Subject: Re: a tool free software developers need
From: Brian Behlendorf <brian@collab.net>
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2002 17:09:23 -0800 (PST)

On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, Tom Lord wrote:
> 	This [the test platform service] is a good idea. I would be
> 	able to utilize something like this quite often. But would I
> 	pay? not sure about that...
>
> I think you would not.  I think it would be paid for mostly by
> platform vendors of all types, with some augmentation of the network
> by volunteers.  OSDL is a domain-specific implementation of the basic
> idea and that's free (to selected projects).

OSDL is also not a business.  I don't believe you could make a venture
like this profitable based only on having the hardware or software vendors
pay for it.  If you're lucky and saavy with them, they'll give you free
hardware or software, maybe even free support, maybe even access to their
own developers.  And even then, it'll be only for their most recent
hardware and software - not for the legacy platforms which everyone has to
support.

The dot.com business plan graveyard is littered with plans
where the main "product" wasn't sold directly, but some auxiliary
side-effect of the selling of the product was what generated revenue.
E.g. ad banners.  Inevitably you end up in situations where you need to
make judgements either in favor of the consumers of your product, or the
people who pay the bills - and almost inevitably the former lose out
because the short-term analysis and needs favor the latter, and the whole
model crumbles.

I'd suggest modelling this on the idea that the consumers do pay directly
for time on the farm - per hour, per platform.  Figure out your costs and
tack on a reasonable margin - services companies are expected to make 50%
margins or better, so that means at least doubling the overall costs to
the org, which even then assumes 100% capacity usage.  Then if you want to
support open source developers doing this work, either allocate some
system time as a donation (can't write it off, though, it just comes off
the top line) or set up another marketplace where open source developers
can "sell" sponsorship in exchange for time, or something (e.g., an Apache
developer saying to IBM "pay for AIX system time for me and I'll fix this
bug").

I've heard this idea tossed around a couple times in the last 8 years so
if there was a workable business plan there I'd assume it would have been
explored... then again, great companies are put together by people doing
things that others consider impossible to do profitably (cf. Fedex).  I
suspect the most expensive part of the operation will be to pull together
sysadmins with the wide range of talent you'd need.

	Brian