Polese opens up on open-source plans

Industry vet Kim Polese reveals details of start-up SpikeSource's bid to provide support for open-source software on corporate networks.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
3 min read
SpikeSource, a start-up headed by computing industry veteran Kim Polese, has revealed more details of its plan to tap into the growing popularity of open-source software at corporations.

When it launched earlier this year, SpikeSource said it was working toward offering maintenance and support services for packaged open-source components to businesses. In an interview with CNET News.com, Polese fleshed out the company's planned lineup, which includes automated delivery of software and services for a "hybrid" of infrastructure software, both open source and proprietary.

"Our focus is software as a service--it's delivering a stream of updates and remote management of open-source stacks," Polese said. "We're going from do-it-yourself software to fully integrated and supported."

Polese was CEO of Marimba, which also developed tools for automatically delivering software upgrades over corporate networks. The company was sold to systems management company BMC Software in April 2004.

Polese said SpikeSource intends to start its full services lineup, which went into beta last month, in the first half of 2005. A software update service is slated for the second quarter of the year.

The company is one of a handful looking to capitalize on corporations' increasing use of open-source applications. Enterprise customers' use of software such as the Apache Web server and the Linux operating system is common, and they are now looking to use more infrastructure software, such as databases, Java application servers and tools, to build business applications.

Although the quality of open-source software can be good, the products required to build a business application, such as a database and development tools, typically are not designed to work together. SpikeSource and another open-source services start-up, SourceLabs are working to assemble different components into certified and pretested "stacks."

Initially, engineers at SpikeSource will assemble packages that include Linux, Apache, the MySQL database and JBoss open-source Java application server. A beta program for the subscription support and maintenance service launched last month.

But SpikeSource will offer other combinations of infrastructure software components, including support for the PHP, Perl and Python development languages, Polese said. It also intends to create stacks that include commercial products, such as Microsoft Windows, Sun Microsystems' Solaris and Oracle's database applications.

As new versions and security updates of different products come out, SpikeSource will send out updates to customers. It will have an automated system that will track bug databases to find out about available patches.

"Today, companies have to have people doing nothing all day but scouring news groups and mail lists figuring out the latest fix to a security vulnerability," Polese said. "All of that is manual overhead. It's an ongoing process that's very time-consuming because of all the moving parts."

The engine to deliver the company's service is what Polese calls a "process automation" application, which the company is writing. Much in the way Dell mastered the practice of configuring and delivering PCs, SpikeSource aims to use its process expertise to streamline the delivery and upkeep of software, she said.

SourceLabs, which also intends to offer maintenance services around open-source infrastructure software, was initially viewed as a direct competitor to SpikeSource. But SourceLabs' planned services appear to differ substantially. Rather than writing software to facilitate regular updates, SourceLabs' engineers are developing tests to "harden" open-source products to get better performance and scalability, said Cornelius Willis, vice president of sales and marketing at SourceLabs. The company is focusing its work on the LAMP combination, which stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP tools.

"We're going to do the tests and publish the test results, so when someone downloads a stack, they know how it will scale," Willis said. "There are lots of different configuration options on these various pieces."

Willis said SourceLabs is targeting large corporations looking to use open-source software to underpin large-scale, demanding applications. The company is still months away from launching its subscription service, he said.