OReilly Gazes Into the Future of Open Source

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-07-09

OReilly Gazes Into the Future of Open Source

PORTLAND—There has been an enormous paradigm shift around open source, Tim OReilly, president of OReilly & Associates Inc., said in a keynote address here on Wednesday.

Addressing hundreds of attendees at the OReilly Open Source Convention (Oscon) here, he said that the shift started when IBM introduced the first PC, with change in the PC industry now driven by low-cost hardware and the commodity model.

Software has also become decoupled from the hardware, resulting in a power shift in the PC industry toward software firms and seeing Microsoft emerge as the most powerful company in the computer industry, he said.

The new rules governing the Internet paradigm shift are based on the fact that an open architecture inevitably leads to interchangeable parts; competitive advantage and revenue opportunities move "up the stack" to services above the level of a single device; information applications are decoupled from both hardware and software; and lock-in is based on data and not on proprietary software, he said.

"The deep trends shaping the future of all software can be summarized by three-Cs: software is becoming a commodity, it is being customized by users, and we are seeing network-enabled collaboration," OReilly said.

While Google, Amazon and PayPal are "killer applications" running on Linux, they do not fit the old model and so are not thought about as applications.

"These applications are being built by open-source developers and run on an open-source platform, but most of them are fiercely proprietary, and the source code is not distributed, which would not be useful to most developers even if it were," he said.

In addition, collaboration techniques are increasingly being applied to proprietary software, as is evident in the rise of one of Microsofts flagship products, ASP .Net, which looks very much like an open-source project.

"With a large enough development organization, Open Source Software-like behaviors emerge. If its happening inside Microsoft, its happening everywhere," OReilly said.

A lot of people are also worried that if software becomes a commodity, it would herald the end of intellectual property. But the industry is just in the throes of working out what the new business model would be, he said.

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"When is someone going to come along and build a Dell-like solution for open source; that new process of assembling on the fly? Its about building Linux as a process rather than as a product," OReilly said.

There are also many opportunities for people to find pieces of added value, with Suns Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Microsofts .Net attempting to be the next revolution in the Internet.

Regarding open source and services, an open-source business model has to move beyond just professional services and include services delivered to end users, he said, adding that UUNet, not Red Hat, is the greatest open-source business success to date.

Google, PayPal, Amazon and others are the next step on the path to a services-related environment. "I believe that we are building an Internet operating system and thats the challenge ahead of us," he said.

All open-source developers need to be looking at peer-to-peer and ad-hoc networking, wireless, cell phones and other mobile devices, as well as pervasive computing if they want to stay competitive.

"We have to use the commodity software components to drive down prices for others, give customers increased opportunity for customization, leverage collaborative development processes and participatory interfaces beyond software," he said.

"We also have to rethink open source in the context of Web services and network computing. You guys have started all sorts of amazing things, but we have to think where we are going to end up, where it is taking us. We have to look at long-term trends and build that in," he told the attendees.

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In his keynote address, Paul Buck, the director of IBMs Eclipse development, said Eclipse is a response to the fact that tools from different companies have not traditionally worked well together—in fact tools from the same company often have not worked well together. "We were as guilty of that as anyone, and realized that developers have better things to do than integrate tool sets," he said.

The goal for Eclipse, which IBM describes as an open-source tool framework for the enterprise, is to be a highly extensible platform with out-of-the-box solutions that allow developers to start building applications.

Eclipse is platform-centric rather than tool-centric, and gives users more control as it allows the seamless integration of tools, to which new ones could be added. Java developers also have access to a state-of-the-art Java IDE, while Eclipse is middleware for tool developers, Buck said.

With the upcoming Eclipse version 3.0, IBM is pushing user experience and scalability concerns a more responsive user interface, pulling more operations out of the mainline and into the background; as well as making Eclipse available as a rich-client platform, he said.

Eclipse version 3.0 is expected to be available toward the middle of 2004, with incremental increases in between, he concluded.

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