March, 2009

Nigel Parker's Outside Line

Juxtaposing the web, media and mobile for New Zealand developers.
  • Nigel Parker's Outside Line

    SilverStripe = FREE, the MIX09 Keynote

    • 4 Comments

    The more time I spend with the Web community in New Zealand, the more time I also spend with people and companies utilising the open source business model.

    That might sound like an oxymoron to some but my experience is that developers generally open source their software to obtain reach and build lucrative service contracts.

    More than two years ago Chris Anderson proposed a new law that he calls The Andersen Switch:

    In the analog-to-digital conversion things that are paid will become free and vice versa.

    Free Image

    He followed it up with a new book titled FREE. You can read Chris’ wired article Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business and his podcast on econtalk early last year. Just this week Chris Anderson and Guy Kawasaki keynoted the SXSW interactive stream “Anderson Gives Away the Free”.

    Now the “FREE”- services driven, Ad funded or acquisition business models have been around for some time, but I have noticed much more high level conversations about these things recently given the challenging business environment that we are all experiencing at present.

    Incidentally Microsoft has been offering free express versions of our popular development technologies for quite some time (see my blog post from 4 years ago).

    Recently this has been enhanced with the Microsoft Web Platform Installer for installing all the FREE web development and deployment tools onto Windows. Version one of the WebPI received 350,000 in the first six weeks despite not being advertised anywhere.

    Couple this with recent initiatives to get all of our software into the hands of students and start-up’s for no money up front and we are seeing a new wave of tech savvy entrepreneurs building on our stack. In fact the two finalists in the soon to air Start-UP TV series were both built on .NET.

    That leads me onto the point of this whole blog post.

    I think there is still a feeling out there that although Microsoft may offer FREE product we still don’t get Open Source. O’Rly?

    This morning during the MIX09 keynote in Las Vegas, Scott Guthrie announced and presented the new version of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer 2.0 Beta and the Windows Web App Gallery that includes ten of the most popular Open Source web applications from around the world (SilverStripe, WordPress, Acquai Drupal, Gallery 2, DotNetNuke, SubText, DasBlog, Umbarco, ScrewTurn and BlogEngine.NET).

    Screen Shot from this mornings MIX09 Keynote

    The inclusion of Wellington based SilverStripe is a big deal that SilverStripe and Microsoft have been working on for some time READ THE CASE STUDY. Anyone wanting to create a new Silverlight CMS project on Windows can now have it up and running in minutes without anything (except MySQL) previously installed!

    Read about the install process on the SilverStripe blog.

    Web PI 2.0 Beta

    silverstripe logo

    Port25 logo

    So how did this happen?

    Last July I spent a day at the Open Source Lab at Microsoft in the USA. Here I met Hank Janssen and Michael Joffe, and we started talking about working with PHP developers, the SQL Server Driver for PHP that his team had written and an update on running PHP applications on Windows.

    Over the last year the Microsoft Open Source team have worked and contributed code to the communities that create some of the most popular open source applications in the world. This effort has culminated in an ambitious project that makes it easy for you to install your favourite “FREE” web applications and get them working on Windows and IIS.

    Interesting enough not all of these applications are PHP based, included is DotNetNuke, a .NET CMS with more than 6 million downloads and 675,000 active members. NZ has a busy DotNetNuke community including http://www.autotrader.co.nzhttp://nzrugby.co.nz and http://3news.co.nz.

    This got me thinking of who in New Zealand would be a good candidate to engage with the Microsoft Open Source Labs to be added to the next group of Web Application Partners? How about Siggy and the SilverStripe team?

    SilverStripe won the NZ Open Source award for Best Open Source Software Project of 2008 followed by SilverStripe winning the 2008 Most Promising Open Source CMS in the Packt UK awards.

    In a computerworld article Siggy suggested that

    A likely contributing factor to winning the award was the company’s big win earlier this year: the CMS system was selected by the US Democratic Party as the platform for its pre-election conference, the Democratic National Convention 2008.


    The site featured live video and up-to-date coverage of transcripts, photos and announcements. A team of 20 people was updating the site, and the SilverStripe support team was on duty 24/7 over the week the conference was held, says Magnusson.


    A component of the site was streaming video content using Microsoft’s Silverlight technology. Silverlight was chosen by the Democratic Party because of the high-quality video it allows, says Magnusson. Over 350,000 hours of video was watched during the four days, he says.

    Also there was press from Microsoft about this site.

    Driven by my efforts to connect both sides, in August last year SilverStripe and Microsoft entered into a PHP on Windows Joint Development Program to get SilverStripe fully supported on Windows and part of the next iteration of the new Web Platform Installer.

    Why would SilverStripe care about Windows you may ask?

    Siggy wrote:

    The fact that nearly 40% of installations go on Windows was one reason we added IIS 7.0 support in SilverStripe 2.3.0. It also means we'll continue to make Windows installs easier in the future.

    The first challenge was to get Microsoft Software into SilverStripe’s hand. They hadn’t tested or developed on our platform before so they would need access to copies of Windows Server and SQL Server. Timing was great as we had just launched BizSpark in New Zealand so we signed the SilverStripe product up for that.

    As part of the JDP, Microsoft technical support was available free of charge to SilverStripe from the US and Germany, but as the project progressed the talented and helpful Jorke Odolphi (Microsoft Australian Web Infrastructure Advisor), jumped into help SilverStripe, lead by Sam Minnée, with their testing and deployment.

    SilverStripe incorporated some of the recent IIS7 enhancements features like URL Rewrite in their Windows Server 2008 solution. When it became clear that many of their community were using Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, access to expert Microsoft technical staff enabled SilverStripe developers to determine the best way to achieve IIS 6 compatibility and update the core product accordingly in record time.

    The final touch was to deploy some live development servers to test SilverStripe running on the new supported server configurations.

    Nathan Mercer and I have been working on an ambitious wee project to get New Zealand Hyper-V hosted virtual Windows servers into the hands of enterprising kiwi developers and it pros wanting to test their solutions on the new stuff FREE of charge.

    We partnered with Peter Mott and his fantastic setup over at Swizzle (if you are looking for a NZ based virtual servers Peter provided a great service IMO). Along with top of the line HP Server kit to set up the dev server environment.

    The first thirty servers have just been deployed to support all the teams in this years Imagine Cup competition and a couple of test servers for SilverStripe (Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2). If you are working on a project using the latest stuff that could really use a live development server, please drop me a line describing what you are trying to achieve and I’ll see if I can help you out.

    If nothing else what I have learnt most from this project is that there are plenty of opportunities for Open Source companies to work with Microsoft to the mutual benefit of both organisations.

    Siggy and I in the Microsoft Office in Auckland 

    If you are a PHP developer thinking of targeting Windows today we have just made available the first release candidate of the PHP on Windows Training Kit.

    The PHP on Windows Training Kit includes a comprehensive set of technical content including demos and hands-on labs to help you understand how to build PHP applications using Windows, IIS 7 and SQL Server 2008.

    All that is left now is to drop Steve Osborn a line at Gen-i and tell him why Microsoft is good for Open Source in New Zealand :)

    According to Osborn, however, New Zealand remains something of a Microsoft shop. This means there is not yet a huge core of talent at the right levels supporting open source around the country. This is likely to change, though, as technology moves forward. The Novell teaming agreement with Microsoft was possibly the single biggest step towards opening up the market.

    There is an interesting discussion going on over on Rowan Simpson’s blog where he states that “There is No Depression in New Zealand Yet”.

    Whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, it’s difficult to disagree that this is a horrible mess.

    So, what are we going to do about it?  What are you going to do about it?

    Do you feel like there is anything you can do, or is this something that they have to solve?  And, if so, who is “they“?

    Hopefully our ideas and our actions are leading to the change that is necessary to support our industry in these challenging times.

    In conclusion some of the business models that Microsoft is pioneering align very nicely to the open source business models. These times are conducive to ensuring you capitalise on those investments that you have already made and ensure that they are leveraged well in future projects that you take on.

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