Former BEA Execs Launch New Open-Source Venture

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-09-28

Former BEA Execs Launch New Open-Source Venture

A new open-source company launched Tuesday with big–time backing and high-powered software bloodlines.

Seattle-based SourceLabs Inc. said it is focusing is on delivering "dependable open-source systems." It has secured $3.5 million in funding from Index Ventures, which has funded other successful open-source ventures, and Ignition Partners, which has funded several commercial software companies.

Ignitions participation signals both a growth in the acceptance of open-source software for enterprise use and the venture capitalists confidence in SourceLabs to deliver on its promise, said Byron Sebastian, CEO of SourceLabs.

The new company is led by several former BEA Systems Inc. executives. Sebastian was formerly vice president and general manager of the WebLogic Portal and Workshop divisions at BEA. SourceLabs chief architect, Will Pugh, was BEAs principal technologist working on the companys open-source strategy, and Cornelius Willis, SourceLabs vice president of sales and marketing, was previously vice president of developer marketing at BEA, where he led the companys efforts to open-source its Workshop framework under Project Beehive.

In addition, SourceLabs has hired Alex Bosworth as its first program manager. Alexs father, Adam—vice president of engineering at Google and also a former BEA bigwig—is an advisor to the company.

Click here to read more about Bosworths departure from BEA.

Sebastian and Adam Bosworth worked together at Crossgain, a startup co-founded by Bosworth and acquired by BEA. Bosworth, Pugh and Willis all left BEA earlier this year as part of an exodus of talent from the company.

Meanwhile, Danny Rimer, partner at Index Ventures, and Brad Silverberg, managing partner at Ignition Partners, have joined the SourceLabs board of directors. Silverberg, Willis and Adam Bosworth all previously worked at Microsoft.

Sebastian said he got the idea to start SourceLabs after talking to enterprise customers, open-source developers, ISVs and others about open-source software and the need for dependable systems.

"I wasnt thinking of forming a startup, but I talked to people and they shared their thoughts about open-source software and how they would use it more if they knew they could depend on it," Sebastian said. "I knew Brad through a mutual friend and I became an entrepreneur in residence at Ignition."

"Its interesting that this is the first open-source investment by Ignition," Willis said. Indeed, the venture capitalist has turned down many companies in the .Net world with proprietary strategies seeking its help.

Sebastian said the SourceLabs business model "is based on the insight and value in moving toward high-quality service and maintenance as opposed to software and software licenses. We focus on pre-integrated distribution of open-source systems and making subscriptions available to enterprise customers. We are interested in providing support and maintenance and even working with proprietary software as well."

Sebastian would not comment on what open-source technologies would comprise a typical pre-integrated SourceLabs system, nor would he comment on a specific time frame for availability.

However, he said, "Weve looked at languages like PHP, Perl and Python and technology like the MySQL database, and weve noticed they are driving millions of Web sites, but theyre not driving a whole lot of development in corporate America," because many enterprises do not totally trust the open-source model. Enterprise customers have had to either choose between "dependable but proprietary technology, or open technology with no company standing behind it," Sebastian said. "Were focused on delivering dependable open-source systems to customers."

Next page: Tested and certified systems.

Page Two

Willis added that SourceLabs will certify its systems. "We provide one throat to choke for open-source infrastructure software," he said.

Certification "means being up front with people about all the tests weve run against the software, providing access to the test suites, test results [and so on]," Sebastian said. "Were talking about being very clear about what the performance of the software is and that everything will do what we say it will."

Willis said the company will provide tested and certified systems as opposed to components. "What customers need is pre-integrated systems," he said. "So well be providing distribution points. Think about it as a Dell for software."

SourceLabs target market will be large enterprises. "This is a global opportunity and were targeting global 2000 enterprises, and also working closely with ISVs," Sebastian said. "We see them as being key partners as well as customers."

In addition, Sebastian said SourceLabs is "egoless when it comes to technology." What the company delivers will be "based on customer demand rather than a technical agenda or lock-in," he said.

"We promise not to lock you in, ever," said Willis. "We believe in opt-in, not lock-in," he added. Strange words, one might think, from a former Microsoft marketing executive. But, in an interview with eWEEK when he worked at BEA, Willis spoke about his plans to open-source some of the companys proprietary technology: "I started with BEA November 1, and I started working on this from the start," said Willis, in the interview in May. Open-sourcing a portion of BEAs Workshop "was my first goal when I got here, and its what I spent my first hour working on," he said.

In a statement, Rich Freyberg, former CIO and senior vice president at Charles Schwab, said, "SourceLabs is providing what enterprise customers have been waiting for: someone to stand behind integrated open-source systems. Customers really do want one throat to choke and SourceLabs is the first company to provide this."

However, another open-source firm is delivering on a similar model for tools. [/article2/0,1759,1617771,00.asp] OpenLogic Inc., of Highlands Ranch, Colo., in June introduced its debut product, BlueGlue 3.0. BlueGlue is a developer tools suite of more than 100 open-source tools from projects including Eclipse, MySQL, Apache and JBoss.

Rod Cope, chief technology officer and founder of the company, said he came up with the idea for the business model after working as a consultant on several engagements for Fortune 50 companies that wanted to take advantage of open-source technology but lacked the expertise.

Cope said OpenLogic relieves the headache of open-source development by putting together a suite of open-source tools and maintaining upgrades and delivery of the current technology on a subscription basis. "Thats one of our main value adds," Cope said. "We are sort of like Red Hat [Inc.] is for Linux. We do the same sort of thing they do, but for these top 100 tools."

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