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12.27.06

Stafford Masie Presentation at CITI Forum: Transcript

Posted in Boycott Novell, Deals, Fork, Formats, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, IBM, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, LGPL, Microsoft, NetWare, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, OpenSUSE, Patent Covenant, Patents, Red Hat, Servers, VBA, Virtualisation, Windows at 5:26 pm by Shane Coyle

Here, finally, is the transcript of Stafford Masie’s presentation at the CITI forum, as posted on tectonic.co.za. I only transcribe as well as I hear, so there may be small errors, but I am confident this is ‘very’ accurate. Please point out any errors or questions and I will investigate.

Related Posts: Stafford Masie’s Q&A at CITI Forum Transcript


Stafford Masie:

This whole Novell thing, the whole Microsoft thing, is an interesting thing. so, let me just start off by saying… thanks for making the time, thanks for making the time to see me. Pete was supposed to be up here this morning, and I decided to come,…

Really what I want the premise of the discussion to be is really a discussion about, I think the big thing thats gonna come up here as I go through all the…the material that I want to present initially is the patent stuff, y’know software patents and what they mean, etc I think professor Keats and I have gone back and forth online enough now.

We… we… we definitely like the fact that we have an open source community… we’re learning more and more as a proprietary vendor, traditional proprietary vendor, to participate in this community. and there are certain things that we do and there are certain things that we may not do that are good or that are bad, and y’know, really, this is what we want to do, this is what we want to do, is stir debate.

Now, as the opening speaker said there, Novell South Africa is big on the radar screen internationally for Novell worldwide, and I think this debate again puts us at the nucleus of the storm, because the email that Prof Keats sent out did make its way worldwide. and thats the beauty of the net, thats the beauty of collaboration, thats the beauty of this participation of archit… the architecture of participation I call it, is the fact that someone who sits in UWC has the power to voice their opinion, and the entire community and the world sits up and listens, and Novell makes the effort, an investment, to ensure I’m here, that we respond properly, that we get on conference calls with Derek and we explain our position clearly.

And, I think thats a good thing, thats a good thing for innovation, that someone in South Africa that never used to have a say now has the power, because of this community, because of this connectivity, because of this architecture of participation that exists for us to engage with a company as big as Novell, a 2-plus billion dollar business and have them give us attention, its a good thing.

So, one of the things that I want to ensure we.. we do this morning is discuss what has happened, I’ll outline what the agreement is, just for the sake of ensuring everyone’s on the same page and the context is defined. and define the relationship in depth, and then I’ll take questions and we’ll go back and forth, we’ll do a little bit of a Q&A

Now I don’t… this is going to be streamed, right…Derek? Online. I think this is going to be archived and streamed, that is my understanding, so… I’ll make sure that when you ask a question that I give you the mic and we can record that

Now, one of the things that, the reasons that I’m here, is I want to ensure that address Professor Keats’ issues, I think, in this forum, I think its an important forum, and I think this community, you as FOSS participants… its an important community that we interface with, and hopefully you see Novell’s commitment- me being here, taking time off, redoing the entire schedule is because we do believe that you are extremely important to us, and we want to be a valuable community member. We want to be a participant in this community that listens to what your grievances are, the issues are, and we’ll feed that back into the relevant structures within Novell.

Now, let me take you some… through some history of Novell, because I can really articulate this organically, I came back to the country end of 2003, before that I was actually at Novell headquarters, and I was part of a team that did the due diligence to get Novell into this Linux space.

So, the reason I like standing up here and talking about open source and Novell, etc because when I was in the US, I was actually part of that team, and I humbly say so, y’know not arrogantly.

And, its nice to see these things play out, because I understand exaclty what Novell’s commitments are. I know exactly why Novell is in this game, its not because I’ve read some marketing literature or I’ve gone to some orientation course as the new country manager for South Africa, therefore I’m here.

I was actually part of the team that looked at this. I know exactly why, what our conviction is and why we are in this space. We fundamentally believe that the open source way of building software is a better way of delivering software, that is why we are in the open source world. It is a better way, the way software gets built, the way this crowd becomes.. is wise and is becoming wiser, and the capabilities of this open source crowd, is a phenomena that I think stems… this is just a fruit of a broader phenomena I think things like podcasting, things like blogging, things like social networking… these are things that are moving so fast, and really it is because of Tim O’Reilly’s little phrase, he’s given it that phrase and I use it often now: the architecture of participation is there.

And, this architecture of participation allows us now to collaborate worldwide and do things that are amazing, and I think that open source software is but one fruit of this architecture of participation, so when Novell looked at this whole thing… we realized it had caught up to Netware, and in certain circumstances was surpassing Netware and… there was other aspects of it that looked very very interesting

So when we went to the Board, and we discussed with the executives at Novell, we said we have to get into this, for no other reason but the fact we’ve got to adopt this method of building code, we need to look at it very very carefully, this collaborative method of building of a software product is an interesting method, and it seems to be better, and it seems to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before because it gives people the capability to themselves change things and it creates a platform for innovation and for excellence, its an excellence model, not a commercial model.

So, we’re in open source not for commercial reasons only, we want to be a participant, we want to contribute, and I think we’ve proven that as Novell, and one of the things I didn’t do and now realize I should have done, I should have actually listed all of the open source projects that we participate in… y’know we are very large contributor to OpenOffice, and you’ll see some of the things we are now doing to OpenOffice which now some bloggers are saying we’re forking OpenOffice, which is not true, and I think some sanity is coming back to some of that reasoning…

There’s alot we do to the kernel, we’ve got alot of kernel developers… we’ve got alot of file system guys, the Samba team- the project team, the Samba project team actually works for Novell. I know the recent press releases about what the Samba team thinks about the Microsoft thing doesn’t depict them working for us, but y’know what? they actually do. They used to work for HP, but now they work within us. And then we’ve got Miguel and Nat and that entire team there.

Now, Let me take you through the legend of what occured with Novell and this whole Micr… this whole open source thing. The first step that we took was, I remember in the beginning, we looked at Red Hat very very carefully because we thought that maybe we should acquire Red Hat to get into this Linux game. Ok, the first, in fact we thought, let’s open-source Netware, we couldn’t do that.

Then we looked at Slackware and said maybe we should take Slackware, and do something with Slackware- put a big N on it and call it Novell’s Linux distribution and.. the hardware vendors said no way, so we went back and forth, and we, y’know we threw mud at this wall continuously, and nothing was sticking. and the big problem with us inside of Novell at the time was we didn’t have people who understood the Linux community, and what we are finding out every day, is that you’ve got to understand the people aspect of this community, not just the technological aspects of this community because it is critical.

Y’know Nat and Miguel, all the project leads, the big contributors within the company that work for us have to read a book and finish a course about that book, and the book is “How to Win Friends and Influence People”… they’ve got to finish that, because it is so critical I mean, when people post code, when they’re replying and providing commentary, whether its silly or not, you have to treat them a certain way, and that’s the success of your project, is collaboration. Ensuring people come there, contribute there and… their contributions are recognized, etc its a big big thing

So when we went out and looked at this Linux thing, we really thought lets jump in to this open source thing in a big way and create our own distribution. Wrong. We took a big step back.

Y’know why we bought Ximian? Does anyone know why we bought Ximian? Because they had cool software? No. We didn’t buy Ximian because of their Red Carpet software, we didn’t buy Ximian because of… the collaboration technologies that they had, we didn’t buy them for the desktop technologies that they had, we bought Ximian for one reason: we wanted people that were community heads, people that understood this community organically, that was extremely well respected, people like Nat Friedman and Miguel De Icaza, we wanted them within Novell.

Why? We needed people that understood, participated in this community, to help and assist our strategy moving forward, because we realized that if we had just bought a Linux distribution, we’d do some silly things and we’d mess up, so we needed people to really give us guidance.

And, when they came into the company, that is their major role, yes they are brilliant technologists, yes they definitely know how this thing stitches together, but the key reason they are there is to ensure that a proprietary, traditional proprietary vendor like Novell, participates properly in this community that we interact properly with this community, and thats the objective.

So thats why we bought Ximian, with Ximian came alot of these open source community stalwarts, people that were well respected, people on the Linus Torvalds level, and y’know what attracted us to Ximian, whenever they spoke at LinuxWorld in the United States, I remember seeing them, when Nat and Miguel got on stage- everybody went to their presentations. Everyone. Y’know even the Linux… the vendors that had stands at the event would leave their stands and watch Miguel and Nat, and they are amazing individuals and we wanted those type of individuals.

Now when you introduce a thing like this into your company, and you’re this proprietary Netware, Groupwise type company, its… its a hard slog, its a culture change, its a big big big culture change. Understanding wait a minute, giving away actually gives you a competitive edge vs keeping closed, its a different mindset.

Y’know its difficult to understand that y’know what, your competitive edge actually lays in collaboration and ensuring people can participate etc, versus keeping things closed and having only a small set of developers innovating around a particular thing. so, its a weird mindset and now we’re in it, we’re in it in a big way, and I’d say we’re probably the 800lb penguin now side by side, with IBM.

We’re big in this community now, our pockets are deep, we’ve got lots of technology, we’ve got a huge customer base, lots of capabilities worldwide, big footprint, huge ecosystem behind us.

So what we’re doing with Linux and this is our focus as Novell predominantly, we’re taking linux to the enterprise customer, that’s our participation in this community. We’re taking Linux to the telcoms of the world, the escoms of the world, the… standard banks of the world, the big companies in South Africa, thats our role.

So when we talk about Linux and we participate in the Linux community. yes, we do it technologically, but realize the angle to everything we are doing is an enterprise angle, we represent alot of the enterprise interests, we interface with alot of the enterprises out there, and what we find sometimes in the Linux community is alot of the developers, participants don’t have that front, and feel, that we have that enterprise customers want to see in Linux or what they want out of Linux or their understanding of Linux, etc

And, I think the Microsfot thing came from that, it came from that, and I will lead into that in a second, so Ximian- the people, then we bought SUSE, now we bought SUSE because of the direction that was given to us by people within the company that truly understood the Linux community, and I think we’ve demonstrated our willingness, I think we’ve demonstrated our commitment, i think we’ve demonstrated… our investment that we are willing to make into the community and be a responsible member of it.

And, this morning, I’m just going to go through some of the things regarding the Microsoft agreement, this morning I want to make sure that we give proper time to discuss the software patent issue, that Derek surfaced. I think its a very prominent issue, and I think this is one of the benefits of this Microsoft agreement.

Okay, one of the benefits of this agreement, it actually surfaces this debate and it becomes more personified than its ever been, this whole software patent debate, it actually does this. The GPL V3 is now being discussed more heatedly than it has ever been discussed before, Richard Stallman now has a bigger platform to discuss version 3 than he has ever before, so there’s offshoot benefits we believe to this Microsoft agreement that may not benefit Novell at the end of the day, but its going to benefit Linux

Ok, and I think one of the biggest things we can say about this agreement is the fact that it is now on everyone’s lips. Microsoft have conceded that Linux is there, Linux is real, Linux is big, Linux is relevant… Linux is primetime, and thats a huge huge concession that they’ve made, and for a vendor that big to say that Linux is here, that should say someting. Y’know and alot of our enterprise customers, that are Microsoft customers, this is the scenario today, people that are Microsoft customers are now calling us in and saying, come talk to us about this Linux thing. Come talk to us now, we didn’t want to talk to you before, but now come talk to us. That’s the benefit.

We believe this agreement is going to drive adoption of Linux extensively in the enterprise because it deals with a specific issue that’s been a huge concern for enterprise customers. Enterprise customers have been begging for interoperability between Novell’s technologies and Linux…Linux…our Linux technologies and our proprietary technologies. This agreement spans both, and the problem with this agreement at the moment is people are focusing so heavily on the covenant that has been established, and they are forgetting the rest of what this agreement means.

There’s alot more to this agreement than just the Linux aspect the Linux aspect is an also part of it, but its not the focal part of it, the focal part is the interoperability, that is the focus of this agreement- customers want to see that, and believe it or not it is customer demand that has pushed us to this point. and its not jsut us saying this, you can see IDC, I’ve got an IDC report on my laptop which I’ll show you, and a gartner report, big big customers want to adopt linux and they’re putting alot of pressure on Novell and they;re putting alot of pressure on Microsoft to say, y’know what, we don’t like this

Now,let me give you a real-world scenario of what happens, now all of you are passionate FOSS members,right, you love linux, etc. but, let me tell you what happens in the real world, the real real world, not the coding aspect, when you take this thing and you sell it to a big enterprise.

This is one example of a deal where we were involved, I wont mention the customers name, and online its been said that we should mention this customers name, I’ll pass that by our CEO, y’know its a financial company in the United States. It was a four thousand eight hundred and something server deal, ok.

We were competing with Microsoft, they were going to go with SUSE linux, their minds were pretty much made up, and y’know what happened?…what we believe happened, and I need to be careful because this is recorded, what we believe happened is that the other vendor took the customer behind closed doors and said ‘This is a big server deal, have you considered your liability associated with the GPL? have you considered potential patent infringements? have you considered the fact that we potentially may take action?’

Now, did they have a platform, did they have concrete evidence that they could? No. But, y’know, the customer came back and said, the customer said ‘Y’know what, we’re gonna go with Microsoft, but we wanna go with you but we’re gonna go with Microsoft for now, over the next two years, ok, we are going to call in an external legal entity, legal company, to review the GPL, to review Microsoft’s patent stance, to review all of this in… in the context of our business, our legal framework, and we’ll get back to you.

That’s the problem, we lost a five thousand server deal because of FUD, Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. People don’t like that.

Now, people say that indemnification is enough, y’know what, we provide indemnification for Linux, but we don’t provide indemnification for any of our other technology. indemnification scares enterprise customers, why are you providing me indemnification? That’s what customers are asking.

Now, on itweb, theres this article thats been written there that i said, they took it completely out of context again, just took just that part and nothing else it was the customers opinion that y’know what, indemnification is a concern for us, indemnification is an issue, you are telling us that there is something there, by inference, something there to be concerend about from a legal liability perspective. now you’re providing us indemnification, and it covers us as an insurance agreement, to reimburse us for any legal costs associated with those liabilitites or potential liabilities, customers don’t like that

now, it sounds good to us, as software vendors, as community members, its great to have this indemnification, Red Hat has it, etc But, to enterprise customers, they don’t like that, they don’t like the fact that that exists. They don’t want to buy a software product with this insurance agreement that proprietary software doesn’t have. Its new, its unique, they don’t like that

So, i believe this agreement actually mitigates that, it takes alot of it away, so lets go through that for a second and actually take a look at the agreement

ok, so if you go to our website, you’re going to go to novell.com/microsoft and… to me, trust me this is very very strange for me to say all the things about Microsoft that I do. ok, very very very strange, I need to meet them in South Africa, I need to go to their offices and I go to my website and I go to slash Microsoft, and its not anti-competitive, its like partnership stuff… yeah, hell has frozen over, so its a weird time

if you go up here, you’ll find alot of stuff here, there’s a webcast y’know with steve ballmer, there’s a Q&A, the announcement that we made, there’s… y’know there’s a bunch of blogs from different people within Novell and external from Novell, what industry customer and partner reactions are, apart from all the blogs that are going on that are pretty negative, in our opinion there are alot of fanatics out there that are taking bits of this and really misinterpreting it in my opinion. there’s alot of that going on at the moment, and we need to ensure that… we stop that, but I think in time it will stop

Not that Derek is one of those fanatics, and not that that was a small issue that Derek raised, I think it was an very very important issue, let me just clarify that…

and then just additional information from us, what the agreement is, etc so, instead of waiting for the 3g card to connect, I just y’know when you click on there, .. seriously there’s a broad collaboration on Windows and Linux interoperability and support, now if you think the broad scope of the agreement, if you go down ok, one of the things is im not going to do a slideshow for you, im going to go to websites and take a look at stuff for real, the broad scope of it is the following: virtualization, web services for managing physical and virtual servers, and document format compatibility.

Lets start at the bottom with document format compatibility… we just released, based upon Office 2.0.2, OpenOffice 2.0.2, Novell’s edition… here you, we are actually demonstrating the fruits of this relationship.

what have we done? we’ve taken open xml from Microsoft… worked on the translation engines of that with ODF, we’ve now built open xml support into… a version of openoffice, so now it will open up the latest Microsoft Office default document standard.

We’re going to work very very closely, we have a roadmap in place for ODF translators… Open XML translators to ODF… we start releasing them in January, so there’ll be one for Word, one for Excel, one for Powerpoint, etc for the.. for the OpenOffice product,

now take a look at those, that innovation, go take a look at how that innovation is taking place, or how that interoperability is taking place, we’re doing the interoperability, and we’re publishing that under the GPL, but the LGPL, obviously, from an OpenOffice perspective.

We’ve published that out, there’s nothing proprietary there, ok now people are saying the open xml format itself is, y’know Microsoft has a little covenant associated with that and that is where the issue is, well y’know that’s an issue for everyone. we’re going to work on the interoperability aspects and we’re going to publish that innovation, that interoperability under the GPL so that shows you how this is going to play out, we’re not going to do things and violate the GPL

Now, people say, you already violate GPL version 3, no we dont because GPL version 3 is not there yet.

And, it is a good thing that GPL 3 is being discussed so extensively right now, because we are participants in that entire authoring. Y’know we talk to Stallman, and we talk to Barrett and all these people that are authors of GPL version 3, and we’ll continue to do that.

Now, as GPL version 3 matures, and Stallman has said we’re not in violation of GPL version 2 at the moment, now we’re not with the current agreement, but he believes in GPL3 he will put verbiage in there to ensure that we are.

Y’know, he wants to ensure that its not just patents that you’ve bought that will violate GPL v3 if you own them, that agreement, but the fact that an agreement like this is in place that downstream affects people… that utilize your distribution makes you in violation of GPL version 3, so we’re working very closely on the authoring of that, we will be GPL V3 compliant, trust me, we will,ok?

Will we have to alter our agreement with Microsoft to ensure that it happens? We will, we’ll do what’s right. We’ll participate, and yeah we’ll do what it takes, but its gonna be a collaborative effort.

We’ll talk to the GPL version 3 authors… like we are right now, I think common sense will prevail, because at the end of the day we actually do benefit the community being here, we do benefit, its not… it doesn’t make sense to vindictively come after some of these agreements, there’s got to be a reason behind it, and we’ll listen to that reason, and we’ll concede where we need to concede and where it makes business sense, thats always been our stance.

So, GPL v2 according to Stallman, we do not, y’know we dont infringe on the GPL2 whatsoever with this current agreement.

So, just in terms of document format compatibility, we’re not forking it, the code’s up there, hopefully that code will be incorporated into the next derivative of the OpenOffice release, as part of the code… we’ve done quite a few things there, theres the translator engine, there’s the VB macro support, where you can import excel macros into openoffice now and it will open up and it will execute, etc there’s quite few things that we’ve done there, and we’ve also we;ve licensed in some fonts… we worked with AGFA we put some truetype fonts in there, its similar to Microsofts true-type fonts in the openoffice product, and its for free, its there, so we’ve published that out.

So, again, enterprise customers want this, they want to see the product more interoperable, they want to see openoffice having the capability to open up office 2007 documents and backwards, now its good to do open xml because open xml is being supported back in Microsoft all the way to office 95 or 97, one of those, i think its office 97, they’re supporting open xml

So, essentially, you’ll be able to open up, all up to office 97 documents that come with Microsoft with office. and in turn, we are also working with Microsoft to ensure that they put native ODF support within Microsoft office. Ok, that’s key the fact that it will now open up our documents that we natively store in OpenOffice inside there.

Only five minutes? Ok.

Ok, web services, I think document format compat…, thats an improtant one because now you’ve seen the fruits of we are actually executing on the agreement and you can see how we are doing it, and its not forking- we are publishing the stuff under the GPL, we’re acting as good members there

Web services, that’s the proprietary aspects, making active directory and eDirectory work together- enterprise customers want to see that, virtualization is very very key, customers want to utilize Linux as either a host operating system with Microsoft as a guest operating system, or vice versa, and yes wea re going to support the XEN technology there, the XEN hypervisor technology, Microsoft is going to support it too. Yes, there is a competitive angle there, yes we’re coming at VMware yes yes yes we are, ok thats part of it because but we’re doing it in an open source way, so were going to support the XEN technologies in our server platforms and togther collaborate and ensure it works properly, supported properly, etc

Now as far as thats concerned, thats the technology aspects of it, now its broad from a Linux perspective, they’re essentially saying that anyone who is an OpenSUSE contributor is covered under the covenant. the covenant essentially is a patent agreement between Novell and Microsoft that says if you participate in the OpenSUSE distribution… as long as its not for commercial gain, that you are covered by this covenant, that they will not exercise what they believe is their patent rights……………………………UNEXPECTED EOF ;^ (

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