Recently the news about the inevitability of open source has been everywhere. Just today I exchanged tweets with Matt after he blogged:
“Indeed….open source has won”.
Seeing that I’ve always advocated the happy balance of open source and traditional software used in conjunction to address customer needs, news about A winning over B is somewhat hard to accept.
When I pressed Matt on what he meant by “open source has won” he replied:
“Won in the sense that 5 years ago no one, including IBM, would have thought it would be a part of all software”
Well, IBM was ahead of the game in terms of contributing to. and using open source within its products. Whether Steve Mills (the head of IBM’s Software division) every thought or does think that open source will be “part of all software” is up for discussion. But at least as far back as 2002 we used reasonably important open source components in a major IBM software product, WebSphere Application Server.
In any case, a discussion about the use of open source components within traditional software products is only mildly interesting. It was/is inevitable that any software vendor with a budget to worry about will choose to consume open source components versus building from scratch when the customer value point is higher up the stack.
The interesting discussion centers on the open source versus traditional software business model. In this discussion, far from “we won or they won”, I’d argue that we and they learned from each other and evolved our collective business models. We have added free and open source offering to our product portfolio. We have opened up our development practices to become more transparent. (Could we be even more transparent? Sure, give us time). They have moved beyond selling support to selling proprietary products.
We and they have taken steps that would have been sacrilege just 2 or 3 years ago. As a result, we, they and our joint customers have benefited. But this angle doesn’t get the news coverage it deserves.
To be fair, Matt gets this and retweeted my tweet: “…so to me, “we both won” (we= the overall software industry, oss or traditional vendors)”
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