Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tucana's Fate Sealed

Northrop Grumman Corporation's Electronic Systems Sector has been attempting to sell its Tucana RDF database software for some time. They have been quietly seeking buyers since they dropped public references to it as a "rsemd1-extweb50 Sensor1 Replacement Server" in August 2006. Unfortunately for them, potential buyers keep calling me.

Each call is similar in nature and goes something like this:

Buyer: We are very happy to tell you that Northop Grumman has accepted our cash offer for the Tucana technology. We would like to talk to you about how we can make use of it.

Dave: Sure. I am sure Northrop must have done some work on it since they bought it. What has been added to the code base?

Buyer: They made us swear to secrecy, so we can't tell you that.

Dave: OK, I understand. Can you tell me whether it differs substantially from its Open Source baseline, Mulgara?

Buyer: Umm, there is an Open Source project? What is the URL?

Dave: http://mulgara.org

Buyer: Is it an active project? Do people use it?

Dave: Oh, yes. It is used in production by a number of for-profit and non-profit companies and many researchers.

Buyer: I thought Northrop had killed the Open Source project?

Dave: Nope. They tried but failed. Mulgara was a fork to avoid any future legal disputes. It has no code contributed by Northrop or its contractors.

Buyer: Uh, perhaps we should look into that and get back to you.

Naturally, that is generally the last I hear about it until the next potential buyer calls. The last one was yesterday, but they weren't the first (or the second or the third) and probably won't be the last.

The sad thing is, of course, that if a single manager at Northrop had tried to work with the Open Source community instead of building an empire the project could have been wildly successful in their customer base. There is still a market need for a more scalable RDF database outside of the government, as evidenced by the list of potential buyers, the life sciences community's desire to represent genomic data semantically, Garlik's creation of a custom one last year and continued funding from Mulgara users for scalability development.

No comments:

Post a Comment