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Look Who's Buying Open Source

Company Blogs 12. Juni 2009 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

The New York Times had an article this week about Goodwill Industries, the $2.6 billion dollar non-profit organization that generates revenue through retail sales of donated goods and clothing. In part due to the economic downturn and also because of Goodwill's new marketing and diversification efforts, more middle class customers are going to Goodwill to look not only for prudent purchases but also to find steals in high fashion. Marc Jacobs dresses and designer handbags, often unloaded in bulk by manufacturers clearing out previous season inventory, are being sold for a fraction of their retail price, and buyers are snapping them up. 

Goodwill built their corporate website, intranet, and learning delivery system as an integrated solution using Liferay Portal back in 2005, selecting Liferay over IBM Websphere Portal, Plumtree, and other packages whose per-seat licensing for Goodwill's 80,000 employees would have cost a fortune

You could say that Goodwill is re-defining itself: capturing market share in new segments and diversifying their offerings. They're moving upstream and presenting themselves in ways that makes Goodwill attractive to a new generation of customers. Meanwhile, these new customers are realizing the value and quality that Goodwill provides and being smarter about the way they spend their money. 

There are some obvous parallels to the open source software phenomenon, as customers that dismissed open source software as somehow unfit for the enterprise are now realizing that OSS is absolutely valuable for business-critical deployments, providing capabilities equal or greater to their proprietary counterparts at a fraction of the cost. Allianz, AutoZone, Cisco, and Lufthansa Flight Training are just a few of the many enterprises making smart choices with Liferay open source.

Meanwhile, open source vendors like Liferay have addressed the needs of business end-users with solutions that present high-quality open source software in an attractive way. For example, Liferay introduced our Enterprise Edition subscription at the beginning of the year and developed Social Office as a focused solution for team collaboration.

It's always nice to see Liferay customers being covered in the media, and it's great to hear that Goodwill has been innovating in their industry, not only by using Liferay open source software but with new and creative marketing and diversification.

Saving Smart

Company Blogs 24. Februar 2009 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

Everyone these days is thinking about the economy and how to hold on to their cash in what seems to be the worst downturn of the last 60 years. Open source vendors that had for the last 24 months been emphasizing other OSS benefits like control, risk-mitigation, better fit to business, and standards, seem to have made a strong return to value-oriented messaging. 

We've done our share of "recession marketing" as well, but here at Liferay, what we've been emphasizing is that Liferay Portal is not only a smart choice to save you cash today, but also to give your business sustained competitive advantage for the long-term. I've been taking this message to the market and people have responded well. Because while they want to show decision makers that they can save money with open source, they also want to choose technology that's fit for business long-term. No one wants to take the rap for short-sighted choices three or five years down the line.

I'm bringing these arguments together here, divided into two sections: "Doing more with less" which shows you how Liferay can save you money today, and "Investing in the long-term," which shows why Liferay makes sense in the long view as well. I hope those of you who are trying to make the argument for Liferay and OSS in general will find some of these ideas helpful in making your case. 

Doing more with less

1. Use your existing software and people. Liferay is famous for its compatibility with a wide range of existing infrastructure software, including the popular contenders like MySQL, Oracle DB, SQLServer, DB2, WebLogic AS, Websphere AS, Oracle AS, JBoss AS, and Tomcat. This means Liferay not only costs less to acquire because of its open source license, but it also has lower ancillary costs. If you already have licenses for these products, you can use them for your Liferay installation. This also saves on training costs since your existing IT staff is most familiar with products already in-house.  

 2. Built-in CMS, Collaboration, and Social Networking. Liferay has also long been known for giving you a lot of functionality out of the box. We did this because so many portal deployments have historically flopped—portal software sat at the edge of infrastructure (a link b/t the app server and applications) and didn't provide immediate solutions for business problems without a great deal of investment.  In other words, they didn't give you anything unless you spent a lot of money doing integration and customization.

So Liferay has taken the strategy of providing immediate solutions people typically need for their web-based applications, within the infrastructure of a portal that brings you long-term integration and reusability benefits 

You know about our WCM and its use in a lot of production systems. Our collaboration suite is being used by Cisco, OCLC, and LavaLife. And The Cradle and pjoon.com, among others, are using Liferay's social computing features. 

By taking an agile, phased approach to development, Liferay users can deploy a solution for web publishing or collaboration immediately (in as little as a week to 3 months), then follow up with short project iterations to add other components. 

3. Web-oriented architecture and lightweight integration (Mashups, widgets and more). A lot of people are talking about the benefits of so-called "Web Oriented Architecture," which forgoes some of the overhead of heavier SOA tools and conventions like SOAP web services, governance tools, and ESBs. So some Liferay customers are taking a lightweight approach to integration using widgets and RSS, XML and JSON data sources along with our pre-built portlets like Google Maps. You can also export portlets as applications to Facebook or import iGoogle gadgets and iPhone websites. These mashup-oriented solutions are surprisingly effective for certain use cases and take very little development investment.  

4. Support for scripting languages: PHP, Ruby, Python, Groovy, etc. Scripting languages are gaining acceptance in the enterprise, and choosing a Java-based solution shouldn't have to mean jettisoning your investment in these technologies. That's why Liferay pioneered the ability to deploy portlets based on these popular scripting languages into a portal solution. You can simply upload a ZIP and Liferay add the necessary files and libraries to get your simple PHP or other app running. 

5. Reduce capital expenditures and save on operating expenses. The open source savings equation should be familiar to all of us by now, but here's a more concrete calculation. We took a list of our customers from the second half of 2008 and discovered that they saved about 93% on average over IBM and Oracle retail prices for their first year. The capital expenditure part of the equation is eliminated with Liferay, of course, but our annual subscriptions options start at less than a few thousand dollars per server per year, and you have four different SLA options. So if you don't need 24/ 7 support, you can opt for a lower cost package, but round-the-clock service is also there for your business-critical deployments.

The other side of the coin: investing in the long-term

Of course it's not enough just to focus on cutting immediate costs if the solutions you choose reduce your competitiveness in the future. So here's a list of the ways Liferay prepares you for the next economic upswing.  

1. Build a solution that fits your business. One of the reasons why our customers continue to choose Liferay over other point solutions for CMS, social networking, blogs, wikis, forums, and IM, is their ability to customize Liferay and integrate it into their business. For example, one of our clients started out using Liferay with an SSO solution into some popular forums and Wiki providers, but in phase two they're going to move that all into Liferay so they can customize the user experience for their particular business need. In this case, they're driving revenue by reducing the time to market of their solution partners, which in turn increases the sales revenue. 

2. Usability matters. Today's web users are sophisticated and accustomed to consumer sites like Facebook and Google Maps with intuitive user experience. As a portal vendor, we understand that a major part of our value proposition lies in providing a reusable presentation layer. So we've invested strongly in UI and our front-end team led by Director of UI Engineering Nate Cavanaugh has been constantly improving and innovating around our user experience.  

Rich internet applications are also seeing significant development, so we're doing our best to support a variety of presentation frameworks, be it AJAX through JQuery or some other leading libraries, or JSF with our ICEfaces and other JSF library support. We've also seen community members put a Google web toolkit or Flex front-end to Liferay with some positive results. 

All this is important because user adoption is key to long-term return on investment. If no one is using your web application, you'll waste a lot of time and resources on a solution that doesn't impact the business. 

3. Innovation, security, and maintenance. Because of Liferay's open source model, which is among the most open even among OSS vendors, you can expect to benefit from new features, improved security and reduced maintenance costs over the long term.  

One major part of the equation is our strong open source community, which constantly innovates new features and adds stability with bug reports and fixes for performance and security. Liferay has a ten year development history starting in 2000, and our community growth has been fiercely organic. Not to diminish the valuable offerings of other open source companies, but Liferay is one of the few OSS companies that didn't suddenly appear on the landscape, and we're still financially independent and profitable, which allows to make decisions favorable to the community. 

In addition, many of Liferay's features are sponsored by clients, which means they pay for development of features that address their business requirements but also can benefit other users. Liferay in turn promises to maintain that code long-term, reducing the maintenance cost to the sponsoring client. Other users and customers can then benefit from the new features, improving on them and multiplying the benefits to all parties. 

4. Lower total cost of ownership over the life of your application.  Reduced capital expenditures are nice, but as a Gartner report recently pointed out, it's not enough just to spread your costs around to other places. Fortunately, Liferay is also less expensive to maintain over time. Oracle's annual maintenance costs for WebCenter Suite, for example, are 11 times higher than our retail price per server for the highest level of support. And you should also factor in the reduced maintenance costs for custom features if you have a sponsored development relationship with Liferay, as well as reduced additional maintenance for supporting infrastructure.  

More reasons than ever to choose Liferay

The cost / benefit analysis for open source software can be tricky and saving money is not a guarantee. But more importantly, it's foolish to make a cost-based decision today only to lose out on future competitiveness and revenue streams. Liferay's customers have been smart about their savings—they're investing in their futures with Liferay open source software, and it's a perspective you should take to any open source software you're evaluating today. 

And as a final note, if your organization is resisting open source adoption due to legal issues or a general discomfort with OS-licensed software, I'll write a follow up post about making a case. But here are two initial points: 

1. Liferay's MIT license is the most liberal and non-viral license out there, which is reassuring for businesses. 

2. Liferay's EE is available under a commercial license for those who prefer that option, with the added benefit of a long-term subscription to maintenance updates.  

Liferay Journal is now Liferay Web Content Management

Company Blogs 13. Januar 2009 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

When Brian Chan first started working on Liferay in 2000, one of the immediate goals was to use Liferay to build a public website for his church. Of course, as a portal-based website, it would have additional personalization capabilities, and one need was to allow individual users to keep a daily record of what they've done, much like what we now know as blogs. Hence, the web publishing component of Liferay was named "Journal."
Since its humble beginnings, Liferay Journal has grown into a full-fledged web content management system, used in production by enterprises (and non-profits) and with the standard stable of enterprise features. In fact, many use Liferay as a web content management system without knowing about all of our portal and collaboration capabilities. 
Over the years, some people have had trouble finding our WCM, not realizing it's called "Journal." Also, with the rise of blogs and the introduction of our own collaboration suite, the Journal nomenclature has increasingly become a point of confusion.
In 5.2 we'll be releasing the Liferay Control Panel, a single interface that consolidates all Liferay administration portlets, and since the "Journal" portlet is part of that change, we've finally decided to rename Journal. So let me be the first to proudly (re) introduce Liferay Web Content Management (WCM), a full enterprise solution for web publishing that's already being used in production to deliver great websites, including: 
If you're running your website on Liferay Web Content Management, feel free to email us at pr@liferay.com to let us know. Meanwhile, here's a rundown of the great features of Liferay WCM:
  • Web 2.0 features like RSS, tagging, comments and ratings. Of course you can also enhance your site with the Liferay Collaboration suite of features.
  • Friendly URLs, Site Maps, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You can also easily add Google Analytics to your Liferay-powered website through an administrative interface. In future versions we'll have deeper reporting and user tracking capabilities built in.
  • Support for dynamic virtual hosting. A single Liferay instance can host thousands of website instances, each with a unique domain. See MusicToday for a great example of this use case.
  • Full localization capabilities for article elements. That means each block of text and each image can be localized. We find Liferay-based public websites built in countries as diverse as Hungary, Iran, China, France, Kazakhstan, Germany, Vietnam, and about 40 other countries beyond. 
  • Common content meta-data usage for mixed-content publishing scenarios. You can access blogs, web content, documents, wiki pages, and bookmarks through the Asset Publisher portlet, which will find content assets dynamically according to meta-data, tags, or other criteria.
  • Multi-stage content staging and publishing. Liferay allows you to define publishing workflow that tracks changes to web content as well as the pages of the site in which they live. These changes are staged by users with specific roles in a non-production environment. After up to three stages of approval, the result can then be published—immediately or on a schedule—to either the same or a remote server instance. 
  • Structured content with inheritance and dynamic lists. This means you can define article types with set elements (such as title, headline, sub-headline, body text, image, caption) as well as dynamic element collections. For example, for an article that displays news items, users can add additional news items (including title, link, and summary) as a set of elements, and add any number of them.
  • Script-level access to the Liferay API. Users of Liferay Web Content Management can access any business tier services from our Velocity-based article templates. This means you can access users, documents, portal pages, content and other elements directly from your web content to quickly put together pages with dynamic content. This even works for Liferay plug-ins. For example, Liferay's public website lists our public training dates, which are defined in a separate plug-in with its own data model.
  • Versioning, publication and expiration dates for full control over your site's publishing behavior.
And of course, Liferay Web Content Management is part of Liferay Portal, which means you get all the SOA, web services, user management, integration, collaboration and social computing capabilities of our flagship product alongside your website. 
We'll be migrating our marketing literature over to the new nomenclature, but in the meantime, the name change has been committed to our SVN and will be released with Liferay Portal 5.2. Enjoy!

2008 in Review

Company Blogs 5. Januar 2009 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

I had a chance to reflect on 2008 on my way to Tokyo two weeks ago and was really humbled by realizing how many amazing opportunities Liferay has had this year. 

2008 Highlights: Continued Grassroots Success, and Recognition from Decision Makers and Marquee Customers

2008 has been the year where Liferay's traditional strength within the developer and SI community has been complemented by overwhelming recognition from "the top down," helping enterprise executives make sense of their enterprise portal options in a chaotic market:

  • In January, Oracle kicked off the year with its acquisition of BEA, leaving us with one less competitor and confusion in the portal marketplace. Customers were left to play russian roulette choosing one of four BEA/Oracle portal products; many of them decided instead to choose Liferay, whose commitment to open source and open standards eliminates the risks of product discontinuation, company failure, or acquisition.
  • February saw the launch of Lufthansa Flight Training's Liferay-based website and learning delivery system (which they chose over Sharepoint 2007) and AAA's new enterprise-wide intranet. 
  • In March, Liferay participated in its first Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit in Baltimore, where open source was highlighted as one of five disruptive forces in the IT market today. Also, at Brainshare, Novell continued to showcase its use of Liferay in its teaming and conferencing solution. Liferay also held its first User Group in Dalian, with over 100 attendees from major Chinese enterprises and government bodies, including Genpact, SAP, Dell, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. 
  • May saw the formal announcement of our relationship with Sun, who, recognizing Liferay's leadership in the portal space, decided to sunset their own portal and use Liferay instead. Their engineers have been submitting fixes and improvements to Liferay Portal, and Sun customers interested in an open source portal solution can now turn to Liferay for subscriptions and support.
  • In June, Cisco Systems launched its Liferay-based Developer Network, an online social collaboration community that makes a direct impact on Cisco's bottom line. Liferay also participated in the Intalio User Conference in San Francisco, highlighting Liferay's strengths as part of a complete open source SOA solution, providing a single loosely-coupled, reusable presentation tier with user management, content management, collaboration capability, social computing, and web services connectivity to complement Intalio's great BPM and workflow capability. 
  • August was a busy month kicked off by Liferay's annual community Meetup at our headquarters in Los Angeles. Over 100 community members spent the day in various workshops, and we announced the availability of Liferay Enterprise Edition, a subscription service that provides long-term maintenance updates, bug fixes, and optional indemnification for our enterprise customers who can't always upgrade to the latest versions of Liferay. August also saw the launch of two great sites, Sesame Workshop's new web destination for kids, and OCLC's WebJunction, a social collaboration network for librarians across North America. 
  • September was our first ever Liferay European Symposium, with nearly 200 paid participants joining Liferay for two days of keynotes, workshops, case studies, and networking. Our European customers like HanseMerkur, BMW and Kempinski Hotels gave several presentations, and we had attendees from as far away as New Zealand and India. Also in September, Liferay's inclusion as a visionary in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portal products  solidified our standing as the open source enterprise portal leader.
  • In October, York University rolled out its Liferay-based student portal to rave reviews. In a short six months, the team created a one-stop place for students to check their course schedules, view payment and billing information, interact with library systems, receive grades, review personalized exam schedules, and more.  Liferay also scored a double with its inclusion in the Magic Quadrant for Social Software with our new Social Office product. 
  • In November, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development launched the Rural Poverty Portal as a Liferay Web 2.0 collaboration site, lending credence to Liferay's inclusion in the EContent 100 for the third consecutive year.
  • December is not over yet, but we've already seen the launch of MINI United, a social networking site for MINI owners created on Liferay Portal. We also convened the Liferay team from eight different countries for our annual Liferay Retreat and Developer Pow Wow; for about 2-3 weeks every winter, our core engineering team puts their heads together in the LA office to plan, code, and throw it down on the handball court. We held the first ever World Cup of Liferay Football, and predictably the two European teams faced off in the finals, with Spain taking the first year's cup. Frankfurt vows vengeance next year and word has it they can already be seen practicing in the fields of sleepy Langen in near zero temperatures. 

Organizational Growth (Liferay Now in 3 out of 4 BRIC Countries)

2008 has been a year of growth for Liferay:

  • Liferay GmbH, our Frankfurt-based European headquarters, is on a tear, with 100%+ revenue growth and an impressive client roster, including BMW, Robert Bosch, HanseMerkur, Kempinski Hotels, Lufthansa Flight Training, and Dekra AG. Our Director of European Operations, Suresh Shamanna, has built a fantastic team in Frankfurt and has worked relentlessly to serve our customers in that market. Great work, Suresh!
  • Our Brazilian team grew by 50% and they've proved to be some of our best engineers, adding creativity, passion and brasileiro flair to the team. Força brasil!
  • In April we formalized our Madrid operations with the establishment of Liferay SL, providing subscription support and sponsored development capability to the Iberian market and adding the engineering talents of our three amigos Alberto, Jorge, and Julio. What strikes me about our Spanish team is their commitment to the open source ethos and to the Liferay vision. They would not have joined Liferay if not for our commitment to making an impact on the world.
  • Liferay's operations in China continues to grow, and they are well positioned to serve our customers in the Asia Pacific region, including the Korean and Japanese markets.
  • Liferay India was founded this year to complement the global professional services team and deliver additional value through global sourcing of our talent
  • Liferay has increased activity in the Southern Hemisphere, with two training sessions given in Kuala Lumpur, a Cocktail Reception held with Intalio in Singapore, and increased adoption and customer acquisition in Africa.

What's amazing about our growth story is that it was completely organic and based on relationships. Folks we hire at Liferay are people we trust, either through past working lives or friendships or because they are members of the community that have invested in the product for years. Even our operations in China and India were not part of some calculated outsourcing strategy but rather based on existing connections and organic growth.

Profitable for a Fifth Straight Year—and still Passionate

I also want to say that we're very fortunate to work at a company that is profitable and self-funded. Our profitability proves we are providing real value to customers, who are willing to pay for our subscriptions and services, and also gives us the following advantages:

  • Profitability means we make decisions based on what is best for our customers and the product, since Liferay isn't under pressure to get out of the red.
  • We deliver on the promise of open source value by focusing investment on product engineering. 
  • Liferay sets our own agenda for how we balance revenue growth and our commitment to the Liferay open source community. For example, when we decided to introduce Liferay Enterprise Edition, we made key decisions to protect our community's investment in Liferay Portal. 

It's also my privilege to work with an amazing group of passionate people. Liferay folks love what they do, which shows in the products they build and the services they provide. And most importantly, many of them have explicitly stated they would not work here if not for our vision to make an impact on the world.


The Bigger Picture

To that end, it would be good to talk about that vision. 2008 was a tumultuous year in the broader world outside technology and software. Certainly this was a historic and unprecedented year for the financial markets and the global economy, and the fallout from 2008 will continue to affect quality of life for many people from the "top" all the way to the "bottom" for years to come. Economists, businessmen, and politicians will need to take a long, hard look at policies, systems, and institutions to see what needs to change to create a sustainable world system for the future. For its small part, the open source world is expecting enterprises to take a fresh look at their software offerings, which promise greater ROI and flexibility to respond to crisis, but these are economic and operational considerations and perhaps ancillary to the greater issues at hand.

2008 also saw a great deal of political unrest and natural disaster, and Liferay had the privilege of being involved in helping address some of those issues: 

  • We began the year with unrest in Kenya, where one of the non-profits we work with, Common Hope for Health, has done a lot of work to address public health issues. CHH blogged about the situation on their Liferay site, and its founder Scott Lee continues to be involved in the work there. 
  • Liferay and its open source community also had the privilege to support relief efforts in both China and Myanmar, both of which were devastated by natural disasters in May of this year. Liferay employees and the Liferay community donated a total of $9429 to the causes, and with Liferay's 2 for 1 match a total of $28,287 was raised. 
  • Finally, as mentioned earlier, Liferay has had the privilege this year of working with the UN IFAD and Liferay also began working with the World Food Programme for a major SOA integration initiative. Both organizations seek to address poverty issues on a long-term basis. 

When Brian Chan founded Liferay, he really wanted to make sure we didn't wait until the end of our lives to get involved in world changing work, and though the impact we make really is small (we're just a software company after all—and a free software company at that), it is there. I share this neither to boast nor to belittle the work we do; it's neither revolutionary nor inconsequential, but it is the contribution we can make, and I hope it will challenge others of you in positions of influence to do the same. 

Introducing Social Office

Company Blogs 1. Dezember 2008 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

This week I'm pleased to announce the first beta release of Liferay Social Office, Liferay's new social collaboration software. While Liferay Portal has had social networking, web 2.0, and collaboration functionality for some time, Social Office is our first effort at putting it all together in a intuitive and integrated way.

Social Office has an elegant new interface designed to help users focused on the task at hand.


Chat with online co-workers about the content you're currently browsing.

Social Office is designed to make it easier to do the work you do every day. For most of us, there is a constant interaction between what we do on our own and our interactions with co-workers. For example, if I'm writing a press release about our latest software offering, I need to speak with my engineers to get an overview of what features are included. Then I'll synthesize their ideas in a way that makes sense to a business audience, and check back with them to make sure what I wrote squares with reality. I'll also run it by legal to make sure I'm not breaking any rules.

Today, many of us do this using some kind of Office suite (Microsoft or OpenOffice) in conjunction with email, IM, and conference calls. That means a lot of documents (with names like Press Release Final Final FINAL version.doc) on our hard drives and flooding our inboxes, with a lot of separate, uncaptured conversations around them. It also leads to the immortal CC: list: once you're copied on a thread, there's no way to gracefully exit from it, even if you're only tangentially involved in the conversation.

See related content without hunting for it.

Liferay wants to change that dynamic with Social Office. So while there are many "features" or "tools" used in Social Office, the goal of the product really goes beyond specifics like wiki, Office integration, or activity tracking. More importantly, Social Office is doing it's job when it connects your team to the work you're doing, and vice versa, in an effortless way. It's working when you stop relying on your inbox as an all-in-one document repository, collaboration platform, and instant messaging system. Ultimately, Social Office should make it easy for everyone on your team to be aware of each other's work and to be only as involved as they need to, without a lot of effort.

Now I'll be the first to admit that this first beta release is not yet there. There's a lot that needs to be improved before Social Office will have fulfilled its vision. But I think it's a huge step toward getting there and it's only going to get better. We'll be looking forward to hearing what works and what doesn't so we can arrive at a product that will make life easier for all of us.

Social Office shows you a summary of all the activities going on in the sites you belong to.


Where Can I Get Social Office?

Liferay Social Office is available now as a beta release. You can download a Windows Installer or zip for other operating systems. We've also created a Wiki article with basic installation instructions

Over the next few weeks, we'll look at some of the features in depth and talk about the overall vision as well as some of our future plans for the product. In the meantime, do let us know what you think. 

Also, there are a number of identified issues, and please feel free to report others you come across. 

Gartner Recognizes Liferay's Accomplishments in Horizontal Portal and Social Software

Company Blogs 19. November 2008 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

Some of you may have been following our developments with the analyst community, particularly Gartner and their 2008 Magic Quadrant reports. For those of that haven't, Liferay was recently recognized in two Magic Quadrants:

You can see what the Google-sphere thinks about these results with the links above. For our part, it's an interesting development. On the one hand, as an open source vendor we're not used to getting attention from the traditional analysts (though to be fair Gartner mentioned us in last year's report and Forrester had a research note including Liferay and Jetspeed as early as 2003), who tend to provide research to the kinds of organizations that have been wary of adopting open source software. Technology decisions at these organizations are usually made by higher-level decision makers—CIOs and CTOs or even business side decision makers. For this audience, the traditional software sales model has been the dominant acquisition process, including heavy solicitation from large vendors like IBM and Oracle, research from analysts, and perhaps most importantly, the fear of making a bad decision (and the "nobody gets fired for buying IBM" mentality). 

On the other hand, we've recognized for some time that since open source is a fundamental shift in the way software is developed, distributed and maintained, analysts seeking to stay relevant would need to address the phenomenon as a legitimate dimension of their market research sooner or later. And they did: at Gartner's Portals, Content, and Collaboration Summit in Baltimore earlier this year, the keynote recognized five significant technologies that are changing the IT landscape:

  • software as a service (SaaS)
  • global-class computing
  • the consumerization of IT
  • Web 2.0
  • open source

It's interesting to note that at least four of the five affect, relate to, or are being addressed by Liferay in some way:

  • SaaS is a legitimate business model that we'll be implementing in the near future with our Social Office product. A compelling, reliable solution for collaboration (whether intranet or across enterprise boundaries) on a subscription/hosted basis will be a welcome alternative for many companies who don't want to deal with the hassle of maintaining these sites in-house.
  • Consumerization of IT: Google, Facebook, and Apple have really pushed the envelope with respect to usability and simplicity, and they constantly inspire us and challenge us to make our software more intuitive.
  • Web 2.0: collaboration is at the heart of the traditional portal use case, and we think Liferay is getting it right where the other kludgy and expensive proprietary offerings are limping along
  • Open source: Liferay is the most liberal commercial open source vendor out there.

One of the interesting dynamics we encountered while being considered for the Magic Quadrant reports was how to define qualifying criteria. I think it's something that we will continue to wrestle with over time: how do you measure the ability to execute of an open source vendor vs. a proprietary one? We don't have the traditional limitations (huge sales and acquisition costs, lack of a viral distribution model) of a proprietary vendor, and we work with a distributed community for product development and maintenance. So our size (much smaller than IBM) belies our ability to create great software and successfully deploy it to enterprise environments. To add to the complexity, our relationship with Sun Microsystems, through which 40 of their engineers actively contribute features and fixes to our code base, adds a another layer of nuance. 

Whatever the outcome, we welcome the coverage. Liferay's installed base includes an incredible roster of the world's most successful enterprises, including Allianz, AutoZone, Benetton, BMW, Bosch, Cisco Systems, Lufthansa Flight Training, and O2, but our advocates at these organizations have often been technology pioneers that understand open source ROI. There are still a lot of Global 2000 companies who take a more cautious approach to technology and who need to be educated about the open choices they have. These companies need to know that the $125,000 per processor they're spending on Oracle WebCenter Suite (list price as of June 2008) is a huge misallocation of IT dollars that can be re-invested instead into building innovative extensions to open source solutions. They need to know open alternatives exist, and if the Magic Quadrant is their tool of choice, more power to them. 

Finally, Liferay's placement in the MQ brings added strength to our customer acquisition process. We have always had enthusiastic developers, architects, and technologists in our community, grassroots advocates who vouch for us and evangelize Liferay to their management. Some have been able to convince management to go open source, but others have faced resistance. Now, when those decision makers hear the rave reviews from their teams about Liferay but get cold feet about adopting an unknown technology, they can turn to their trusted sources, such as the MQ, to validate what their developers already knew. 

A Truly Social Enterprise

Company Blogs 5. August 2008 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

Brian just wrote a great blog about the Meetup and I couldn't resist adding my usual philosophical shpiel.

The Meetup this year was interesting because of how much it was a reflection of the social collaborative dynamic of companies and communities like Liferay. Liferay is a geographically distributed, heterogenous (employees, customers and community enthusiasts) group of people using web-based tools to arrive at a common goal: creating great software. Increasingly, we're doing that using Liferay itself: we use Liferay's built in message boards for sharing knowledge, use blogs to introduce new features and share ideas like this one, and use Wikis to quickly publish documentation and how-to's on the product. But more than that, we're also using our social networking features to connect with people in the Liferay community and build relationships of value online.

In fact we used Liferay.com's social network to allow self registration for this year's Meetup, and it was a huge success. Over 100 people from Europe, North and South America signed up for and attended the Meetup, and we got a great mix of both long time and new users, developers and business users, and Liferay customers and partners. We saved countless hours of tedious work by using Liferay's built-in social capabilities for registration, but more than that we were able to build enthusiasm for the event by word of mouth.

Now that we have put names to faces, we'll be able to use the social network to follow up on sales leads, build relationships with community members, and generally keep the conversation going about how to make Liferay the best product available for creating innovative social collaborative web spaces.

There's an incredible opportunity in this market to move beyond collaboration for the sake of being social to delivering real business value, whether in increased revenues or reduced costs, through social collaborative software. Several of Liferay's clients are already doing that today and deriving tremendous returns on their investment. If your company doesn't have a strategy for leveraging these new social capabilities, you will definitely be missing out.

For those of you who did attend the Meetup, definitely let us know what you thought. Were the sessions helpful? Too detailed or too general? Did you want to hear more about Liferay?

Leaving feedback is as easy as adding a comment to this blog or leaving a message on my Wall, so I'll look forward to hearing from all of you.

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to join us for our second annual Meetup. See you in Frankfurt!


Something fun.

Company Blogs 8. Juli 2008 Von Bryan Cheung Staff


Reflecting on Myanmar and Sichuan

Company Blogs 15. Mai 2008 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

I picked up a copy of the International Herald Tribune while boarding my flight for Rome where I'm helping a client launch their new social computing platform this month. I had heard about the devastation in Myanmar that happened now over two weeks ago, but it wasn't until Wednesday morning of this week that what happened really hit me. A photo on the front page of the Tribune showed the bodies of four little girls and their mother, laid in a row on the ground, and the horror of the situation really sunk in.

I don't know why it took me so long to respond emotionally to the disaster. I had sent an email to my team the week the cyclone hit mentioning that we should put something up on our front page, but my heart wasn't fully there until I saw that photo.

Meanwhile, I had been reading about the earthquake in Sichuan, and about how many of the victims were children trapped under the rubble of collapsed school buildings. The death of a child is heart-wrenching in any scenario, but the impact on these parents is particularly severe because for most it's their only child, and many are past child bearing age. Perhaps more than in any other culture today, China places so much hope in her children.

Several of my friends and co-workers here at Liferay have been talking about the appropriate response, particularly given some of the complications in directing aid effectively to the affected areas. One of us was particularly insistent that we move quickly in spite of such obstacles, as a measure of our commitment to the victims in need of immediate aid. Others expressed a desire to respond thoughtfully, with an eye to long-term effectiveness, insisting that finances were not the bottleneck but rather process, manpower, and emergency response systems.

We decided that we wanted to do both—make an immediate donation for near-term relief, as well as set in motion something we've been talking about doing for the past couple of years.

For those of you who are familiar with Liferay's story, you know that we set out to build a company to financially support non-profit organizations through donations of a percentage of our profits. You may also know that while that commitment remains, we now realize we can also engage in technical work directly with people and organizations, using our skills and the software we create to empower non-profits and other organizations to be more effective. Finally, we've seen the power of open source software to break down national barriers and enable us to help individuals in developing countries build businesses to benefit their local economies.

Over the last six months, yet another dimension has been added to that vision. One of our recipients suggested to us that we not simply give money to them, because for them money was not the limiting factor. Instead, they encouraged us to use the finances to fund engineering efforts toward building a "Humanitarian Business Suite" that would enable humanitarian organizations to respond more quickly and effectively to world crises.

They went on to explain that setting up a long-term (five year or longer) relief operation is a lot like setting up a $10 milion business, and that these operations have a real need for easy-to-deploy, enterprise-grade software that will help them manage human resources, direct supply chain, and track financial records—in short, do everything a typical SMB does, but in an environment where time equals lives.

Finally, as we've thought more and more about how best to engage with the Liferay community that has been built over the last eight years, we realized there's an opportunity here to invite all of you into our response to these disasters. So here's what we've decided to do:

  • Every dollar donated by a Liferay community member to World Vision will be matched by a dollar from Liferay to World Vision, up to $10,000
  • That dollar will also be matched by a dollar set aside for the Liferay Foundation, which will be Liferay's non-profit organization through which we will coordinate the engineering work for the Humanitarian Business Suite.

We recognize that $10,000 is hardly a large sum of money, especially compared with the resources of the Gates Foundation and other funds. Still, we hope to work up to larger donations over time, and we do believe the act of giving itself is key. In fact, don't worry if your personal gift is not a large sum; we simply want to join with you in responding and see our community come together for a cause beyond software.


As I chewed on these thoughts over the last couple of days, I realized my initial response, sadly enough, is not surprising. There are so many things competing for our hearts and minds today that it's easy to numb yourself to other people's pain. That's why it's important to take a disciplined, long-term approach to one's engagement with the world. I believe the work we do through Liferay Foundation, as well as the disciplined giving we commit to as a company, will help us to stay alert and involved even when our emotions don't always match the occasion at hand.

I look forward to your thoughts, comments, and experiences.

You'll see the banner show up on the front page once our link to World Vision is ready to go. Thanks!

Recap of JavaOne 2008

Company Blogs 13. Mai 2008 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

Liferay enjoyed a great JavaOne this year, our third corporate appearance at the ground zero of the Java development world.  The emphasis this year was on openness, community, and the individual, reflecting the transformation our industry and culture have gone through over the last decade. In IT, that's been reflected in a shift from proprietary solutions controlled by the few to a landscape where unknown upstarts out-maneuver established vendors. It was also a nod to the buzz-idea of the season, which is the empowerment of the individual (reflected in Time's Person of the Year being "You" and the never-ending stream of business models chasing ways to "monetize" on mass participation). 

Visitors to our booth came looking for core developers by name ("Is Jorge here?" "I'm looking for Neil Griffin, please"). A by-product of the phenomenon of open source community is that many of us have never met each other in person. Conferences, especially the developer-focused JavaOne, are a chance to make our connections more personal—and of course, to talk about new ideas and features for Liferay. 

Several of our visitors came from Sun Microsystems, with whom we made an announcement on Wednesday morning of the conference. Their portal team has known about our relationship for some time, but now that it's "official," folks from many other Sun departments and product groups wanted to see what the buzz was all about. Many were of course excited to discover Liferay's capabilities and consider new possibilities for how to leverage Liferay and the related Sun products in their own work.

The announcement was taken positively by customers and community members as well. It was important to us for people to understand that this initiative was an organic growth of our extant open source community and not simply a marketing-driven, top-down initiative without real value. Analysts and reporters we spoke to about the announcement were surprised how exclusively tech-driven the relationship was, but I believe that's what makes it innovative. We are enabling real open source collaboration among several communities, bringing several voices to the table, and working together to build solutions that enterprises and individuals can use.  

I also had several engaging conversations with various business counterparts at companies like IceSoft, Terracotta, Intalio, and SpringSource. The common denominator from my conversations seems to be that open source companies genuinely care about delivering value and service to their community members, whether they are developers, end-users, corporations, or not-for-profits. We are all at a crossroads between proprietary and open solutions, "old school" and "new school" business models, and of course, profit vs. service motivations.  The trick is to build sustainable businesses without betraying the community. 

Finally, I'm very excited about Liferay's new developer network, in beta today on this site. We want to bring people out of the woodwork and recognize the contributions our community makes everyday to Liferay Portal. We also expect to see increased participation from this, as people see the benefits of raising their profile in the Liferay community. 

Social Analysis: Gartner PCC 2008 Baltimore

Company Blogs 27. März 2008 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

We've wrapped up the second day of the Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration conference here in Baltimore, where open source software was highlighted as one of the five "disruptive" forces in the technology market.

Social computing topics dominated the conference, which makes sense because portals, content management and collaboration software  really do converge in the ether of personal interaction. At Liferay we've emphasized to our customers that portals are merely tools to make it easier to connect people with other people, with content, and with applications. That's why it's been natural for us to extend our product into the CMS, collaboration and social networking spaces. Of course there are hundreds of vendors that are approaching the same nexus from different points of origin, and each have different strengths and weaknesses. We're amazed at what some of the vendors out there are already successfully doing in this space.

I was reminded again that there's no substitute for meeting people face to face. We encountered a broad range of people this weekend, from the analysts that have been covering Liferay for several years, to long-term users of Liferay (known and unknown) whom we finally met for the first time, to those who were encountering Liferay for the first time and still have a lot of misunderstandings about open source. But having met them face to face, all of these folks now feel a lot more comfortable with Liferay as a company, and that's going to make a difference in how much and in what ways they invest in Liferay. And of course it also affects the way we'll invest in them individually.

Social computing enjoys the cachet it does precisely because people are social creatures. As we shed the last vestiges of the modernist, cogs-in-a-wheel approach to productivity we inherited from the 20th century, we are increasingly recognizing that intangible personal skills and relationships are central to the way business and work get done. We're trying to capture those intangibles in social software—essentially, we're evolving our business machinery to fit our humanity rather than the other way around.

Conferences like these take a lot of time, energy, and financial resources and can only happen a few times a year. The more we get social software right, the closer we'll be able to approximate the benefits we glean here in our virtual workspaces.

Web2ForDev Conference

Company Blogs 25. September 2007 Von Bryan Cheung Staff

I'm currently at the Web2ForDev conference in Rome, Italy, sponsored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and many other organizations, including the International Fund for Agriculture Development, one of our clients. It's great to see how the development (as in developing countries, not software development) is using technology to empower the poor to help themselves.



The main session hall.


One of the major themes is market access and information. In the U.S. we're used to open access to information; the fact that we can easily get up to the minute (or less) quotes on securities is something we take for granted -- in Liferay's world, I remember thinking, a Stocks portlet? Big deal, everyone has that! But that's not the case in, say, crop markets in rural developing areas. Something as simple as knowing the prevailing prices of corn or wheat can help farmers maximize their profits and adjust their production to meet market demand with their supply.


That's the power of information. Part of what we're trying to do with Liferay is make it easier for information to get out to the right people -- whether that means farmers or the sales team of a major financial services company.


The other major factor that comes into consideration with this audience is performance. Not blazingly fast Flash-based interfaces on the latest servers, but being able to access a website using an unreliable 9600 baud dial up connection. The disadvantages for the developing world are not only in the areas of reliable water, power and food supplies, or basic health care; the broadband connections we enjoy in the developed world are also a luxury taken for granted.


I'll be presenting tomorrow afternoon about the connection between open source, the evolving web ("Web 2.0") and the development community. All three have been about participation - enabling people to move beyond passive consumption to active contribution and community building.




Streets of Rome.



FAO headquarters has a a great view of Rome. Here, the road leading from Circo Massimo to Colosseo.

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