Saturday, January 2, 2010

Delivering a complete middleware platform under the Apache license

Let me start by wishing everyone a wonderful 2010!

Right from the get-go, WSO2 was designed to be a company that built a complete middleware platform. We set out to target the big guys who have a complete story, except with two key fundamental differences: our technical approach and our business model.

Our technical approach is of course based on Web services and SOA. For the first time in the history of computing, Web services have offered a lingua franca for how systems interact with each other. There were of course many previous attempts, but one camp or the other of the technology industry didn't agree and so there was no "English" of the computer world. Web services has changed that with every major and minor vendor supporting interoperability via Web services (XML, HTTP, SOAP and the rest of WS-*).

SOA, despite the much ballyhooed story of its demise at the beginning of 2009, is not only alive and well, but is in fact kicking butt. SOA is fundamentally an approach for how to build large scale composite systems. As an approach, it mimics the real world's service-oriented economy. As such, SOA is a fundamental concept, not some vendor-driven theory. That said, SOA, like any other technology, has had to live through the Gartner Hype Curve. If at all instead of 2009 being the year SOA died, it became the year it came out of the trough and started climbing up towards the plateau of productivity.

Of course the fall into the trough was not without reason for SOA and Web services. Much of it was driven by middleware vendors not delivering anything new, anything valuable in the form of SOA middleware. Many of them simply took their existing middleware and rebranded it the shiny new SOA gimmick. Well that of course doesn't work and the cracks in the story will force you down to the trough .. and it did.

WSO2 is unique in having started from nothing and set off on a path to build a complete middleware platform with Web services and SOA in its heart. The result is simply orders of magnitude less complexity, much better performance and overall greater productivity and lower TCO. These are not random claims from me - these have all come from our users and customers.

We now call it Lean Enterprise Middleware. Try it and see - you'll be shocked at how lean it us, how productive it is and how much money you can save by replacing your legacy or pretend open source middleware stack with ours.

Now let's talk about the business model. Right from the beginning, we made a strong commitment to releasing all of our software under the Apache license and to not attempt any bait-n-switch type acts. Believe me, that took a lot of hard work to keep going .. investors for example have a major issue with the Apache license. Why? Well because you can take any of our software and do whatever you want with it and never ever pay us. We have no legal recourse to making you pay (as dual license business models do) nor any way to force you to pay for the good stuff (as many "commercial open source" companies do). Instead, we rely on delivering real, measurable value to our customers without forcing them to pay us. Our customers love us because they pay for the value we deliver to them, not because we are using the law to force them to pay for the software they use.
When I say you can do whatever, I mean whatever - recently one of our competitors sold a support contract for one of our own pieces of software! Yes, that is possible. In this case the people who will pay the eventual price is the customer who did the stupid thing of buying support from someone who has nothing to do with the software! Remember Oracle's Unbreakable Linux? Well that didn't break Redhat and neither will this act - it just shows how low some people will go to make a buck.
So today you can download an entire enterprise middleware platform from us without registering, without paying, without any risk of bait-n-switch for absolutely no cost. How can we afford to do that and become a successful business? We have many many customers who happily pay us to provide maintenance, provide help and in general to be their technology partner. So having thousands and thousands of free non-paying users is not a problem for us - that's free marketing and helps us save the world from the ugliness that is IBM, Oracle, etc. middleware.

WSO2 is delivering on the promise to build lean enterprise middleware and deliver 100% of it as open source under the Apache license. Oh yes, we also offer it as various cloud offerings - virtual machines, or online services.

We are the ONLY vendor offering a complete enterprise middleware platform 100% open source under the Apache license.

That was all wrapped up in 2009, a tremendous year for us. In an environment of economic uncertainty, not only did we meet our targets but we beat them. We have been doubling revenue each year and this year was no different. We are on a roll :-).

Looking towards 2010, we have more work to do to make our enterprise middleware platform simply untouchable by anyone else. We're already far ahead of our competitors with our WSO2 Carbon powered platform, but we have several things planned to further leave our competitors in the dust. As I wrote in an earlier blog, we practice open development - so if you want to be part of it come on over and join us on!

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