[Beowulf] Application Deployment

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Sun Oct 10 11:22:32 PDT 2004

Jim Lux wrote:

>Precisely so...
>MS, and the legions of developers who develop for the Windows environment,
>generally want some mechanism to be paid for their work.  
(please note:  not intended to be flame bait or trolling)


hrm...  so do those of us who try to survive and grow in companies that 
specialize in the Linux environment.  As the owner of 1.5 such 
companies, I really would like to see them thrive and grow, and this 
requires getting paid for our work.   I have had some customers wish to 
freely share our work with others, which I take as an indication of the 
value of the stuff; it wouldn't be shared if it did not have 
value/merit, but as I said before, I have to pay the developers.  Can't 
pay them with a check that reads "3000 goodwill dollars, not redeemable 
at your mortgage company, or at the food store, but you sure made some 
of our `customers' happy".

As I have said privately to others, the GPL is not a business model.  
Moreover, the ivory tower concept of giving away the source to sell the 
consulting seems to work for very few groups, if any (I can think of 
one, mySQL AB). As it is unlikely that there will be millions of linux 
clusters out there, the MySQL model of leveraging the needs of a huge 
installed user base will not work here. 

Most of us who are betting their families well being and livelihood on 
this, would like to be able to earn a living from this.  There is 
nothing wrong with asking for money for the value you provide.  Most of 
the consumers of the OSS stuff do so for varied reasons.  One of the 
larger components is the "Free as in beer"* approach to cost 
containment.  The control is nice, but as I see it, control is not what 
is driving the adoption of Linux based systems.  Its TCO.  If it costs 
you $2500 for that RHAT install, it doesn't cost you per client 
connecting to it.  This immediately puts it at a (tremendous) cost 
advantage over any MSFT based solution.  Add to this that this is a real 
market, with several competing vendors with mostly overlapping 
offerings.  Hence there is real competition.  Prices are held in check 
(to a degree).

(* I know, I know, not too much free beer out there ...)

MSFT has (at last check) the wrong licensing model for their software 
for clusters.  They would need to change it in order to make it sensible 
from a financial perspective, to deploy such clusters.  As this is a 
tiny market compared to their major market, I think that the needed 
changes will not happen.  I could be wrong (and I think the MSFT HPC 
folks read this stuff in stealth mode, so feel free to correct me 


>Per use revenue is
>a nice way of getting around the "bootleg copy" problem.  Who cares if you
>copy it, if every time it runs, you have to hit a license server and pay
>your little micropayment.  In fact, bootlegs are great... they cost the
>originator of the software nothing.  It's the whole compatibility,
>configuration managment thing that is a big problem (all those components
>have to be compatible with all the other components, etc.).

The per use view presumes you are using a consumable resource in some 
sense, and then attaching a value to it.  It reminds me of  the 
innumerable requests for registration going on now, coupled with the 
"would you like to view this article? only 1.95$USD right now..." I see 
linked from various news sites.

Of course, apart from electrical power, it is hard to understand what 
resource you are consuming when this occurs. I suspect that consumer 
backlash against this will likely halt this march.  I do see a 
subscription model becoming far more likely, whereby for a fixed 
(continuous) fee, you get access to content (much like a magazine, but 
software content in this case).  I think people generally would be more 
accepting of this model than a micropayment per click.

>MS, for all of their faults, doesn't have stupid people working for it.  If
>they could find a better way to "sell" software (or, more properly, the
>added value provided by the software/content/what-have-you) that doesn't
>rely on copyright (which everyone admits is poorly suited to such things),
>they'd love it.

Winston Churchill had something to say about this being the worst 
possible model, apart from the others.
Of course the context was different, but generally the idea is correct.

Software companies have a model that forces continuous "innovation" in 
order to maintain an upgrade cycle, and therefore get revenues flowing 
"continuously".  The problem for them is convincing you to upgrade.  Why 
upgrade if it works well enough?

So they need to even out their revenue, get it more predictable, and 
break the upgrade cycle.  Oddly, by breaking the upgrade cycle, you can 
spend more time fixing stuff, and less time inventing new broken stuff.  
Similar to what OSS gives you (to a degree).  The important part (for 
business types) is that your revenue is now much more predictable.

Now do something interesting (which I have not seen done yet by MSFT, 
though I expect in in short order).  Change the acquisition model to 
that of a subscription.  So instead of paying $500 for an install with a 
free set of patches, pay $50 to acquire the base + $100/year of 
subscription.  Roll the next "versions" out in phases, with 
inter-function dependencies rather than entire version dependencies.  
The software becomes the platform.

Talk about lock-in.  There will be no upgrade cycle to contend with.  
Changes can be made quite modular.  New features better tested and 
rolled in in an evolutionary manner.  Brand new functionality could be 
created into different subscription paths.  Copying and "pirating" would 
be encouraged (you need that subscription after all) as each machine 
would require its own subscription to function.

Rough guess, but I would bet on something much like this emerging.

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 612 4615

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