SAN MATEO, Calif. – As evidenced by its recent embrace of newfangled Web 2.0 technologies like mashups and now Creative Commons licensing, Serena Software, the formerly stodgy tool maker, is certainly not what it used to be.
In an interview with eWEEK at Serena’s San Mateo offices-just as movers were preparing to shuttle the company to its new headquarters in Redwood City-Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, partner programs, and online services at Serena, said the company continues to turn traditional software development on its head by releasing its business mashups software under Creative Commons licensing. Serena is expected to announce the move as early as March 10 or March 11.
Bonvanie said Serena is the first software company to license software applications under Creative Commons licenses, using one of a range of copyright licenses designed to protect creative work and encourage certain uses of that work.
The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others legally to build upon and share. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses.
The Creative Commons licenses enable copyright holders to grant some or all of their rights to the public while retaining others through a variety of licensing and contract schemes including dedication to the public domain or open content licensing terms. The intention is to avoid the problems current copyright laws create for the sharing of information.
Essentially, Serena is licensing its free, pre-built business mashups through Creative Commons, and encouraging other software companies to do the same. Serena aims to build an online ecosystem that fosters the creation and sharing of new approaches to solving common business problems, Bonvanie said.
“I think we would be the first software company to adopt this,” Bonvanie said. “Look at a company like Adobe, which is in that world. They are not doing it. They want to protect their IP [intellectual property].”
Bonvanie said business mashups are graphical representations of simple business processes, such as vacation requests, sales discount approvals and IT change requests. With Serena Mashup Composer, a free point-and-click visual design tool, users can quickly connect applications and automate business processes without writing any code. The resulting mashup, which looks like a Microsoft Office Visio diagram, graphically depicts new ways to solve simple yet time-consuming business processes.
To date, Creative Commons licensing have been used primarily with traditional forms of content such as art, literature, music and movies. However, Serena is saying that business mashups are not based on source code, but are instead unique graphical expressions of a process. As such, mashups are perfectly suited to Creative Commons licensing, especially in situations where users combine mashups to create entirely new derivative works.
“A mashup is like taking a piece of music from one singer and mixing it with the music of another singer,” Bonvanie said. “We have borrowed from the artistic industry. A mashup becomes this object of art that can be creatively used in any way people see fit. We will create these mashups under Creative Commons licensing and we hope others will follow suit.”
Moreover, he said observers should not “think of this as the equivalent of open source. We don’t care who owns the technology. What’s important is that you can innovate on top of it.” Bonvanie said Serena has been working with Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig, who is a proponent and founder of Creative Commons, on their approach to delivering business mashups under Creative Commons licensing.
The Benefits of Sharing
Meanwhile, as Serena is applying this model to business process diagrams or graphical representations, the company expects the trend will explode as the public realizes the benefits and opportunities associated with the re-use and modification of pre-built business mashups, Bonvanie said.
“By adopting Creative Commons licenses, Serena shows a welcome commitment to letting its users share, remix or re-use their works — freely and legally,” Wendy Seltzer, a fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and visiting assistant professor at Northeastern University School of Law, said in a statement. “This kind of open licensing can make the works more valuable to all involved.”
Seltzer told eWEEK she is “always pleased to see companies recognizing that sharing can be more valuable than keeping things locked up. The Creative Commons licenses are a good way to indicate that public interest in sharing and to give users the legal permissions to re-use expression.”
Meanwhile, Bonvanie said he sees business mashups as a way to even possibly spur the economy.
“Business Mashups stimulate employee creativity so that business users can build applications to improve their productivity — without burdening already constrained resources of IT departments,” he said. “Why stop there? Creative Commons permits users to share and remix each others’ work, which will spark a wave of innovation in the enterprise.”
Creative Commons presents open licensing possibilities so users can copy, adapt and distribute their work. So to accelerate the creation and use of business mashups, Serena will also provide an online marketplace known as the Serena Mashup Exchange, where “mashers” can find, buy and sell pre-packaged mashups, Web services and professional services designed to solve business problems common to businesses of any size, Bonvanie said.
Although he said Serena is the first software company to jump feet first into licensing full software applications under Creative Commons, it is certainly not the first major company to dabble in the process.
As early as June 2006, Microsoft and the Creative Commons organization teamed up to release a copyright licensing tool to enable the easy addition of Creative Commons licensing information for works in popular Microsoft Office applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However, mashups were not yet in existence then. That said, at its MIX08 conference March 5 in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced the release of several Internet Explorer 8 components, controls and specifications under Creative Commons licensing.
Meanwhile, Bonvanie said Creative Commons licensing is not universally applicable to software, “because I would never put a piece on binary code into Creative Commons.”
He said Serena already has released 13 business mashups and intends to deliver many more. “And we have 50 partners who will be involved with us,” he said.
Serena plans to release up to 20 more mashups in the next month or two, with partners such as IBM Rational, CollabNet and Perforce planning to deliver mashups on the Serena platform later this year or early next, Serena officials said.