SpikeSource pushes open source adoption

Hoping to take the worry and pain out of deploying open source applications with proprietary software, SpikeSource on Tuesday formally launched its first product and services to help with such an integration. The company also announced a network of business partners that will make available a range of open source technology and consulting.

The company's SpikeSource Core Stack is a collection of seven preconfigured stacks that incorporate 63 open source components across six operating systems and six programming languages. The new stacks reportedly give users a way to automate the typically complex and time consuming task of integrating and testing what could be hundreds of different combinations of popular selling, open source, and proprietary software that needs to work together, company executives said.

"The biggest problem that companies are having in using open source in production environments is interoperability, making all the moving parts work together. We think we can help ease those concerns by offering integrated, validated, certified open source stacks that will go along with maintenance and enterprise support services," said Kim Polese, the CEO of SpikeSource.

The secret sauce that will allow the company to test such a wide variety of open source and proprietary software combinations is in a "testing harness" that was 18 months in development. Polese said SpikeSource can run 22,000 tests each night to ensure that any and all interoperability issues are identified and then that the appropriate upgrades and patches are applied to fix the identified problems.

"The automated test harnessautomates every step of the process from spidering news groups, aggregating patches and bug fixes, and incorporating them automatically into the build of a product. It tests across dozens of components then ultimately provides certified results that those components work as they should. It can then generate a set of updates and automatically deploy them to a user's Web site," Polese said.

Polese admits her company's testing software can't test for every conceivable combination of open source and proprietary software, but says such an activity is not necessary. She said that the company has most bases covered due to conversations executives have had with many IT organizations about what open source components are most often wed to proprietary platforms.

"We are focusing on the 80-20 Rule. Whatever the most popular combinations of components of open source and proprietary software are -- and that is a large number (but with boundaries) -- then that is what we will test," Polese said.

One added benefit to the test harness, Polese notes, is that it could serve as a bridge to bring competing archrivals Red Hat and Novell closer together. A particular benefit would be to bring the code in the companies' respective versions of Linux, which have been growing increasingly incompatible, closer together.

"One of the value-added services we can offer is to serve as arbiter, the aggregator to navigate through these incompatibilities [between Red Hat and Novell's versions of Linux]. We can work closely with them both to ensure users have the right level of support and component updates in their production environments," Polese said.

The idea behind the ecosystem of business partners SpikeSource is establishing is to make a more complete set of open source offerings available that will ultimately allow them to implement solutions made up of open source and proprietary blends faster. Two of those companies in that ecosystem are Ret Hat and Novell.

Other participating companies include Intel, JBoss, MY SQL, Black Duck Software, Cognizant, Sugar CRM and Zend Technologies.

Some industry observers agree that if SpikeSource can solve the thorny problems associated with testing and certifying stacks of open source and proprietary software, the rewards could be sizable.

"One of the universal facts of life in the software world is when you change your system you often break applications, but most people do not have the time and energy to do a complete system test daily on new patches. SpikeSource is saying we'll not only do integration testing of open source components but test your (proprietary) applications for reliability and performance, and produce a service pack that is just for you," said Michael Goulde, senior analyst at Forrester Research, specializing in application development and infrastructure research.

To go along with its various SpikeSource Core Stacks, the company will offer four different levels of technical support, each of which will have an update service and provide access to the SpikeSource online knowledge base. The support programs will be available as a three-month or yearly subscription.

The Basic Installation package provides installing and configuring support for open source components. The Silver Support program offers incident-based support of an application in development or production. Gold Support promises rapid response for complex and mission-critical applications. The Premium Annual Support program includes unlimited support and a dedicated engineer who will work with a company's IT organization.

The company also rolled out a set of management tools to let IT professionals access and manage all of their open source assets. Called the SpikeSource Asset Manager, the tool is designed to explore open source components and contains a notification service that delivers alerts about patches and updates as they become available.

SpikeSource took the wraps off of a handful of informational services aimed at independent software developers and IT shops, designed to give them the latest information about open source technologies now in development or commercially available, as well as about integration and licensing.

One such service, SpikeInfo, serves as a database to summarize project information and revisions and can act as a gateway to build and test information and project downloads. Another, called SpikeSearch, provides access to collections of articles from in-house experts, news group postings mailing lists, and RSS feeds.

In a related announcement, SpikeSource said it has signed its first customer, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW), an investment bank that has an open source strategy and will work with SpikeSource to test and deploy new and existing applications.

'We have viewed open source as the new outsource and with this sort of solution [by SpikeSource]. I think our engineering teams can now focus more on client-facing initiatives because the bank's environments have been tested and certified for interoperability issues," said J.P Rangaswami, Global CIO at DrKW.

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