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Fotango COO quits job during keynote speech

Give me free Zimki or give me unemployment

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OSCON A splash of drama hit OSCON this morning, as the COO of software maker Fotango resigned from the company during his keynote, protesting a decision not to open source the Zimki utility computing platform.

"Zimki was going to be an open source utility computing engine with a JavaScript framework," Simon Wardley, Fotango's now ex-COO, said during the keynote. "A few weeks ago, my parent company decided we were not going to open source the technology."

Wardley noted that he was brought to OSCON specifically to announce the open sourcing of Zimki. With no such news to provide, he veered into an enthralling talk that partially touched on the directions utility computing should take. At the very end of his presentation, Wardley declared it would be his "last talk for Fotango" after seven years on the job. "I do hope they get Zimki open sourced," he said.

During a brief interview after the speech, Wardley told us he'd been considering leaving Fotango "for some time" but added that the open source refusal contributed to his abrupt resignation, which occurred in writing this morning before the keynote.

Overall, Wardley called for a more open means of moving information between large, computing services providers. A broad list of companies, including Sun, IBM, Ning, and Amazon.com, offer up various forms of utility computing services where you can use the companies' server and storage infrastructure to run your own applications or calculations. This is kind of the next wave beyond hosting providers and companies such as Salesforce.com that host particular applications.

Hardware vendors have talked for a long while about computing following the electricity industry, creating a type of grid that consumers and companies can plug into with ease. This vision remains rather far off, although Amazon.com and the like are making strides.

Wardley urged the creation of an open transport layer for data that would allow customers to move their applications and information between service providers "without exit costs", picking a given utility based on its price or performance.

He suggested that Zimki could have "helped create that first utility market."

According to Wardley, a successful, open utility computing layer will depend on open standards – namely the General Public License v3 (GPL), which Wardley pointed to again and again.

"Open source is not a tactic. It is not a strategy. It is the only practical way of competing in this marketplace."

While relatively unknown, Zimki was one of the "diamond sponsors" of OSCON along with powerhouses such as Intel and Microsoft. Fotango, Zimki's parent company, no doubt shelled out plenty of cash for this sponsorship, lining Chairman Tim's pockets.

Wardley's public resignation blunted much of the goodwill Zimki might have hoped to achieve with its sponsorship of this conference.

Despite being based in London, Fotango and Zimki have eluded us. We're told, however, that Zimki serves as Fotango's flagship product and works in the following way.

"You build your Zimki application and we host, manage, scale and back it up. Rather than paying a subscription or a service fee your application consumes resources on one of 3 meters – bandwidth, storage, and operations in the virtual machine. Basically, the more of the resources you consume, the more you pay - and of course, vice versa."

The same Zimki developer who penned that description committed the company to open sourcing its software in a January blog post.

"However, there is the question of lock-in. People don't want to be tied to a particular provider of a service and they certainly don't want to be left with nothing should that service vanish," he wrote. "To answer that we're planning to open source the platform, the portal, and the billing engine. The main component we're building to facilitate this is the federated fail-over component."

It would seem you can look forward to lock-in for awhile longer. ®

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