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OpenSource Thought Leader and CollabNet Founder Brian Behlendorf (Part 6)

Posted on Friday, Apr 11th 2008

SM: Let’s talk some more about commercial accounts. In a way Subversion is like your Trojan Horse to get into a company!

BB: That’s funny! I prefer to refer to it as the thin edge of the wedge! At least that is not as bad as the term viral. I hate it when I hear OpenSource referred to as viral. The truth is that yes, it does become a great entry point for us.

SM: In commercial accounts, in particular the larger corporate accounts, what do you see as competition?

BB: The biggest thing is the “do it yourself” mentality. In so many cases developers or system administrators pull together disparate tools and do the same thing we did at Apache. They piece all kinds of tools together with bailing wire and tape.

Our approach is beneficial for those cases. We believe there is a lot of value in integrating discussion tools directly the development programs. Having that tight link is really a knowledge management capability. When people are sending notifications over to a SharePoint or portal the value gets lost.
Oftentimes we come in and our products become a standardizing tool.

Groups use disparate tools for different purposes. Throughout enterprises these tools are selected on a team by team basis which leads to different groups selecting different tools which makes collaboration much harder. That is difficult for enterprises because in each case they have to get up to speed on how someone else’s tools work, open holes in the firewall, and things like that. In our scenario we are standardizing the tools and interaction methods of these teams and becoming the greatest common denominator of all the tools being used. Traditionally it is a rational clear case where those tools do not work in a decentralized manner, they have a multisite offering.

SM: People have to remember a lot of tools come from a different era architecturally.

BB: Exactly. They come from an era when people were sitting in the same room and many times intended to have development processes where the level of complexity was almost a virtue than being considered a drawback. They were designed for an era where you had the core developers and everybody else was a naïve user. One thing that’s nice about Subversion in particular, as well as the rest of our tools, is that you can be a business user and get visibility into what the top ten projects a developer is working on.

You can mount a Subversion repository as a folder under Windows and start using it to store your PowerPoint presentations, your spreadsheet listing the features the field is asking for, or even give people in the field direct access to your bug database.

We are really going for a smooth continuum of ‘producers of the software’ and ‘consumers of the software’. It is to the point that we have customers who are opening their collaboration environment to their key end users because both sides want to play a role in developing the environment.

This segment is part 6 in the series : OpenSource Thought Leader and CollabNet Founder Brian Behlendorf
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