Evolving Expectations

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-08-03 Print this article Print

Another factor driving this trend is that as open source is more accepted by the enterprise, the enterprise expects it to reflect more of its concerns. "The passionate arguments over the merits of open-source versus commercial offerings like Microsoft Windows or Office are relegated to the developers community and internal political factions with corporate IT departments," said DiDio.
"In the overwhelming majority of cases, they do not resonate with the higher level CEO, CIOs and COOs who do not care about technology types other than to pose the questions: How much will this cost us; will it keep us competitive; what are the advantages/disadvantages, etc."
"And the higher-level executives are the ones who sign the purchasing orders. They tend to demand accountability—in terms of enterprise level technical service and support, documentation, product warranties and indemnification and the relative financial health and long-term viability—of all of their vendors." Another motive behind open-source projects going commercial is the need for sufficient support to make it attractive to users. For example, Quandt sees this as being the case with the DCC (Debian Core Consortium). To read more about Debian Linux, click here. "A trend to watch is the progress of the DCC to gain support from system vendors and ISVs. The primary reason that most enterprise customers choose Red Hat or SuSE is because of the support from system vendors and ISVs." "Most CTOs and CIOs want service and support through their system vendor and not a Linux distribution provider," said Quandt. If the DCC, Mozilla and other such groups are successful in this, Quandt thinks it may change the entire software world. "As open-source companies continue to create pricing pressure on proprietary software solutions, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds subsequent to the release of Longhorn. By 2010 Microsoft will support its applications on Linux and develop an open-source strategy," Quandt said. Be that as it may, open-source companies face the possibility of rejection from their supporters. Red Hat, for example, lost support some of its open-source developer support when it first folded its Red Hat Linux line in 2003. It wasnt until Red Hat opened its community-based Fedora Core that it regained some, but not all of the communitys good will. Click here to read more about why Linux users hate Red Hat. Its not just, as eWEEKs own David Coursey has it, that the Mozilla and DCC moves are "taking with it a bit of the romance of software by the people, for the people." Its that theres a real gulf between those who develop free software for idealistic reasons and those who do it for business ones. As Haff observed, "This not-so-creeping commercialization is clearly not viewed positively by some." In a recent paper, Haff wrote, "there is perhaps no clearer division these days than that between the developers who hack together Open Source projects on their own time for fun and the increasingly prevalent counter-current of professional Open Source in which IT vendors large and small fund Open Source development for hard-headed business reasons." "Thus, when JBoss Founder and CEO Marc Fleury sniffled a bit dismissively about amateur Open Source projects—contra those supported by corporate-funded development teams—some of the natives turned more than a bit hostile. Marc may not have been the most diplomatic, but that doesnt change the reality of disparate objectives and goals for Open Source," wrote Haff. DiDio sees the same problem, but puts it another way. "Remember that 35 years ago, the area we now know as Silicon Valley was a collection of modest houses surrounded by orange groves. So for open-source purists, this may be a disturbing trend." "It reminds me of that old aphorism: We have met the enemy, and it is us. Or in this case, Open source has met the enemy and it is commercial success." said DiDio. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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