Sunday, August 1, 2010

It’s time for Lotus to double-down on Linux and open source


By David Gewirtz

Open source is under assault more in 2010 than at any other time in recent history. At a time when Microsoft is making disturbing inroads into Lotus' core business, IBM can counter Microsoft's strategy by even more fully embracing Linux and other open source properties.

In January, Sun Microsystems was absorbed by database behemoth Oracle, another IBM competitor. When Oracle acquired Sun, it also gained controlling access to many of the Internet's most fundamental technologies, including the Java platform, MySQL, OpenOffice, Solaris, and, secondarily, the Netbeans development environment, VirtualBox virtualization software, and more.

Since the acquisition, Oracle has been systematically introducing FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) into its open source properties by defunding certain projects (OpenSolaris and likely OpenOffice), providing only tepid support to other projects (MySQL), and filing a lawsuit against Google for its use of Java in Android (it, itself, another open source platform).

Customers and prospects who had previously assumed that if a project was open source, it was "safe" to use, are now discovering that open source projects can be bought by corporate interests and are subject to market forces just like commercial software.

Since freedom from commercial whims was one of the big attractions to implementing an open source solution, this discovery has been a cold wake-up call to the entire open source industry.

It is clear open source needs a "patron", a powerful protector of the vision of open source. This used to be provided by Sun and it is still, to some extent, provided by Google.

But it's here that IBM, and Lotus specifically, can take action that is both strategic for the company and transformative for the industry.

There is no company less identified with the open source movement than Microsoft. At a time when Lotus is in a pitched battle against Exchange and SharePoint for IT budget dollars, one way of differentiating solutions vs. Microsoft -- beyond the obvious benefits of Notes and Domino themselves -- is by becoming the answer for those who want to avoid Microsoft lock-in.

Today, Lotus provides only tepid support for Linux distros. The company supports Red Hat Enterprise and Suse Enterprise for Domino, and adds support for Ubuntu for Notes.

But there is no support for other successful distros, including Fedora. Even with this latest release of 8.5.2, Lotus support of Ubuntu is woefully out of date.

According to IBM Lotus Notes 8.5.2 System Requirements for Linux, the company only supports Ubuntu 8.04.

Ubuntu has a very understandable versioning system The first number is the year, and the second is the month. So Ubuntu Linux 8.04 is the version of Ubuntu released in April, 2008.