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Open source @ BMC: Will Hurley speaks

In this fourth installment of the "Open Source @" Series, I talked with Will Hurley of BMC to find out what the company is doing with open source.

I've been talking the last few days with Oracle, Novell, and SAIC about how open source figures into their product plans and, in SAIC's case, how open source affects the company's services strategy. Each of these companies has obvious things to gain (and perhaps to lose) from open source.

Today I wanted to talk with a company that has not traditionally been known for its open source work. BMC Software. I have been talking with the open source group at BMC for over a year, but I rarely heard much open source noise emerging from the company. That is, until BMC hired Will Hurley from Qlusters, and then suddenly I heard a lot more.

I caught up with Will late last week to find out what open source secrets BMC has been hiding from the world. As it turns out, open source is alive and well at BMC, and growing. Funny that: I've yet to talk with a company for whom open source doesn't figure prominently in its strategic direction. Maybe there's a trend here...?

Will writes...

When I received an email from Matt Asay asking me if I would participate in this week?s "Open Source @" blog series, I jumped at the chance. For any folks unfamiliar with BMC or our relationship with open source, this will serve as a quick introduction.

BMC Software, Inc. (NYSE: BMC) was founded in 1980. We're the 8th largest independent software company in the world with approximately 15,000 customers in 116 countries worldwide. More than 80% of Fortune 500 companies rely on our software to manage IT from a business perspective. Our solutions span enterprise systems, applications, databases and service management. In fiscal 2007 we posted revenues of approximately $1.6 billion. None of that is information you can't find on the website. As Matt has said before, BMC has historically been a very proprietary software company.

So what is BMC's position on open source? That's what I wanted to know when I started talking with the company's leadership about my current position. When you accept a job, a percentage of your preconceived notions about how your new company operates always change within the first few months. 90 days into being Chief Architect of Open Source Software at BMC, even I am surprised at just how much the company already participates in open source software. More importantly, BMC understands that open source is a critical part of the landscape and we want to increase our participation and support.

We actively support open source projects with our solutions. Our software supports and manages leading open source technologies: Apache, JBOSS, and Linux, among many others. We're an open source customer: we use a large number of open source technologies within our solutions. I'm not just talking about the usual suspects, I'm talking about things like the CMSFS. And we're a contributor. A simple Google search (ex. "apache @bmc.com") will return numerous mail archives that document some of the involvement and contributions made by our developers. Try replacing "apache" with the name of your favorite project to see if we're involved.

We constantly evaluate when and if to release part or all of our solutions to the community. You may recall Tom Bishop's (CTO) post on the Open Management Consortium's blog. He said we undertake these opportunities "believing the open source community to be just one of a number of viable mechanisms for creating, extending, and strengthening the systems management solutions available to the market."

For me, our most admirable characteristic is a long history of being open with our customers, partners, and community at large. Open source and openness go hand in hand. You can't simply open source code and then end your participation. I'm impressed with how we continue work to unite our 15,000 customers in various BMC supported communities around the world. Through TalkBMC, through leadership counsels, user groups, partner and developer programs, etc. One of the things that attracted me to BMC was the communities section on their website. We have a clear understanding of how to involve our customers.

So, my erroneous pre-conceptions addressed, we still ain't perfect. There are some prime areas for improvement. First, we need to increase our representation within the community. Second, we need to participate in open source events that support the whole community, whether they affect us directly or not. And most obviously, we need to create our own space to host open source projects. Good news, all of these appetizers are already on the grill.

I'm working to ensure that the mere advent of a Chief Architect of Open Source Software is the beginning of a boost to our representation in the community.

On July 6th several BMC Software engineers will participate in iPhoneDevCamp. We'll be working with the community to develop code specific to building interfaces for the iPhone. We're even going to attempt to create prototype interfaces for popular BMC products.

Fred Johannessen and I are collaborating on the BMC DevNet project, which will bring together our customers, partners, and competition to provide open source solutions that help improve the time to value for several systems management products. This project is in the final stages of development, and before the end of the summer it will feature five open source projects - released under a permissive license - that will allow the community to integrate BMC products with competing technologies in an effort to improve the overall systems management ecosystem.

We realize our customers will always have other products, services, and technologies integrated into their infrastructure. We want to lead the effort to bring order to our customers' chaotic environments and our industry.

BMC has supported me beyond my expectations. I'm encouraged to continue contributing to the various open source projects I'm associated with, and given an incredibly flexible schedule to do so. I'm telling you, the future of BMC in open source is gleaming. Hopefully Matt will give me the floor again soon for an update.

So there you have it. One of the companies that I thought least likely to be involved in open source is actually knee deep in it. Again, BMC is indicative of an industry-wide trend toward open source. Today, traditionally proprietary companies are finding ways to get involved without getting too wet. But I suspect this is a momentary phenomenon on the way to greater openness. It's happening at BMC - it's happening everywhere.