?

Let’s take a look at two other types of OSS products: Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and collaborative software. I used to work for an Open Source ECM vendor until recently and just started to work for a company offering Open Source collaborative software. Hence, I might be able to provide some useful information.

For ECM vendors, there exist a few standards in different areas of ECM. This is because ECM comprises a very broad set of functionality, e.g. content editing, workflow management, document management, accessibility, etc. Yet, these standards cover only a small fraction of what makes up a full-fledged ECM system. In fact, ECM is very much about customer-specific implementations and integration of legacy systems. It is a lot about experience, best practices.

Hence, a successful Open Source ECM project can define the set of commodity features by listening to its:

  • customers
  • partner companies
  • developers and users community

These groups have different impact in different OSS ECM projects.

For example, eZ Publish is equally influenced by all three of them. At Alfresco, there is massive know-how of customer needs, simply because they have John Newton on board, co-founder of the very successful proprietary Documentum ECM. It will be interesting to see how eZ Publish and Alfresco will compete in the future. This will largely depend on how well the eZ Publish developers react upon market needs and on how fast Alfresco can grow its Open Source community. It’s actually not black and white, because customers can be a part of your developers community.

Before I talk about the interesting aspects of commodity features in collaborative software, one more note about highly standardized products: Of course, the MySQL developers need to also think of market needs. They first implemented the very basic features which made their RDBMS useful for simple, yet common scenarios in Web development. Standards do not free you from deciding which ones to implement first, but they help you to save time collecting all the potential features.

Now about collaborative software: Most development here is based on best practices. The interesting point is: these best practices are mostly already available in the Web. To be more precise: in the Web 2.0. At Mindquarry, we implement collaborative software which includes a Wiki, task and document manager (conversation tools for email and instant messaging coming soon).

Where do we get our basic ideas from? Well, from Wikipedia, Jabber, Bugzilla, etc. Mindquarry’s commodity features are out there in the Web and have been tested by a lot of users for several years. With Mindquarry, the trick is not about simply imitating an already existing and proven software infrastructure. It is about connecting the various bits and pieces of social software into one coherent infrastructure which you can use e.g. in your Intranet.

The point is: You can see the difference between the Web 1.0 and the Web 2.0 also in how OSS vendors define the commodity features of their products. An RDBMS is largely a Web 1.0 tool. It has at least one foot in the old days, when companies fought about software standards. Social or collaborative software is Web 2.0, you can find and influence its standards in the Web by providing efficient and rich user experience.

Of course, Web 2.0 standards rely on Web 1.0 standards, but the Web 2.0 is more about best practices and de facto standards on the user level compared to logical definitions of standards on the developers level. Again, the reality is not black and white. Take a look at MySQL’s and PostgreSQL’s ANSI92 SQL-defying LIMIT clause. It’s a best practice approach and shows that OSS developers always listened to their developers community just like Web 2.0 developers today listen to their users.

Call for Papers: eZ Conference 2007

BÃ¥rd published a short note on his blog that the call for papers for the 5th annual eZ Conference is now open. Deadline for submissions is February 1st.

The conference is worth attending not only for eZ Publish or eZ Components users and geeks, it is also interesting if you’re interested in content and knowledge management or PHP/LAMP in general. Last year, I enjoyed talking to guests such as Martin White and Anne Jubert, Rasmus Lerdorf and David Axmark – and some more of the 350 attendees.