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Re: Commercial involvement of SLX Debian Labs in Debian Edu market

You will find my comments at the end of this loooong mail.

tir, 27.07.2004 kl. 22.37 skrev Petter Reinholdtsen:
> Hm, this email ended up a bit long.  I'm sorry for not taking the time
> to make it shorter.
> [Ragnar Wisloff]
> > Today there has been a thread on the mailing lists about various
> > projects and tasks that it seems SLX Debian Labs is involved in, and
> > that some of the project developers and others might get involved
> > with as well. I am not impressed by the lack of answers to explicit
> > questions that have been asked.
> I am not sure what the fuzz is all about, but obviously there are some
> areas where the general knowledge is not up to date.
> I'll try to summarize the general principles in use by the project, as
> well as the state of the various plans/contacts/applications I'm aware
> of and/or remember at the moment.
> An important thing to remember is that the Debian-Edu/Skolelinux
> project do not make exclusive deals with anyone.  We welcome every one
> interested in making this project a success, and try our best to make
> sure everyone work together on a equal terms.
> First of all, for the Debian-Edu project to be a success, there needs
> to be a well functioning marked for people supplying services to
> schools.  The project supplies a complete software solution and a
> foundation on which others can build their work.  But only the
> software is free (as in speech and beer).  For schools to have a well
> functioning computer installation, they will need access to
> knowledgeable people monitoring and fixing their network of computers
> when a problem appears.  It will also need people locally doing the
> day-to-day maintenance.  The goal of the project is to _reduce_ the
> time needed to do maintenance, but I believe it is unlikely that the
> need will be removed.
> Another goal of the project is to make sure most of the maintenance
> can be done remotely, to make it possible to administrate a school
> over the net.  The idea is to make it possible for commercial entities
> to provide such maintenance services for several schools.  This is
> needed because a single school is unlikely to be able to maintain a
> staff of highly skilled computer administrators (after all, most such
> staff want to work in an environment where there are other highly
> skilled computer people, not alone in a school).  If regional centers
> can be established to monitor and maintain the computer installations
> of several schools, those schools are more likely to receive high
> quality services.
> In short, we want several entities providing Debian-Edu consulting and
> maintenance contracts to schools in competition with each other.  We
> want to provide those entities with the tools out of the box to make
> their job easy, to make sure the schools don't have to pay a lot to
> get this service.
> At the moment I'm aware of a few companies providing such services,
> but there is room for more.  Size is also an issue.  A school or a
> municipality might prefer a local provider, but larger government
> agencies want large deals with large companies.  We need to get to a
> point where both large and small companies are available and compete
> with each other on a level playing field, where prize and the quality
> of their work, not their lock-in strategy is the main selling point.
> This is the basis for the project to make contact and accept contact
> with all service providers on a non-exclusive basis.  We try to
> encourage companies to start providing services based on Debian-Edu.
> We give recommendations and try to explain how companies can
> participate in the Debian-Edu market.
> Of course all companies basing their work on the Debian-Edu effort
> should give back to the community as well.  There is of course the
> ethical side of it, but there is also the more pragmatic side.  If you
> want the project to move in a direction which is good for the company
> (fix your bugs, improve the system to make the work easier), the
> easiest way is to hire someone to do it.  And the easiest way to avoid
> having to maintain the solution all by yourself, is to get the fix
> included into the official Debian-Edu distribution.  Also, if a
> company wants to earn money based on Debian-Edu, it is important for
> Debian-Edu to become a success.  So it is smart to improve the
> Debian-Edu base to increase its quality and thus improve the chances
> of Debian-Edu to become a success.  In addition, those companies with
> people participating in the development process increase their
> visibility and their credibility, and thus are more likely to get new
> customers.
> Ok, enough basic principles.  On to the plans/contacts/applications
> currently in the works.  I will probably forget some of them, as Vidar
> and Knut are the ones doing most of this work.
>  - We have sent an application to the department of education (KUF),
>    trying to get funding for a project testing the Debian-Edu ideas
>    for centralized administration of schools.  UNINETT ABC is also
>    involved/informed/interested in these plans.
>  - We have been in touch with USIT (the central IT staff at the
>    University of Oslo), checking if they can help us improve the
>    distribution when it comes to centralized administration and also
>    to get access to more of their knowledge on large scale system
>    administration.  (Disclamer: I work at USIT)
>  - We have been in contact with the municipality in Oslo trying to get
>    them interested in using Debian-Edu.  I think we sent an
>    application for funding to run a few schools on Debian-Edu.  I am
>    uncertain as to the details.
>  - We have been in touch with several HW distributors, trying to get
>    them to sell machines with Debian-Edu preinstalled.  A lot of talk
>    has taken place, but nothing has come out of this yet.
>  - We have been successful at getting the used HW seller In/Out to
>    sell complete Debian-Edu packages with preinstalled and tested
>    servers and a pile of used machines as thin clients.
>  - We have succeeded in getting companies to help schools set up and
>    maintain Debian-Edu, both as consultants and with maintenance
>    contracts.  Most of these are in the Oslo area.  Ragnar at Linux
>    Labs and Finn-Arne with his one-man company are the most prominent
>    members of this group.
>  - We have been contacted by a larger service provider, interested in
>    providing services on Debian-Edu, and are currently assisting them
>    in understanding how this could be done.  One of the ideas is that
>    they do day-to-day work with their own staff, and they pay SLX
>    Debian Labs to provide second/third line support.  SLX Debian Labs
>    will then have to hire some skilled Debian-Edu people to provide
>    this support.  I don't remember what the company is called, and as
>    far as I understood, they did not want to have their name published
>    until they were actually ready to announce this service.  This is
>    the company Knut mentioned in his email.
>  - We are working on providing security patches for Debian/Testing, to
>    make it easier/safer to use testing, and thus make Debian/Testing a
>    more comfortable base for the next version of Debian-Edu.  We have
>    discovered that this is interesting for several companies using
>    Debian, and are in touch with HP and a company in England (forgot
>    the name) to try to get them to fund part of this work, or hire
>    their own people to work as a team with us.
>  - We are in contact with startup in England, funded by Mark
>    Shuttleworth which is also funding development of the SchoolTool
>    project.  They are going to make a commercial Debian/Sid based
>    distribution, and intend to be a part of the Debian community
>    pushing fixes and improvements back to Debian while still being
>    able to make a new stable release based on a subset of Debian/Sid
>    (aka unstable) every 6 months.  We are trying to make sure their
>    subset includes all the packages we use, and also try to get them
>    to reuse our configuration settings.  The idea is that if their
>    approach is working, we can base a future version of Debian-Edu on
>    their packages instead of waiting a long time for the next version
>    of Debian/Stable.
>  - We are also in touch with Mark Shuttleworth trying to get him to
>    sponsor our development.  He said he might be interested if we
>    could provide schools to test and improve SchoolTool.  I haven't
>    been able to find any such schools yet.
>  - A recent idea is that we could get paid to fix release critical
>    bugs in Debian, to speed up the release of Debian.  Nothing
>    specific here yet, just a random idea.
>  - We are working with UNINETT ABC and USIT to get the Cerebrum
>    package integrated into Debian and Debian-Edu.  I'm told UNINETT
>    ABC already got the funds to do this, but I'm not sure about the
>    current status.  This will be done by Andreas Schuldei from us and
>    probably Mathias Meisfjordskar from USIT (he is the one involved in
>    the Feide2go project at UNINETT ABC, which is basically the same
>    thing but without the automatic out of the box configuration. :)
> I probably forgot something.  Back to your questions:
> > It seems that SLX Debian Labs, which is a foundation funded by another
> > foundation as far as I understand, and which has paid the lions share
> > of the money spent on the project so far, is about to get or already
> > has an agreement with "a large private Application Service Provider"
> > which is setting up a "day-to-day operation center of operating many
> > Skolelinux-installations at schools in different municipalities".
> I guess this is covered above.
> > If this is correct, then I think SLX Debian Labs should come clean
> > about this and explain what this agreement really is, and with which
> > company. There has always been pressure from people in the core of
> > the Debian Edu project to keep information in the open, also when
> > this information is commercial.
> Yes, it would be good with more summaries like I made above.  But it
> takes quite a long time to write them, and I normally want to spend
> that time working on the technical side.  I'm sorry for being mostly a
> technical guy. :/
> I try to leave this administrative stuff to Vidar and Knut, and try to
> make sure they keep the mailing list informed on what is going on, but
> it is hard to know when enough info is communicated and when too
> little is communicated.  The weekly summaries are intended to make
> sure information is more easily available, and they are slowly finding
> their form.
> > There are several companies that have contributed either directly,
> > or through their employees, to the development and spreading of the
> > solution, in various stages of the project. There is also an option
> > to become a support member of the Skolelinux organisation, which, to
> > my knowledge, is necessary in order to use the Skolelinux name and
> > logo commercially.
> Yes, this is true.  This should be promoted more.
> > My own employer has a number of customers that we support on Debian
> > Edu. Others are in the same situation. This means there is a market
> > for providing various solutions, products and services based on
> > Debian Edu. SLX Debian Labs should acknowledge this and explain what
> > is going on. As things now stand there is considerable uncertainty,
> > and should SLX Debian Labs become involved with a single large ASP
> > this will tilt the level playing field considerably.
> I hope my summary explains what is going on, and reduces the
> uncertainty.  The intent is not to tilt the playing field, but to
> increase the available options for those interested in using
> Debian-Edu, as well as improving Debian-Edu for those providing
> services based on it.

I think your mail did explain a few things, Petter.

But I do not understand why Knut can't answer the questions from Ragnar.
He could at least say that he could not say anything about the deal
because ......... . I do know which company we are talking about and I
realy can't see any problems making their name public, or what do you
say Knut?

If it's not possible to tell which company this is, Knut should at least
tell the list about the "deal" or "what is going on".  I do find it wery
worying if Knut is stopping giving out this sort of information.

Markus Gamenius

Project leader / President of "Skolelinux"


Phone: +47 +908 26 928

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