Stormy Peters: Open Source at HP


Stormy Peters is the Director of HP's Open Source office, the office that is responsible for HP's use of open source software. She claims $2 billion in Linux related revenue at HP last year. She has a nice slide that shows a hierarchical representation of open source licenses. She characterizes the MIT and W3C licenses as having no restrictions, the BSD and Apache license has having restrictions, but no impact on other code, and all the others as some variant of copyleft.

Stormy talks about Martin Fink's book called The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. Martin is the GM for HP's Linux group. I haven't read the book, but I may try to pick a copy up. The book jacket advertises it as a guide for business managers considering using OSS in their business. Disclosure: Martin is Stormy's boss.

She suggests the following business models around open source:

  • Commercial software - Oracle running on Linux is the example she uses.
  • Support and services - This is the professional services model.
  • Aggregation and enhancing - This is Redhat and other Linux vendors.
  • Commercialize with a dual license - "Free for non-commercial use."
  • Enable hardware
  • End of life - What to do with a dog product that isn't selling?
  • Building an ecosystem - Eclipse is the example here.

Why would you want to open source a product?

  • Commoditizes a market you don't control (disruption)
  • Make a technology pervasive
  • Promote a proprietary product you have
  • Lower the overall cost of a project (shared effort)
  • Promote hardware
  • Enable custom solution for customers (let them roll their own)
  • Exit a business
  • Leverage resources from others

When isn't it appropriate? This is bound to be controversial?

  • The product is a control point (Windows)
  • The product is obsolete (Windows---NO she didn't really say that.)
  • The cost doesn't justify the benefit. This is a nod to the fact that open source development isn't free.
  • Misdirection and defocusing of resources
  • Intellectual property risk cannot be justified. Don't open source something you can prove you have the right to. This is important.
  • Don't open source something to compete against the OS community.
  • Just because its cool (I disagree with this---this is a great reason to open source something---ofttimes you don't see the benefit until people play with it and geeks are the ones to do that).

She talks about why and why not to do OSS development in a company. The most interesting one, to me, was time to market. If certain features are critical for what you want to get out of the software and you can't control the release dates (its someone else's OS project) you may want to avoid OSS.