Stirring Things Up In The Open-Source World

"One of my biggest interests in being in this industry is to try to change it,??? said open-source evangelist Winston Damarillo.

April 7, 2006

3 Min Read
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"One of my biggest interests in being in this industry is to try to change it,” said open-source evangelist Winston Damarillo.

An engineer and venture capitalist, Damarillo caused his first software-industry earthquake last year, when IBM scooped up his fledgling open-source application server stack developer, Gluecode Software, for an undisclosed sum. The savvy deal moved IBM deeper into open-source waters while also knocking a potential WebSphere rival out of the ring.

But Damarillo doesn’t intend to let IBM or any of the software industry’s other commercial giants rest easy. Even before the Gluecode buyout closed, the aspiring serial entrepreneur started laying the foundation for his next, more ambitious venture: Simula Labs, a Marina del Rey, Calif.-based umbrella company intended to house an entire collection of ventures building software around a shared stack of open-source components.

Simula Labs’ first portfolio company, LogicBlaze, recently unveiled Fuse, a services-oriented architecture (SOA) platform that integrates Apache Software Foundation database, messaging, orchestration and enterprise service bus technologies. Next month, Simula Labs’ second company, Mergere, will go live with a software life-cycle management toolset incorporating Apache’s Maven project. Damarillo’s ambitious schedule calls for a major product launch every quarter. Simula Labs’ third venture, a systems management software company code-named LiveTribe, is already incubating.

Like Red Hat, MySQL and other commercial vendors focusing on open-source technology, Simula Labs’ strategy is to give away its technology and profit from selling support services. The firm calls its support network CORE (Community-Oriented Realtime Engineering) and intends to use it to link together its portfolio companies. CORE subscriptions, priced at $6,000 per developer per quarter, offer updates, maintenance and source-code for all of Simula Labs’ software, along with access to its developers. Production licenses for the first product offering, LogicBlaze’s Fuse, start at $5,000 per server per year.Damarillo said resellers and ISVs are key players in the Simula Labs software ecosystem he envisions. “By making the license cost go away, our partners are able to deliver a much more economically feasible solution to their customers,” he said. “Distribution is free. This will be very easy technology for integrators to pick up.”

Cost was only part of the reason eCube Systems signed on as a Fuse early adopter. ECube, a legacy systems modernization firm in Conroe, Texas, initially bought commercial Java middleware to use as SOA glue in its integration projects.

That turned into a pricey exercise in frustration, according to Peter Marquez, vice president of product management at eCube.

“We felt sort of isolated and alone in dealing with the complexity of the other system,” Marquez said. “Open source made more sense. We wanted something with a broader community behind it.”

Marquez likes the platform approach LogicBlaze took with Fuse, which saves eCube the pain of integrating a collection of open-source components on its own. ECube plans to embed Fuse in its NXTware legacy-system integration platform, and to use it in other services projects. Marquez said eCube will kick the tires of software products from Simula Labs’ other ventures as they’re released.Simula Labs will draw up plans for a formal channel partner program in the next few months after it wraps up the Mergere launch, Damarillo said.

“We’re waiting until we can present the channel with a more complete stack of portfolio products,” he said. “I also want to make sure that when we engage the channel, it’s a push-and-pull model. We don’t want to go to the channel and say, ‘Who are your customers?’”

Meanwhile, even as Simula Labs works to get its first few ventures off the ground, Damarillo is plotting a half-dozen moves ahead. He’d like to do something with identity management software—and maybe even make a consumer move. Like other entrepreneurs who have challenged traditional business models and struck gold, Damarillo is eager to find new sacred cows to tip. “We might dabble with open-source-meets-Hollywood,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be fun to build the next ‘Ice Age’ with a lot of people helping you build it?”

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