Open Solutions Alliance looking for momentum boost

The nonprofit Open Solutions Alliance aims to shake off growing pains as it heads into its second year

The Open Solutions Alliance is hoping to shake off some growing pains as it moves through its second year, according to its president, Dominic Sartorio.

"We've definitely had challenges," he said. "We've gone through the challenges any volunteer organization has. ... [But] I am so confident that the OSA is going to be a successful consortium."

Formed in February 2007, the OSA is a nonprofit group aimed at fostering interoperability and adoption of open-source software. While it is backed by a number of for-profit vendors, the group's work has relevance for customers as well, according to Sartorio.

"The average end-user isn't going to care about my challenges in motivating a volunteer workforce," he noted. "But if we succeed, then they are going to see a lot more interoperable solutions."

"Most companies ... pick up different [open-source] point solutions and say, 'I want to roll it out to my end-users so it looks like a single app,'" Sartorio added. "Larger enterprises will say, 'I need to orchestrate business processes. ... It's too much work to integrate all these components and point solutions the open-source community generates.'"

As a sort of calling card, last year the OSA developed the Common Customer View, a prototype application that integrates data from a number of OSA member products.

The group got its "hands dirty" with that project, Sartorio said: "We could have just pontificated, or wrote up a bunch of white papers and best practices." The challenge in 2008 is to better publicize the effort, according to Sartorio.

Money is an ongoing concern, since OSA's roughly 15 dues-paying members contribute just US$10,000 each to the organization. "With that amount of money you can do a lot of things ... but you're not going to have an executive director, or have your own lab," he said.

Visibility among member companies could also be improved, as some have appointed midlevel employees to serve as representatives, not top executives, he said: "It's been a challenge to me to say 'Look guys, your CEO or CMO needs to know what you're doing.'"

Politics of a familiar sort has reared its head as well, according to Sartorio. While many companies want to integrate open-source elements with the Microsoft stack, that reality has clashed somewhat within the OSA's ranks, he said. "They say, 'Look, be careful what you do with Microsoft. ... I don't want to be part of an open-source movement that is working closely with Microsoft.'"

"The challenge at Microsoft is the old guard is trying to keep Wall Street happy and their revenues flowing in a predictable way," he said, but the company is on the whole "not monolithic" in its thinking regarding open source.

"There aren't any specific plans between OSA and Microsoft," he added. "It's a matter of ongoing dialogue."

The OSA now has about 20 members. Two vendors -- EnterpriseDB and Groundwork -- did not renew their memberships, Sartorio said. One new member expected to join within a few months is a publicly traded platform vendor, which he declined to name.

EnterpriseDB left the organization as "a matter of focus," CEO Andy Astor said via e-mail. "Like any company, EnterpriseDB needs to allocate its scarce resources among conflicting priorities. OSA is a terrific organization that has made solid progress in its first year, but we simply weren't participating and contributing to a sufficient level to justify continued membership."

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