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07 October 2009, 14:39

Happenings: Open World Forum 2009

Jean Noel de Galzain
Zoom Jean Noel de Galzain, OWF 2009 Programme Chair

This year's Open World Forum 2009, held in Paris, brought together the company heads of open source companies, public and government organisations and customers who use open source, for an exchange of views and an opportunity to map out the future of open source. The theme this year was "Free, Libre and Open Source Software: At the heart of the Digital Recovery" and among the numerous strands were presentations, Q&As and round tables with such notables as Jacques Attali, Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation, Roger Burkhardt of Ingres, Michael Tiemann of Red Hat, Mark Taylor of Sirius and Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth.

There were numerous core tracks within the conference schedule; eGov, Start-up and Investors, Open CIO Summit, FLOSS (Free, Libre, Open Source Software) Communities Summit and FLOSS Competence Centres Summit, along with ancillary events. The topics ranged from Linux on the new classes of mobile devices and FOSS adoption in government, to keeping to the four founding principles of free software and open source. The schedule was rich, in all 34 conferences were incorporated, but somewhat complex to navigate. Usefully though, the sessions were all recorded and will be available to watch online.

To navigate around Paris, The H found an application for the iPhone called oMaps which uses the Open Street Map data to display maps. The benefit of having an open data set like OSM is shown in an application like this as, unlike the normal “streamed on demand” web maps, oMaps is able to download the OSM “tiles” which make up the map and store them. When roaming to a city like Paris, where data roaming charges are extortionate, it allows offline use of maps without incurring data charges, but still retaining the ability to zoom, position with GPS and align a map with the iPhone 3GS compass. This is an excellent example of why open data is empowering innovation.

The the event was spread over four floors of the hard to find Eurosites George V venue with small exhibition areas where representatives from Canonical, Novell, Jaspersoft and other companies were available to answer queries. Between the sessions, a lot of networking took place, so much so that some people were unable to get to all the sessions they wanted to attend. At least this social networking was more effective than the venues Wi-Fi network which appeared unable to handle so many visitors carrying Wi-Fi enabled devices.

On the second day the Open Innovation Awards took place. A number of open source start-ups pitched to a Dragon's Den style panel of ten experts. Bonitasoft, Kaltura, ScaleDB, SonarSource and Ulteo all received recognition as the most promising and most representative of open source innovation. BonitaSoft, for example, produces BPM (Business Process Management) software and unlike its established competition, generates revenue only through subscriptions and services rather than through the "open core" model. The choice reflected the debate around the OWF over which business models were more effective for open source vendors and their customers.

The FLOSS Roadmap
Zoom The FLOSS Roadmap to 2020
Source: Open World Forum
The second day of OWF concluded with the publication of the new edition of FLOSS Roadmap 2020, a look at trends in open source in the longer term. The Roadmap is a collaborative effort looking forward to 2020 and attempts to chart, not only open source's effect on software, but on social trends too. The first version of the Roadmap was published in 2008, and having reviewed their projections for 2009, the contributors feel they have, so far, been relevant. Rich clients, CMS applications and the appearance of newer form factors for consumer PCs were predicted to be the drivers to open source adoption in 2009, with location aware applications coming to the fore.

The contributors did think that their predictions over Cloud Computing would need to be revised, as adoption appeared to be more rapid than they had expected. They revised predictions over government policy over open source adoption, noting that only Brazil, the UK and the Netherlands had made any significant progress the issue. They added two new issues which they believe could slow down the adoption of FLOSS; proprietary hardware platforms which control what software is loaded and "proprietary data" which they believe could create lock-ins, even with free software.

The Roadmap also offered a new analogy for FLOSS, portraying it as forests, with rich biodiversity and diverse ecosystems, providing oxygen for industry. In keeping with the analogy, they also suggested Linux as a 'old-growth forest', JBoss and MySQL as cultivated forests, Apache, OW2 and Eclipse as tree nurseries and described Red Hat and Google as the 'IKEAs' of free and open source software. A summary of the update is available, as is the full version.

Mark Taylor, CEO of Sirius Corporation and a leading advocate for free software in business, talked with The H after presenting his keynote on the state of play in the UK public sector. He summed up the event saying “The Open World Forum brought into sharp focus how Free and Open Source software is now centre stage and in the spotlight. It brought home the message that from single companies to Governments and entire countries, Free Software is the key to beating the recession and regaining control of IT infrastructures worldwide”. That assertion is based upon the lower costs for enterprises when using open source based applications, which surveys show is is the key driver in current adoption.

The H also talked to Jean Noel de Galzain, programme chairman for OWF2009 and CEO of Wallix. He explained how the OWF was an event which was constantly refining itself. "This event has had several milestones in its development. Last year we had a different exposure, a different conference, but that way we could begin to create the Open World Forum. That was the first phase, the second phase is that this year we try and gather different points of views and experts, without frontiers, with an objective to have the best specialists we can. The Roadmap is the important thing, which reflects the opinions and ideas of this gathering, and we are open to proposals for new ideas."

The overall feeling was of an effective, productive and reasonably organised conference; The H talked to a number of visitors who had attended the first OWF, held in 2008, and they all said it was much improved this year. The OWF has the potential to become the leading conference where European open source vendors and customers to meet and possibly set out a vision for the year ahead. With such a gathering of open source business luminaries, the only thing missing was a communique from the forum to set out some goals for the year ahead; the Roadmap is close, but it has a wider and longer term remit, and the OWF could benefit from delivering a message back to the FLOSS communities about what the leadership agree on.

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