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Boycotting Tamoil August 28, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Cars, English, Regional.
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In case you haven’t followed Kadhafi’s latest story, it is uterly shocking. Having our Swiss president officially apologies over Kadhafi son’s arrest is hard to swallow. Let’s call it an example of “realpolitik”.

Consequently, I decided to boycott the Tamoil oil station network, owned by the Kadhafi family. My action will obviously have no material impact but it is a matter of principle, pour la forme.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard “shipping” today… August 28, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, English, IT.
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Apple has had an impressive ride in the last 8 years and is now the obvious leader in distributing all possible digital entertainment bits: from songs to movies, from iPhone applications to online courses, Apple is leading the pace.

Except… except if you want to buy their latest OS cut: Snow Leopard. I find it amazing that in 2009 Apple is not selling an electronic version of Mac OS X (on their iTunes Store for example). In that area, MSFT is clearly one step ahead of Apple since you can not only buy downloadable version of their OSes, but also of their office suite.

The absence of an electronic version of Mac OS X just doesn’t compute. Any idea why they don’t have one?

[FR] J’ai essayé pour vous: les Cast Codeurs Podcast August 18, 2009

Posted by Sacha in Français, JBoss.
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Les Cast Codeurs PodcastIl y a quelques mois, une bande d’irréductibles gaulois, Emmanuel Bernard, Antonio Goncalves, Guillaume Laforge et Vincent Massol créaient un nouveau podcast: Les Cast Codeurs. Description du concept:

Le concept du podcast Les Cast Codeurs est de discuter les nouvelles fraîches du monde Java en Français s’il vous plaît.

En général, le podcast contient les rubriques suivantes:

  • discussion sur les nouvelles du monde Java avec vos hôtes habituels
  • La sélection des outils de la semaine: un outil que l’on utilise au quotidien pour coder ou travailler
  • Java, les mains dans le cambouis: une discussion détaillée sur un sujet peu connu des développeur
  • l’interview: une interview d’un acteur Francophone (si possible) du monde Java

J’avais lu la nouvelle lors du lancement du podcast, mais n’étant pas un grand consommateur de ces contenus (je ne synchronize mon iPod que rarement – ce qui réduit considérablement leur intérêt), j’avais superbement ignoré la chose. La situation a changé récemment: désormais fashion victim et propriétaire d’un iPhone 3GS, je synchronise plus régulièrement mon téléphone et donc, peut bénéficier des Podcasts. Lors d’un long voyage en solitaire (retour de vacances), je me suis donc branché sur le podcast des Cast Codeurs et là, grande découverte, ce podcast est tout simplement superbe. Le ton est détendu mais les contenu sérieux, les avis balancés et les sujets variés. Bref, du tout bon.

Note plus personnelle, j’ai toujours perçu en Emmanuel Bernard un “A-player“, un jeune bourré de talent, plein de potentiel, avec une compréhension non seulement technique mais également une bonne intention du marché et, clairement, une envie d’apprendre. De surcoît, attitude que j’apprécie particulièrement, une faculté à se remettre en question et donc à être prêt à changer d’opinion si nécessaire (bref, il écoute, il ne fait pas que parler). Il ne lui manque que LA bonne opportunité et le résultat sera excellent. Bref, j’arrête la brosse à reluire pour vous dire qu’en tant que “présentateur” (on dit ça comme ça?) du podcast, il est fidèle à lui même: très bon. En effet, l’un des risques d’une telle position et de prendre trop de place, ne pas laisser suffisamment la parole à l’équipe et donc ne pas diriger les débats de manière ouverte. Que nenni ici.

Évidemment, comme toute nouvelle expérience, des améliorations verront probablement le jour. La durée des épisodes est très irrégulière, la quantité d’anglicismes est tout simplement effrayante (conseil: faites-le anglais si vous n’arrivez pas à passer sous la barrière des 50% d’anglicismes dans vos phrases initialement en noble langue Françoise) et la qualité sonore de certains intervenants pourrait être meilleure (quitte à enregistrer les voix en local et les resynchroniser lors du montage). Mais bon, ce côté “fais sur le coin de la table de la cuisine” a du charme :)

Bref, bravo à l’équipe et surtout, continuez!

“Onward”,

Sacha

Google Maps under attack?!? August 18, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, IT.
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Despites their huge R&D staff, and outside of their search/ads engine, I always thought that very little (usable) innovation came out of Google’s R&D centers: most of the tools you’re using on a daily basis are the refinement of external acquisitions (ok, ok, they’ve build an AJAX mail and calendar interface as well… which I hope didn’t require thousands of engineers). Anyway, Google Maps is one of those external acquisitions that I like very much.

One of the problems I have with Google Maps though is how (un-)recent street information and satellite pictures are. For example, while relatively recent, the block of three building where I live isn’t mentioned on the map, and show as a bucolic field on the satellite view. But I can insure you the place where I live does indeed exist and that Switzerland isn’t lacking any satellite activity. So I am always looking for a better alternative. MSFT’s Bing Maps has even worse maps, same for the franco-french Géoportail which is probably fine for France but not for anywhere else (including Switzerland). At a time when we want everything to be “on-demand” with the best possible accuracy, isn’t it strange that we keep using out-dated information (sometimes as long as 4 years old) for geo-located activities?!? It seems that because Google Maps UI and API are good, we don’t care relying on outdated information.

Consequently, when I saw the flurry of news related to Indian-government service providing a serious competitor to Google Maps, ni une, ni deux, I jumped on my mouse to be one of the first to use Bhuvan, the revolution in action!

One of Bhuvan advertised features is that it is well suited for people with a low-bandwidth Internet access – which still represents a large proportion of Internet users. Well, actually, I quickly realized you were supposed to read this differently and that a better phrasing was: “no need to have a fast Internet connection, Bhuvan’s web site is so slow that you won’t need it”. Anyway, after a few nervous clicks, I still couldn’t see any high quality map. AJAX-on-demand-junkie that I am, I didn’t realize that in order to use Bhuvan, I had to:

  • download a Windows-only/IE-only plugin (I got lucky and was able to download it at 8kb/s)
  • register on the web site and share my name, phone number, e-mail, location, etc.

OK, so it is fine to have a low-bandwidth Internet connection, but you’d better have a recent Windows installed and no fear of sharing your personal information with the Indian government. Anyway, those are just details compared to the grand revolution I was about to take part in. So I switched to my Windows laptop, installed the plugin and gave away my personal information.

Once done, I zoomed onto Switzerland and … And, nothing. What was only mentioned in some articles, and certainly not in their title, is that Bhuvan aims at becoming a Google Maps competitor but … “only” for India (which, I agree, do represent a big chunk of the planet). OK, my bad, I should always read the fine prints. Since I am a “citoyen du monde“, I decided to put myself in the shoes of an Indian citizen and zoom in some random places in India. Result? Not good. At all. At first, I thought more detailed maps were being slowly streamed to my machine, but no, all available information was already there, in my “browser” (i.e. more precisely a .Net widget running inside IE, developped by … a US company).

So, is Bhuvan a serious competitor to Google Maps? If you are a Windows and IE user, do not mind installing third-party binaries and sharing personal information with the Indian Government, care only about Indian maps and do not care about detailed maps: yes, it is a serious contender. Otherwise, it is not.

I know, I look like I am not being fair picking up exclusively on Bhuvan’s defficiencies. Truth is that I love the idea that a government-funded entity shows value by making the result of some of its investments accessible to its citizens. This happens too rarely. But what I didn’t like was the big media buzz they initiated, painting themselves at the “Google Maps killer”. My advice: stay humble and if you are to make such strong statements, you’d better be ready. If not, what was initially a great initiative will just make you look bad. In the good spirit of Open Source, maybe they should have done a simple press release, grown their community, fixed their bugs and technical defficiencies and, in a few years time, let the “community” state that their prefer Bhuvan to Google Maps, that would be a real win. Next time maybe…

Onward,

Sacha

J’ai lu pour vous: “Chroniques de la main courante” August 16, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Français.
5 comments

Comme indiqué précédemment, j’ai donc lu pour vous “Chroniques de la main courante“ de Serge Reynaud.

Cet ouvrage est composé d’une multitude (plusieurs dizaines) d’histoires, présentées comme autant de chapitres, les plus courtes tiennent sur une page, les plus longues sur cinq ou six. Et, étonnamment, c’est là l’un des attraits de ce livre: ce livre se promène partout, et se consomme par petites bouchées. Livre idéal du parent en vacances (qui n’est donc pas réellement en vacances) et qui peut donc se lire une petite histoire sans crainte de devoir re-contextualiser les 18 pages précédentes (“Mais qui était John déjà?… Le mari ou l’amant de Marie… ah oui, son père.”).

Si vous avez visité et apprécié le site web de Serge Reynaud, vous ne serez aucunement dépaysé: les histoires du livre sont exactement du même acabit. D’ailleurs, un certain nombre des histoires présentent dans le livre sont en réalité une sélection des meilleurs histoires disponibles sur le site web (une méthode efficace pour rentabiliser quelque peu son travail).

Évidemment, si vous lisez exclusivement de la “Grande Littérature”, ce livre n’est pas pour vous, car là n’est tout simplement pas sa vocation. Néanmoins, j’ai été surpris par la qualité d’écriture d’un certain nombre d’histoires: on est loin du rapport de police et plus proche du roman. Dès lors, ce qui m’a  étonné a été la grande différence de qualité d’écriture entre certaines histoires. Ainsi, d’une histoire à l’autre, on peut passer d’un français simple, presque tutoyé, à un très bel écrit avec une description des “personnages” et des sentiments fort bien étayée. Dès lors, je ne sais pas si Serge Reynaud a écrit toutes les histoires ou si il a joué le rôle d’agrégateur des histoires de plusieurs auteurs (lui inclu, bien évidemment). Si c’est le cas, une précision serait utile car elle permettrait de mieux comprendre les différences stylistiques et de de niveau rencontrées.

Conclusion: si vous êtes encore en vacances, n’hésitez pas et commandez ce livre rafraîchissant et sans arrogance aucune.

(Dirty little secret: si vous aimez lire aux toilettes, hésitez encore moins: la taille des chapitres font de ce livre un candidat idéal pour vos WC.)

Onward,

Sacha

JBoss World in Chicago: I will be there! August 16, 2009

Posted by Sacha in IT, JBoss.
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Everything is is in the title I guess. It is only 2 weeks away, so don’t miss it!

It is the end of the Summer holidays, take this as an opportunity to learn about JBoss’s new products and product roadmaps, listen to customers and their migration stories and meet with the developers behind the JBoss products. This is a truly unique opportunity.

Furthermore, this will be the first time that Red Hat Summit and JBoss World will be collocated: consequently, with one pass you be able to attend two events!

See you there! Onward,

Sacha

VMWare acquisition of SpringSource: thoughts. August 13, 2009

Posted by Sacha in IT, JBoss.
16 comments

How does WMWare’s acquisition of SpringSource impact the current IT landscape? Here are my thoughts…

SpringSource

The easiest question to answer is certainly: “does this deal make sense for SpringSource?” It certainly does, yes. If you look at SpringSource rumored numbers, they were in the low 20m, heavily biased towards non-recurring revenues (i.e. training and consulting). For that part of the business, a typical multiplier is in the 1x-2x range (and certainly not the ~20x we see here). Consequently, it is clear that SpringSource haven’t been acquired for their revenue*, especially when you compare them with VMWare revenues at a $1.8b run-rate.

Consequently, getting such a price tag could be explained only by two scenarios:

  1. A bidding war between multiple vendors, or
  2. VMware was in a hurry to close that transaction and the price “didn’t matter much”

I really don’t believe in the first option: I don’t see many other vendors willing to play with such big numbers these days, nor with the absolute need to acquire SpringSource.

However, I truly believe in the second option. Paul Maritz has been VMware’s CEO for exactly one year now. I imagine he has spent the first 9 months of his tenure at VMWare understanding the market, speaking with partners, competitors, customers and figure out a new strategy for VMWare. Being an ex-MSFT exec, it is very easy to guess that Paul Maritz felt like standing on quicksand with no OS and no middleware under his feet: it was in his DNA, he needed his Windows&.Net back in his new home.

I bet Paul’s team analyzed the possible alternatives and once he made up his mind for SpringSource he went after it with one top priority: timing (not money). On the other side of the table, I bet Rod Johnson wasn’t willing to sell for less than Marc Fleury did, probably some ego-related subtlety. I do not take it as a coincidence that VMWare bought SpringSource for the exact same amount JBoss was acquired by Red Hat (albeit Rob Bearden probably learned the JBoss lesson and got a cash-only deal – which is very sound given VMWare’s volatile stock).

Bottom line: this deal hugely makes sense for the SpringSource team since no IPO or revenue-based acquisition could have led to such a valuation (and the probability their TC Server could have generated any meaningful revenue in the next 3 years was very low).

*) this is not unique, we have other FOSS acquisitions get stratospheric multipliers with even lower revenues: Zimbra @ 350m and XenSource @ 500m for example.

VMWare

This acquisition makes sense for SpringSource, but is the same true for VMWare?

“My theory”™ is that the market has been moving for several years towards a verticalization of a few key vendors. Translation: the market will be dominated by a few big vendors each owning a full stack, from server hardware to enterprise applications, welcome back in the 80’s.

Consequently, if you want to exist in that game, you need to own an operating system and a middleware layer. Problem: there are only very few solutions/vendors left if you want to get an OS and middleware layer, hence the M&A pressure on the market (BEAS and JAVA acquisitions are an example of this). And building your own OS or middleware layer is not really an option: this is not just about the merits of a technical implementation, this is about having an ecosystem and a big mindshare – this takes ages to build.

IMO, that is exactly what led to this acquisition. VMWare had to own a middleware solution and other options were too costly. SpringSource’s acquisition gives VMWare several quick-wins: a foot in the middleware game, a developer community, a recognized brand in middleware and, last but not least, a seat on the JCP.

Nevertheless, I see VMWare face several challenges:

  • First, VMWare didn’t buy a middleware runtime, but just a wrapper. This doesn’t mean they cannot build one with enough time, talent and money, but that just isn’t there today. Yes, there is TC Server, but that is certainly not what the market is expecting in terms of a full fledge and robust middleware implementation – this is merely a cleaned-up Tomcat à la sauce OSGi with no pedigree and that hasn’t been tested in meaningful deployments. Again, this is not impossible, but will take time. Software is like good wine, it takes time to mature.
  • VMWare has very low credentials in Open Source and actually has had some tense moments with the Linux teams. Furthermore, in the past I’ve met with people previously acquired by VMWare and the result was… let’s say… below average. I don’t blame them, acquisitions are a difficult art and fast growing companies are usually not the best organized to welcome newly acquired teams. Consequently, this might end up not being an easy ride for the SpringSource team, especially if VMware is not cautious with their FOSS DNA.
  • VMWare has no OS (hence, no OS ecosystem) and no proper Java Virtual Machine nor any credentials in that area. This is a big hole in their stack and they will have to fill that gap fast. A solution to quickly obtain an OS ecosystem would be to acquire NOVL, especially with their currently low Enterprise Value (711m USD) -

Consequently, in order for VMWare to benefit from this acquisition, they’ll have to:

  • Start (or continue) the development of a proper middleware runtime, hence invest solid money in SpringSource ranks,
  • Respect SpringSource’s FOSS DNA,
  • Build a proper OS+JVM foundation

That will require a very solid execution.

Back to my Verticalization theory now: I don’t think that VMWare will be one of the few companies owning such a stack, my bet is that they’ll end up being acquired once their OS story will be more solid.

What it means for Java and EE

This is basically good news for Java since another key IT vendor has joined the Java camp. But that is also very naïve: SpringSource always had a love-hate relationship with Java and the JCP. On one hand they have joined the JCP, have a seat on its Executive Committee and participate in several JSRs. But on the other hand, their business plan is based on Java+ EE+JCP bashing: their motto is that you have to use SpringSource products because what the JCP propose is so fundamentally flawed. While it is relatively easy for a small company to play that script, it is much more difficult for a big one. That’s where things will get interesting: will VMWare be a good Java citizen, standardize its technology and embrace common efforts or will they move away from EE and build their own Enterprise APIs?

What is at play here is not just Java and EE, but a much more strategic decision for them: what will their Enterprise API look like? What will VMWare’s Force.com or AppEngine be? My bet is that VMWare will want to create a one-way street towards their “virtualized-OS”, the real money maker (more on this below). For that to succeed, they’ll need:

  • To implement the full EE spec (so that existing EE deployments can be moved easily onto their OS)
  • To keep implementing proprietary API à la Spring to increase lock-in as developers start using them (and for this, they do not necessarily need to keep Spring Open Source, au contraire!)

Back to my verticalization theory: all big proprietary vendors will have an incentive to use the exact same strategy i.e. provide portability to migrate users off their current platforms and then proprietary APIs and services to lock them in. And, in 3-5 years, once the market share of the various vendors will have settle, we will face a strong increase in non-standardized/proprietary API in order to increase customer lock-in, hence reduce sales cost and increase ASP.

Hint: if you want to avoid that scenario it is your responsibility to only buy standardized technology and participate in standard bodies – don’t just leave standard bodies to software vendors!

What does it mean for Open Source?

VMWare know they are only going to make money if they can sell their entire platform (virtualization + OS + management + middleware ++). They didn’t buy SpringSource just to sell Spring or TC Server standalone: with almost a 2b USD revenue run-rate, selling 5k Spring subscription chips and training is not going to work. Consequently, Spring/TC (and any other runtime they could build) will be used solely to bring more customers to their overall solution.

My bet is that they will do the following:

  • Keep most of Spring Open Source and keep developing it to maintain the developer mindshare
  • Develop a proprietary runtime (where the cut between the FOSS library and the proprietary core will be part of long discussions IMO) fitting only on top of their core platform

The idea is to maintain the mindshare while making sure Spring runs “particularly well” (or, for some parts, only) on top of the VMWare platform. Consequently, I don’t think we are going to see big changes in the licensing scheme or in what is open source; the changes will be more subtle and will be at the interconnect between the API and their proprietary core.

What does it mean for the middleware market?

In the short and middle term, the market won’t change much. Spring (as a framework) was widely used on top of JBoss+WebLogic+Websphere before this acquisition and will this is not going to change anytime soon. SpringSource (as a company) didn’t have any business impact on the other middleware vendors (ORCL+IBM+RHT) and the VMWare acquisition is not going to change that overnight: VMWare sell mostly to the IT operations, not to the developers/architects, so this will be hard shift for them (ask your average VMWare salesguy to spell “middleware” properly, you’ll see what I mean).

In the longer run, the situation will depend on well VMWare executes. Not just with SpringSource, but their overall OS+JVM+runtime story. So let’s wait and see.

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