The Future Place of
Open Source"> RedMonk open-source software analyst Stephen OGrady told Ziff Davis Internet that he agrees that businesses are seeking new ways to use open source as the foundation for commercial products. "Where I disagree is that this trend is somehow new. MySQLs been the standard-bearer for dual licensing for years, and there are lots of other businesses doing exactly the same thing: Sleepycat, DB4Objects, etc."Likewise, folks such as Covalent have been offering paid support for otherwise free and open-source applications for years. Take the example of Eclipse: IBM didnt open-source all of its development tools, but rather a subset that it and others could build on top of. So I agree that its a trend, but disagree that its new," OGrady said.Open-source advocate and author Eric S. Raymond agreed. "There is nothing new or emerging about this," he told Ziff Davis Internet. "Companies like Sendmail and MySQL, that were charter members of the movement, have been selling proprietary frosting for an open-source cake since the beginning. I identified it as one of the viable business models in "The Magic Cauldron." "The community is quite used to it. In a free market, I expect people to find out by experimentation which business models actually work. Thus, I havent been very surprised by anything thats come down the pike since 1997," Raymond said. OGrady said he doesnt see this trend as a particular problem for the open-source community. "Open source has at this point, I believe, established that it can compete quite effectively even in established, mature markets, such as RDBMS [relational DMBS]. Given this, if a commercial provider proved to be an impediment to open-source development in a particular area, I think open source would be able to respond with an alternative," OGrady said. True or false, then: There will always be a place for truly open-source software in the enterprise IT world. "Its almost certainly true," Bloor said. "Once any useful software component is introduced into the open-source pool with a usage license that is acceptable to the typical enterprise, it is forever available. There is no point in replacing such components if they are stable and the capability they provide is static. "Right now there are several trends in progress that will extend the life of such software components, such as virtualization and service-oriented architecture. Perpetual software upgrade is not inevitable, and its not desirable, either, for some software components. The long-term support effort required for such software components is low and will remain low." Open-source software business is subject to the same marketplace pressures as commercial products. Quality sells, and lack of innovation and support equates to a slow death. "Right now the number of open-source projects is very large," Bloor said. "Many tired software products will inevitably be superseded by open-source alternatives, but equally many open-source projects will not produce any software component that gains wide acceptance. "In areas where software is still in a state of rapid evolution, few open-source products are gaining traction. Security software, system management and games software are good examples," he said. OGrady said he believes that open-source and commercial software will continue to exist side by side for the foreseeable future. "The tension between the two will be high in certain applications and areas. But if OSCON [the recent OReilly Open Source Convention] was any indication, open-source developers are not uniformly against the commercial opportunities around open source, provided that the businesses involved give back to the community as much as they take from it," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.