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Oak Grove Moves Toward Open Source Model

Looking to sell ISVs (independent software vendors) on a new licensing model for its business process execution software which blends some of the flexibility of open source with a commercial license, Oak Grove Systems Monday unveiled Reactor 5 Source Code PLUS.

The new offering bears some resemblance to Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing plan. Under the new plan, ISVs purchase a one-year agreement with the source code, giving them access to all upgrades during that period.

The agreement includes one year of maintenance and support, plus a bundle of embedded services. The agreement gives customers "the freedom of open source," with rights to royalty-free distribution and complete ownership of the completed software product code "to the core."

"What we've done is position ourselves a little more closely to an open source project," Chuck Ames, CEO of Oak Grove Systems, told internetnews.com.

He added, "Reactor 5 Source Code PLUS was specifically designed to address the needs of software vendors. Software vendors want commercial-level service and support, but their developers want access and control of their code. I think we've done a great job delivering the best of both the commercial and open source worlds with this new product offering."

Oak Grove developed its engine, Reactor 5 (which it will demo at the Java ONE conference this week), as an Internet-based process coordination technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the NASA Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. It was intended to aid the NASA engineers and program managers that design procedure documents for shuttle flights, gathering their input, tracking their progress and handing off tasks.

The J2EE-based technology provides active process management, allowing an organization to maintain a single user view across all activities and applications while enabling workflows from worker-to-worker, worker-to-application and application-to-application.

"We needed a way to quickly process-enable our enterprise data federation solution cost effectively," said Angus MacDonald, chief executive officer of Snapbridge. "Reactor 5 brought us a way to immediately embed workflow functionality to our product with the support of a commercial team while maintaining complete control over our code."

The Reactor 5 Source Code PLUS offering is built on the Reactor 5 Source Code Process Execution Framework, which includes the Reactor 5 Studio graphical modeling environment, the Reactor 5 Server process engine, and the Reactor 5 Portal Framework, a JSP/Servlet framework for development of Web-based user interfaces.

Ames said that for a limited time, the company is offering a bundle of embedding services with Source Code PLUS agreements, though he noted that eventually the company will turn those into optional services. The embedding services include 500 hours of engineering services for architectural design, integration and deployment support, and developer training.

"All eyes are on open source," said Nathaniel Palmer, vice president and chief analyst of the Delphi Group. "But open source offerings have not yet been universally embraced by enterprises. Oak Grove is taking an innovative approach by offering the flexibility of an open source business model with the stability and support of a licensed software company."

Ames said the new model will give Oak Grove a leg up on selling its process execution engine technology to ISVs which are debating "build versus buy."

"More and more vendors are recognizing the complexity of that technology and that the relevant standards continue to evolve," he said. Source Code PLUS tries to answer that need, while still recognizing that "you still want the control of the code and you want undiluted revenue."

The model also is an attempt by Oak Grove to create more ongoing relationships with its customers rather than single asset sales. "Now there's really more of a relationship to it," he said. He added, "Our dependence on services will increase but we're still a software company."

Explaining Oak Grove's decision to switch to a new model, Ames said, "Our current customers have been very interested in upgrades. Our initial intention was to charge on a per-upgrade basis. What we're finding, though, is that that mode is going to nickel-and-dime our customers to death. We want a long-term relationship."

Ames said about half Oak Grove's current customer base has expressed "very strong" interest in moving to the new model. He said the first customers will likely be transitioned by the end of June and a "fair number" will have converted by the end of the summer.

He also noted that the company will continue to sell its engine as a stand-alone runtime version of the product, but it will count on its new reseller channel to handle that business.