After a very grueling week in the US, my family and I took our Easter vacation as far from the maddening crowd as possible. We were in the Scilly Isles, which is so remote that Google maps just barely covers it, let alone the island that we were on, Bryher Island. We stayed at the Hell Bay Hotel where there are no cars, no internet, and no cell coverage. All you can do is walk and take a boat to the next island. Some people’s hell, our heaven.
What a difference from the previous week where I was on another island, Manhattan. There is a lot of growing interest in Alfresco in New York from banks, advertising, publishing and retail. The contrast between these islands can’t be starker, but I can’t say that I like one more than another. Certainly both have great food and restaurants, although Bryher is admittedly more limited to crab, fish and steak. I even met fans of open source in both places. And even though I like slowing down sometimes, other times I need to speed up and New York is the best place to do that.
Everyone is looking for a lower cost of ownership and the financial services industry in New York is often the most aggressive in this pursuit. Open source, in the form of Red Hat, JBoss and MySQL, is getting a great deal of exercise in an industry whose profitability is often dictated by its tremendous cost of information technology. It was here that new technologies and solutions get their shakedown cruises to the point where they really work. This was true in my first company, Ingres, and to a certain extent in my second company, Documentum. Paradigm shifts often happen here.
While in New York, after a very hefty steak dinner, I reflected on my experiences and the experiences of other software companies in the test bed of Manhattan. I have often said that Silicon Valley is the center of the software universe, regardless of whether Redmond would agree with this or not. This perception actually figured in our decision to go with open source, to turn a disadvantage which is to be in Europe, and turn it into an advantage, which is open source often starts in Europe. And of course, open source is about the only thing that is working right now.
However, I started to think about the fact that perhaps this has been a misperception. I started to think that perhaps that New York’s role as the crucible that hardens software might be the center of the software universe. The networking that occurs in Silicon Valley is often to facilitate introductions into the networks of New York. Even the money buckets of Washington and the DoD are not formative as the more demanding environment of Wall Street. Oracle may have gotten its big breaks from government contracts, but I bet it was New York that actually made it really work.
I’m looking forward to our trials by fire in New York and have it try to kick the hellbay out of us. We have prepared and tested for these challenges as well as any new software company can. Perhaps more so with the scrutiny that comes with open source. As the next wave of open source, I think ECM will get a great shock in this new frontier of IT cost reduction.