RealTime IT News

Quips, Quotes: CeBIT Notes

A collection of outtakes from this week's CeBIT trade show in New York. . .

An Explosive Sales Pitch

The Hungarians descended upon the CeBIT America trade show in New York this week to tout their country as the next hotspot for IT outsourcing.

In making the case, Andrew Gonczi, director of business development for the Hungarian Technology Center, rattled off a list of inventions or innovations that were either discovered in Hungary, or by Hungarians working in the United States.

They included: modern computing, the ballpoint pen, Vitamin C, and one other -- the Hydrogen bomb.

The inclusion of a weapon of mass destruction raised a few eyebrows among the 50 or so attendees who came to the breakout session on outsourcing.

Their reaction didn't go unnoticed by Gonczi, who quipped, "Well, the Hydrogen bomb is not as useful as Vitamin C, but . . ."

-- Colin C. Haley

GM: Driving Windows, Tinkering With Open Source

As GM goes, so goes the country with....Windows?

Ever wonder which Windows platforms are in use in major companies? The world's largest auto maker is only now moving to upgrade its hundreds of thousands of desktops to Windows XP, according to Tony Scott, chief technology officer for GM's Information Systems and Services division. During a chat at CeBIT, Scott said the company is getting close to its Windows upgrade to XP from its current Win2000 operating system environment.

"It took two years just to get everyone on to the Windows 2000 standardized platform," he said, largely because GM's desktop environment is not standardized; for example, it uses a Lotus notes environment, which took some integrating.

That probably helps explain why open source is not much of an option across the company, which spends about $3 billion a year on IT.

Scott said because GM's IT infrastructure is 100 percent outsourced, it doesn't have in-house developers who could write code or contribute to open source projects. Then there's the SCO effect. As for whether GM would make use of open source, Scott said GM would need assurance from vendors that the company would be indemnified against litigation. Scott was referring to SCO Group's copyright infringement claim against IBM regarding select parts of the Linux kernel has impacted a major company's approach to Linux.

But that's not to say open source projects are not to be found in use at GM. Scott said Apache is a big favorite, especially its Struts framework for building Java Web applications. So it's a mix.

-- Erin Joyce

Future's So Bright...

Speaking of open source, one attendee at a "Future of Open Source" panel discussion at CeBIT said he cannot put together a sophisticated application these days without using some form of open source. It's everywhere.

Of course, the discussion at this panel was largely about how open source has changed the landscape of the software industry.

So what's an application vendor to do about open source projects that keep rising up the stack? If you're an application server vendor, you should be nervous, according to Mark Harris, vice president of corporate development with Linux consulting shop Cyclades.

"Any application vendor that is spending any significant amount of time maintaining a basic function that is now open source is wasting money and time. If they're trying to compete with Jboss, for example, they are wasting their time and need to start moving up the stack."

Marc Fleury, CEO of JBoss, wore a knowing smile. IBM's Samuel Dockneviuch, of the global services division's Linux National Practice, took a softer approach by asking the software vendor to ask himself: Are you adding value. "Do your customers enjoy sending you a check each month? Or are they forced to?" If customers see value in what you offer, software vendors have nothing to fear from commoditization.

Plus, maintenance fees will always be their own form of vendor lock-in, panelists said, because there's really no one throat to choke in the open source community. "That's one of the reasons people pay maintenance fees," said Harris. "If you dig into it, people really are paying for job security. More than anything, maintenance fees mean they have the means to make their network's problem somebody else's problem. It's a standard practice."

-- Erin Joyce