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Former BEA execs launch 'The Dell of open source'

Three former BEA Systems executives have launched a company they hope will become the Dell of open-source software.

Lead by Byron Sebastian, CEO, Cornelius Willis, VP of sales and marketing, and Will Pugh, chief architect, the Bellevue, Wash.-based SourceLabs will assemble, certify, test and provide ongoing support services for open-source applications and infrastructure products.

"We anticipate that we will do that same kind of thing [as Dell]," Willis tells eADT, "providing mix-and-match distribution of open-source infrastructure with components coming from different sources."

"We think the software industry is going through a dramatic transformation right now," Sebastian adds. "A lot of the value is going to be derived from subscription-based services. It's a fundamental change in the industry, and it's the first time we've seen the industry changed by a business model rather than by technology since the early 1980s."

The start-up is backed by $3.5 million in funding from Ignition Partners and Index Ventures. Brad Silverberg, managing partner at Ignition, and Danny Rimer, managing partner at Index, will join the company's board. Index is also an investor in open-source vendors MySQL and Zend.

SourceLabs is the brainchild of Sebastian, who says the idea for the venture emerged from his curiosity about the sluggish adoption rate of open-source software in the enterprise compared with the breadth of product offerings.

"I looked at technologies like scripting languages, such as PHP, Perl and Python, and some of the open-source databases like MySQL, which are the heart of millions and millions of Web sites," he says. "I talked with everybody from Fortune 500 executives to developers and architects. I found companies really think about these things in terms of a software stack. They're looking for a vendor who's offering a subscription to the whole stack and backing that with dependable support and maintenance."

Sebastian and company intend to provide a model they call "Dependable Open Source Systems" that gives customers the proverbial one throat to choke.

"Basically," Sebastian says, "customers feel they have to choose today between systems that are pre-integrated and dependable, and systems that are open. We don't think they should have to make that choice."

"The open-source paradigm shift changes our notions of product and service," Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, observed in a statement. "By providing and supporting pre-integrated systems, SourceLabs can eventually deliver the same kind of customer assurances that large proprietary systems vendors provide, but in a way that is technology-agnostic and free from lock-in agendas."

"We see ourselves as an ego-less company when it comes to technology," says SourceLabs' Willis, "because the value is moving toward support and maintenance services. So why should we be religious about which technologies people are using? We are going to focus on providing the systems and technologies that our customers want, rather than what our engineers might like the most."

All three members of the new company's management team left BEA earlier this year.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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