Open source to the rescue?

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Eran Strod's picture

By far the best session at the 451 Group Client Conference that I attended last week was a panel led by analyst Matthew Aslett titled “Open Source To the Rescue?”   When the 451 Group started their open source practice some years back, they named it “Commercial Adoption of Open Source” or CAOS which was a clever play on the state of extreme disorder and confusion that existed within enterprises trying to use and engage with open source at that time.  Today, no one remembers what all the fuss was about.   As Matt pointed out in his talk, open source is ubiquitous and pervasive; the Economist has declared that “Open-source software has won the argument.”

What is interesting is that mixed models now dominate.  In addition to product and services business models that are built around open source, we are seeing wide embracement of open source components as pieces and parts of larger development efforts.  In a recent Black Duck study, we found that 22% of code is open source in an average software project.  This means that the open source revolution is not just an IT operations phenomenon (think Linux, Apache, Firefox, Samba, …) – it has breached the wall and penetrated software development organizations (think log4J, BIRT, Mono, ... )  One of the main motivations behind this trend is developer productivity which Jay Lyman points out in his recent blog.

That is not news for some, but what is different today is that development managers are now able to clearly articulate when they use open source and when they choose to keep software proprietary.  Matt brought forth one quote from JP Rangaswami, Chief scientist, BT Group:


“If the problem is truly generic, then we use open source to be able to solve it…
If the problem is contained to a limited marketplace, we use closed source.”


If I could add anything here, it would be this – out of any given problem there are generic pieces and high-value add pieces. Open source provides a ready supply of databases, libraries, frameworks, stacks and other basic building blocks that can serve as the scaffolding for higher-level business innovation.   While some think of open source as a way to help enterprises ride out the current economic recession, it’s real power is in driving the cost out of application development and thus fueling successive generations of new and innovative solutions.


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