Bonum Certa Men Certa

Why is Florian Müller Sometimes Promoting Microsoft's Agenda? (Updated)

NEON vs IBM



NEON news



Summary: Florian Müller supports NEON's case against IBM

WE ROUTINELY quote Mr. Müller, but we very well know that his interests outside the software patents debate do not intersect with ours. It is somewhat sad that as we first showed yesterday, Müller pushes the Microsoft line against GNU/Linux domination in mainframes (be it by IBM or someone else). We wrote about NEON in [1, 2], but the connection to Microsoft's front does not deter Müller who promotes the anti-IBM line in Slashdot. In his blog he even links to Maureen O'Gara (who needs no special introduction [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]).



Müller portrays this whole thing without mentioning that Microsoft owns parts of the case and even companies involved (e.g. T3 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]); he uses Dana's ZDNet blog for consent. From the latest:

The efforts by open source TurboHercules to break IBM’s mainframe monopoly through the European Commission got some proprietary support this week when NEON Enterprise Software LLC of Austin, Tex. filed an EU complaint alongside a U.S. antitrust lawsuit.

NEON was founded by BMC Software co-founder John Moores, so even if you have never heard of it, they have the money to pursue the case.


Müller is a decent guy and he will hopefully rethink what his work against IBM is doing to GNU/Linux in mainframes. Müller harmed the migration to GNU/Linux in Munich and now he harms Free software, essentially by promoting some partners of Microsoft.

Update: In his defence, Müller has responded by E-mail.

From: Florian Mueller Sent: Saturday, June 26, 2010 6:55 PM To: Roy Schestowitz Subject: NEON is not a Microsoft front

Hi Roy,

We'll always have a combination of items on which we agree and ones on which we disagree. Whether or not you elect to quote from this, I'd like to provide an explanation as to why I welcomed NEON's announcement of an impending antitrust complaint against IBM.

My primary concern about the mainframe case is the Hercules open source project, which started in 1999 and can therefore not be considered a Microsoft front by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. I believe this is now a situation in which antitrust intervention can benefit free software and open source once again, as Samba benefitted from the EU antitrust case against Microsoft.

NEON also filed a complaint, not with a view to emulation but a different scenario in which IBM alleges infringement of "intellectual property". In NEON's case one of IBM's legal theories is based on the DMCA, a piece of legislation that I'm sure you have a critical perspective on.

At any rate, I feel comfortable reporting on NEON because I can't see any indication that they are a Microsoft front. NEON's principal founder and owner (besides the company's employees) is John Moores Sr., a billionaire philanthropist who co-founded BMC (hence his wealth). This isn't the kind of company that would act as anyone else's front. NEON has its own beef with IBM, but it underscores the need for antitrust intervention against an abuse of a dominant market position (or, simply put, monopoly) and that's why I was glad to see them act not only in the US, where they've already lodged a complaint, but also in the EU.

Given NEON's background and the 11-year history of the Hercules open source project, this leaves only T3 as a complainant with a Microsoft connection. I heard that Microsoft is a shareholder of T3 but haven't been able to find out more detail on how much of the company they own. I haven't had any contact with T3 nor with NEON myself. I have no reason to assume that TurboHercules is linked to them.

At the end of the day, my view is that there is a serious problem with IBM's anticompetitive conduct, an antitrust intervention would be justified. A possible Microsoft involvement with one of the three complainants isn't the issue that the European Commission will be interested in. What matters is whether the European economy is harmed by IBM's behavior.

I can't see any negative effects on the mainframe version of GNU/Linux. On the contrary, I have talked to mainframe developers and I have learned that most if not all of the developers of the mainframe port of GNU/Linux use(d) Hercules for their own development and testing purposes, including but not limited to Alan Cox (former Red Hat Fellow, now employed at Intel) and Bernharnd Kaindl (who did the mainframe port of SuSE Linux).

Hercules is available for GNU/Linux as well as Windows.

If there are customers who want to continue to use existing ("legacy") z/OS program code, they are now forced to use IBM hardware and Hercules would give them a choice for some use cases. For possibly porting their applications to GNU/Linux, the switching costs, risks, delays and efforts involved are huge, but the existence and availability of Hercules certainly isn't a factor that would adversely affect anyone's attitude toward ports.

Best regards,

Florian

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