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Simon Phipps: An Open Source Evangelist Forges On

Simon Phipps is a man with a mission… Well, a new mission. The former open source evangelist for Sun Microsystems has always been kind of missiony. His new cause: proving that "open source continuity" is a reality. His vehicle for that mission: ForgeRock, a company formed by erstwhile Sun execs to provide "reliable stewardship" for OpenSSO, an open-source access management and federation server platform.

OpenSSO was a Sun-sponsored open-source project, the stewardship of which went to Oracle when it was acquired. But Big O has shown little interest in the technology. Earlier this year, the company declared that OpenSSO was "not strategic," and later removed OpenSSO Express as a download.

Enter ForgeRock, which was founded in February by Lasse Andresen, former CTO of Sun's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, Herman Svoren, former Sun Sales exec (EMEA). Phipps joined the company in May.

The goal of the company, which is headquartered in the U.K. and Norway, with subsidiaries in the U.S., is to be what Phipps calls "a pure-play, open-source ISV."

"It's not our goal to aggregate copyright, or to sell some sort of open-core product with some secret sauce that the customer has to buy," he says. "We bug-fix, sustain, and innovate on the code bases we're looking after. And we've committed to continuing the same roadmaps that the community was expecting."

Phipps's personal goal is to prove that open source projects can survive the neglect of a sponsoring company.

"People talk about open source continuity and say theoretically that the community lives on even if their sponsor goes away," he says. "I believe that we are the first major attempt to prove that open source continuity is a reality."

In May, the company unveiled its I3 ("eye-cubed") Open Platform, an identify management suite built from OpenAM (which is based on OpenSSO), OpenESB, OpenIdM and OpenPortal (which is based on LifeRay).

Since its launch, the company has snagged some noteworthy customers, including Betfair, the world's largest online gambling service provider; NBS AS, Norwegian state railway company; and SwissSign, the identity solutions subsidiary of Swiss Post.

Open source is Phipps raison d'être. He's a director of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and board advisor of Open Source for America. And he blogs like a madman on the topic on his Wild Webmink Web site.

"The thing about a real open source project, as opposed to a canned project that is being micromanaged by a company that wants to wrap itself in the open-source flag, is that anybody can access the source code and do anything they wish with it, as long as they obey the license terms," Phipps says.

They can even partner with other communities. In June, ForgeRock announced that it would be working with Japan's Open Source Solution Technology (OSSTech) on joint development of the OpenAM ID management software.

No reaction yet from Oracle on ForgeRock's activities. I'll let you know what they say when they call me back.

Posted by John K. Waters on June 30, 2010