Open-Source Advocate Perens Joins SourceLabs

By joining the open-source startup co-founded by former Microsoft executives, Bruce Perens lends more credibility to SourceLabs.

Renowned open-source advocate Bruce Perens has joined an open-source startup as vice president of the companys developer relations and policy initiatives.

SourceLabs Inc., a Seattle-based company focusing on delivering open-source infrastructure software to enterprises, announced Wednesday that Perens has joined the company and is a good fit for an entity looking to enlighten enterprise customers to the virtues of open-source software.

Indeed, in some respects the addition of Perens lends some credibility to the SourceLabs story, for although the companys mission is to deliver open-source software and services to enterprise customers on a subscription basis, the company has been funded and co-founded by former Microsoft Corp. executives, who Perens, in an interview, jokingly said have now "seen the light" and moved to embrace the open-source movement. Brad Silverberg, a former high-ranking Microsoft executive and current partner at Ignition Systems, helped bankroll SourceLabs with venture funding, and Cornelius Willis, a former Microsoft marketing executive, is a vice president at SourceLabs.

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Perens said SourceLabs initially contacted him about joining the company in an advisory board capacity, "and I was looking at my consulting business and said, Is it time to scale up?"

"Our mission in life is providing dependable open-source systems, and a big part of building a startup is building the right team," said Byron Sebastian, chief executive of SourceLabs. The team would necessarily need to include people from a variety of backgrounds, including Silverberg, said Sebastian, "as well as people in the open-source world who have been working around efforts like Apache," he said. "And Bruces background in using open-source technology and bringing open source to large companies and to governments is significant to us. He has been a key leader in defining the role of open source in many big companies."

Perens said although he saw a good fit at SourceLabs, "I know I wouldnt have the same sort of fit at all companies. SourceLabs is doing pure open source," not a hybrid or what he referred to as "proprietary open source."

Added Perens: "I looked at SourceLabs mission and said, These guys get it. ... These guys are in a great position to bring open source into the enterprise."

Meanwhile, although Perens now will be on the SourceLabs payroll, he said he will continue to pursue his advocacy of the open-source movement. "Im retaining my leadership in the open-source community—like the political mission," he said. "And Ill keep working on my projects."

But Perens said his niche lies in "building bridges between open source and enterprise IT." In fact, the consulting firm he has run for the past two years since leaving Novell Inc. has been a service business to help enterprise companies get better acquainted with open-source software. "And I am bringing them with me," Perens said of the customers from his consulting business. "My living has all been in helping large companies understand open source."

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Perens is the author of the "Open Source Definition," now widely recognized as the authoritative description of open-source software. He also is founder and co-founder of several well-known open-source organizations, including the Open Source Initiative (OSI), the Linux Standard Base (LSB), Software in the Public Interest (SPI) and No-Code International (NCI). Perens engineering and project management experiences include efforts such as Pixar films, the first known flight of a Linux system on NASAs space shuttle and the Debian GNU/Linux Distribution.

In a statement, Sebastian said: "Open-source developers and the corporate IT community have tremendous potential to work together, and Bruces experience forging communities of common interest will be invaluable as these two groups collaborate more in the future. There is simply no one that can match the duration, depth and variety of Bruces experience in the open-source world."

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