Alliances of convenience


SpikeSource Inc. CEO Kim Polese is an industry veteran who was head of the Java team at Sun Microsystems Inc. in the 1990s and also founded “push” software company Marimba, which was eventually bought by business software company BMC Software Inc. SpikeSource helps companies put together open source software stacks by testing and configuring open-source components. It is increasingly feeling competitive heat from big companies like Oracle Inc. and IBM Corp., which are offering Linux services and support, as well as from smaller companies specializing in open-source applications and components.

On the sidelines of the recent LinuxWorld Open Solutions Summit in New York, Polese talked with IDG News Service correspondent Elizabeth Montalbano about how SpikeSource competes with big companies, how it cooperates with other open-source players, and whether or not SpikeSource is looking to be acquired or go public.

You’re seeing more competition from companies like Oracle and IBM, as well as from smaller open source companies. What do you have to offer that other companies do not?

What we’ve done is really innovate in a very specific area — automated testing. And that’s allowed us to deliver this service at a price point that’s attractive, that’s making open source applications available to a wide array of businesses. We run about 300,000 automated tests nightly across over a 100 components and that allows us to know essentially what works with what and extract the right patch, test it, deliver it out to the customer at a low cost because we’re automated; we don’t have to throw armies of developers at the problem. That’s a unique approach and it’s IP that we’ve developed and that we’ve spent three plus years now continuing to evolve and improve — I’m not aware of anyone else who’s done that and again I think that gives us a competitive advantage in the market.

What are some of the new trends that you’re seeing now in the open-source world? How do you cooperate with other open-source vendors?

One of the things we’re bringing out here at LinuxWorld is a new alliance — the Open Solutions Alliance. It’s a new group of companies including JasperSoft, Centric, CollabNet, SourceForge and others who are coming together to create a common set of interfaces — APIs — between applications to make it easier for them to co-exist.

How will this cooperation affect the market?

Those APIs or interfaces might be for single sign-on or a common data repository. It’s a way of really reducing the work that each vendor has to do, because all these apps ultimately should be able to work in a cohesive environment together, and also opening these APIs up to the open source community or for anyone to use for any applications whether proprietary or open source. We’re really happy to be part of that. It’s aimed at open source applications but again, with the concept that these apps not only have to coexist but also probably exist in mixed-source environments.

You’re in a market that is looking at increasing consolidation. Are you looking to be acquired …. or do you think you will go public?

My philosophy on an ultimate, quote-unquote “liquidity event” is not to focus on that at all, it’s to focus on building the best possible company in terms of the quality we’re offering the customers, the products we’re bringing to market, the financial returns for the investors long term; but that comes from focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and building a great set of products and a channel that’s thriving because they’re working with SpikeSource. And I figure everything else will work out and the focus should be about building a world-class company and not on how it all ends up in terms of a “liquidity event.”


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