Computer Business Review

Open source urged to remain European

by CBR Staff Writer| 04 July 2006

The organizer behind the Open Source Business Conference has called on European enterprise open source companies to retain their roots and avoid the urge to relocate to the US.

One of the things Europe needs to do is reassert its ownership of open source, Matt Asay told attendees at OSBC Europe. As well as being OSBC director, Asay is the former director of open source strategy at Novell Inc, and is the current VP of business development at Alfresco Software Inc.

I think Europe needs to reassert itself as the business center for Europe, he said, noting that enterprise open source software vendors are in a position to do so, but only if they stop moving to North America. They need to stop moving to Silicon Valley, he said. There are no customers in Silicon Valley, only vendors.

Where a company establishes its headquarters is becoming increasingly arbitrary because of the virtually connected nature of the open source development process. For example, JBoss founder, Marc Fleury, has admitted that the company ended up being based in Atlanta, Georgia because that's where his wife's family are based.

Apart from the fact that his wife was supporting Fleury while he tried to get the open source middleware company off the ground, there was no real reason why JBoss could not have been headquartered in Fleury's native France.

Many of the leading enterprise open source projects have begun in Europe, with France boasting the ObjectWeb Consortium and Mandriva, and Germany, the early success for SUSE Linux, the UK XenSource, and Alfresco. Scandanavia boasts the likes of Trolltech, MySQL, and of course Linux, among many others.

Apart from Novell's acquisition of SUSE, there has been a move toward the US from open source firms, however, with open source collaboration server software vendor Open-Xchange Inc moving from Germany to New York, while Linux server vendor Collax Inc recently moved from Germany to Bedford, Massachusetts.

As these moves indicate, despite the early influence of Berkeley, the open source capital of North America is not Silicon Valley, with the likes of Red Hat, the Open Source Development Labs, Pentaho, EnterpriseDB, and Xandros all based on the east coast. Open source is not a Silicon Valley phenomenon, said Asay.

Only in recent years has enterprise open source begun to flourish in Silicon Valley, with the likes of SugarCRM, JasperSoft, GreenPlum, Hyperic, GroundWork, Linspire, Zimbra, Funambol, SpikeSource, Ingres, and Zend all based in California, and Compiere planning to relocate from Oregon.

Expanding on his views on his blog, Asay maintained that the new focus on Silicon Valley is not necessarily a good thing. Silicon Valley has funded the next round of open source, and we're not necessarily the better for it, he wrote. There is an ethos in the projects and start-ups that emerged from the social democracies of Europe that one doesn't necessarily find in the capitalism-spawned companies.

He added: The US will continue to churn out exceptional open source projects and companies. Fine. But that's no reason for Europe to relocate to Silicon Valley and abandon its former leadership. It's time for VCs to stop insisting that their portfolio companies relocate to the Valley.

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