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2005

 

Phew, another round of silliness in open source is hitting the fan base. In this article Linus Torvalds has to go to bat defending LMI. LMI is the Linux Mark Institute and the body that administers the Linux brand. See Linus Torvalds owns the Linux brand. When I briefly met with Linus at an INTEL cap get-together, we talked about that. He immediately was on the defensive about the LMI and was quick to add "LMI doesn't make any money, it loses money" (he doesn't know me apparently) which he essentially restates in this article. Wow. Funny bit of history is that back in 2001 I was having this argument with my lawyer at the time about the trademark of Jboss, the brand name. I had actually taken a page out of Linus' book, I wanted the brand to be registered to my name, like linus had linux. To me it was a basic tenet of building the business around it. I told Linus as much, that basically I followed his example but I guess I failed to communicate how grateful I was for this precedent.

 

SOAPBOX
So I will now get on my SOAP BOX for a little bit and grab my loudspeaker. Linus doesn't need to apologize for anything, certainly NOT for making money. It is admirable that he stresses the non-profit nature of his LMI company, but I don't know that he owes anyone anything in this case. I don't think it should be a non-profit, not that it is my call. It would be perfectly kosher by me, if not truly admirable if in fact Linus could cash in on that brand, him and his cohort of core developers. Heck charge through the nose for the brand usage. Many people are making TONS of money on your brand Linus and you should definitely get a cut of the value you have created for the industry with your brand. Brands are valuable, even more so in open source. Linus you have built a fantastic asset and you, you cohorts and several generations of yous should roll in dough because of it. I know you made money through other means and managed to cash in on some of the VALUE you have created for the economy at large and I am truly happy you got that to show for it. If it was me, I would build LMI into a branding powerhouse. Make profit out of it Linus, there is nothing dirty about it. Cater to the people that count, your core developers, the people that have truly stuck by you and helped you over the year, you know who they are and they can probably be counted of the fingers of an alien (100 or so?). I am sure they would be thrilled to work on Linux full time with salaries coming from royalties paid to LMI. Do not cater to the naysayers that don't like you or anyone making money. For the sake of FOSS, us at Jboss and professional open source at large, continue taking a stand. By all means defend your brand with the full extent of the law. IP theft is just that, theft.
/SOAPBOX

 

So I am done with the hard soap box. I will come down now, sort of. The second part of the article also tickled my brain. It is quotes from Florian Mueller. I know Florian through email, I was on the mailing list he set up when he was fighting the EU on patents. Not that I contributed anything (I didn't) but it was interesting to read the progress. Florian is a truly smart guy and credit where it is due, it was actually the mySQL guys that contributed a lot. Florian scored a HUGE point when the EU turned down the patent proposals. It was truly a landmark moment, I was just happy to be part of that mailing list. Back to the article, both Florian and Linus try and educate some of the crowd on the difference between patents and trademarks. Trademarks relate to brands not the technology. Some people call linus an hypocrit, according to the article, for defending trademark when it comes to Linux and criticizing patents when it comes to other people's software. Well that is just ignorance I guess. Freedom of innovation and derivative works as defined by the FSF for example should not be mistaken with a free-for-all on IP. That is dangerous.

 

Brands are IP and brands drive businesses. Brands are the basis. Florian makes good points about a certain fringe of FOSS that is a little bit to radical on anti-IP stances, and makes reference to the MSFT portrayal of the community at large as irresponsible IP radicals. Our organization and many like ours, stand as living proof that FOSS is maturing and has clear level headed positions on IP. We treat IP, copyright and licensing very seriously, we have defended our IP in the past and will continue to do so. It is not OK to steal, that simple. The point is that much of our society is predicated on the notion of PROPERTY, and the respect of PROPERTY. Theft is not ok. When people abuse Linus' brand without the permission of Linus they are abusing his property. He has every right in my book to pursue them.

 

In the 60's they had this slogan in france that said "property is theft". On one hand MSFT tries to portray FOSS as a communist plot, on the other some developers scorn Linus for taking legal action to defend his property. The reality of FOSS today is a lot more mature, detailed and complex than these black and white extremes. We understand and RESPECT property, Intellectual PROPERTY is the basis for this new FOSS capitalism, where your capital is not money or hard tangibles assets like factories, but rather intangibles like copyright and brands. It still remains that it is PROPERTY and should be respected as the basis for our business and modus operandi.

 

marcf

marc fleury

DELL: I love Systems

Posted by marc fleury Aug 24, 2005

 

So as you may have picked up Jboss recently signed a reseller agreement with DELL. We are happy with this deal :) This is a very significant step for our organization.

 

First things first, I would like to congratulate Tom Leonard, who signed this deal on our behalf for the fantastic job he has done. DELL is notoriously hard to crack, our proprietary competition knows that and TomL brought all his experience and talent to bear to close the deal in time for LinuxWorld. That and the proverbial camping equipment in their corporate headquarter lobby. It is a trophy deal and we are all truly proud and grateful. We are DELL's *exclusive* provider of middleware. I like the sound of THAT.

 

The significance of this didn't go un-noticed by many in the press, basically that Jboss has now signed almost every major hardware vendor on the planet. HP, Unisys, Intel, Dell, SUN, NEC are all certifying with Jboss on their respective platforms. Who is missing? Well... IBM. Here is friendly call to IBM hardware and services. When the central software politburo isn't looking we are ready to do deals, we are waiting for you guys. Isn't it funny? Isn't it a repeat of the OS/2 days where it was an IBM software vs the rest of the world. Oh well, so much for open-ness.

 

But the real story I wanted to relay is that after 2 weeks into the agreement we are starting to see business coming in from DELL. That floored me. They took the longest to sign but once THE MACHINE is started it GOES.

 

I was walking through our offices yesterday and at the end of a long day. I really like feeling the pulse of the office at the end of the day, who is there, who is still feverish, who is happy, who has concerns, catching up with folks and just shooting the breeze. I specifically like hanging out in a particular corner of the sales offices where the energy is high. This is where I recharge my batteries on the business. I like the excitement, the commitment, the level of talent and energy that you can FEEL in our sales bullpen. I gotta admit, seeing faxes come in with orders was a always a rush for me, since the day I started working at SUN. Same excitement and fulfilment you feel with development, instant feedback. I am also grateful for the amount of stress these guys put up with on a monthly basis and I want them to know that I care. So yesterday's story was about one of our sales guys having to take down his calendar. The calendar was from BODOG (one of our customers) and think of it as sport illustrated calendar without the racyness, it is actually pretty tame. The guy claimed "miss august" was his lucky charm... and seemed a bit taken aback. So that was the topic of conversation when another one of the old timers barges in his face glowing red with excitement "I am about to sign THE FIRST deal with DELL and it is pretty big" to which someone replied "nope that would be the SECOND deal, the first deal was signed by so and so a couple of days ago". He seemed to be genuinely dissapointed that he wasn't the first but to me the fact that there was already **2** deals was news (I just came back from hollidays).

 

When he walked me through the deal and how all the parameters of the deal quickly fell in place with our new pricing it kind of hit me. We are dealing with a systemic entity. None of this "time to ramp", none of this "sales impedence missmatch", just a raw and unadulterated MACHINE at work in all its texan glory. The beauty is immediately apparent, a scale free systemic solution will by definition scale (hence the scalefree). From what I heard from the team that closed the deal, the DELL guys were absolutely impressive if not a tad overwhelming in their relentless and single minded focus on OPERATIONALIZING the deal, they deal with a system, you gotta work with the system, their job is to maintain the system. To the credit of our competition that couldn't strike a deal with DELL, it is all systemic, nothing personal. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that FREE SOFTWARE is a much better thing for volume hardware players and so it happens that they could make financial sense of our proposals in their system. The PR value is enough to put a small company like ours on the map (150 employees and counting) but if the baby cash streams we are seeing are a sign of the future cash flows, I can go to sleep knowing Dallas is systemically increasing our valuation, which is based on discounted cash flow calculations.

 

So here it is, in the wake of my emotional fiasco with the employees of an airline whose reservation system is a mess (see "when systems fail and no one cares"), here is the flip side of "when system works and the humans that maintain it deeply care." Our company today is focused on growing through systemic operations, scaling scaling and devising scale-free systems be it in finance, in development, in sales, in channels, in services and marketing (the last two are the toughest). It is a long road but we are making great strides and we obviously can learn a few lessons from our partners.

 

Don't mess with TEXAS! (which is the texan way of saying "remember we love you")

 

marcf

 

While some corporate blowhards blog about the notables they meet around the world jetting around in private planes, I recently found my little scrappy self living the Everyman Airline Nightmare.

 

I am currently finishing my annual vacation in Mallorca, an island east of Spain and like every year we flew from Atlanta to Madrid and from Madrid to Palma de Mallorca. It is a tough flight, not only because you have a crappy connection after the overnight and oversea trip but also because we are travelling with the whole family. So picture, Nathalie and I, our 6 year old girl and our twin boys, who are in their terrible twos, add two nannys for good measure and you get the picture of a gypsy caravan travelling.

 

So, with 8 hours of flying and 6 hours of jetlag and no sleep, we get to Madrid and all walk from one end to the other the Barajas airport and are informed at the last minute by Iberia that "Delta cancelled our reservations to Palma". WHAT? They CANCELLED our reservations? Yup! They cancelled them! Mind you this is the 20th of july, which is one of the busiest days in Spain air travel due to a national holiday and half of Europe travelling to Mallorca. They inform that there are no more available flights for the morning and we will get put on standby IF WE GET LUCKY and Delta actually straightens the mess out.

 

So we have to walk all the way back across the airport to Delta again. By now the airport is a massive sea of people and imagine the caravan slowly making its way across. Nathalie is so out of it that manages to get lost in the crowd and it is a good half hour before we find her again in front of the Delta counter. There, at least, a pretty lady attends us, she calms me down. She is just as incompetent as the rest we are about to find out but at the time I didn't know. She informs us that our reservations are still valid but too bad we have missed the flight while trekking across the airport. She issues new reservations, in standby for the next flight and we are off again for the hike across the airport. This time we feel slightly more calm, since we have our reservations in hand but I am pissed off since she told us that Iberia does this EVERY DAY, cancelling US travellers who don't originate with Iberia, due to overbooking. I hate overbooking, who doesn't, it is such an obnoxious practice specifically when you arrive from overseas.

 

So we make it back to Iberia, and I have mulled over the complaints I was going to unload on the ticketing attendant. The lady gets upset and says "sir, I am a person". That got blood boiling, "and what I am?" I ask in spanish... "a number? An overbooked casualty?". Anyway she brings her boss and things get worse. Turns out, Delta STILL did not make the reservations or Iberia can't see them. I will censor the rest of the event, suffice to say we couldn't travel with Iberia, they banned me for "bad attitude". A word to the wise, I learned this too late but if you ever have trouble with a Spanish airline, demand the "libro de reclamaciones" as apparently making a formal complaint does carry weight over there. However you should do it the same day otherwise I hear they will just lie and pretend you never showed up for your flight. So back to Delta, meanwhile, Delta has closed their office at 3PM and we are there, my feet hurting, children screaming and nannies confused stranded in Barajas. The joke cost us 2500 euros to buy new tickets and the last minute hotel room we had to book to wait for the first available flight the following morning.

 

At first I was convinced that Iberia had purposely cancelled our reservations since they were the only party that had an economic motivation to treat us like that. Then thinking on Delta, Delta had RANDOMLY cancelled our return trip from Madrid to Atlanta (hopefully that is fixed, I am still writing from Pollensa in Mallorca). And then it downed on me, we were just victims of a flawed software application. There is little integration between the companies, each company has a crappy system to boot. Did you ever wonder why gate attendants have to type in 1200 keys to check you in in their dumb terminals? Because they have crappy software. I mean they have to learn the acronyms for the destinations when drop down lists were invented 20 years ago! Argh!.

 

But here is what really gets me. It is the fact that systems without humans are useless. Neither of the airline attendant ever picked up a phone to call the other airline and solve our problem despite our vehement requests. All they cared about was getting rid of us as quickly as possible. Systems that become solidified tend to breed the worst human behavior in service industries--that of the "low level bureaucrat". A low level bureaucrat abuses his own system. The low level bureaucrat knows that the powers that be back him up to NOT serve the end user but instead defend the system, its inertia and its flaws. When humans stop caring about the systems they create and serve, the system will break down. A system is as valid as the people who serve it and maintain it. Stop caring for a system and your customers and your business will quickly dry up. In the case of airline companies, they still enjoy semi-monopoly status (yes you can fly other airlines out of Atlanta, but they don't always have direct routes) and the escape hatch of federal governments and your and my tax money to bail them out for a level of incompetence and poor service that would sink them in other sectors.

 

At Jboss we don't make any money besides service, there are no licenses to sell. Usually when software is sold, service is treated as an afterthought. This is not our case. I hope we never develop this spirit of mediocrity and meanness that creeps into large companies and entities. We commit to customer satisfaction.

 

marcf

 

PS: avoid Iberia if you can to come to JBoss World Barcelona