While Linux and open-source software got a resounding endorsement from a panel of vendors and investors during a session at the Linux on Wall Street conference here on April 24 titled "The Next Opportunities and Challenges for Linux and Open Source on Wall Street," they also pointed to some of the challenges facing open source.
Stephen Jenvey, an associate with Fidelity Ventures, which has invested in open-source companies like SpikeSource, said intellectual property around code remains a huge issue, as does the licensing and implications of that.
"I know for a fact that many companies, including Fidelity, spend a lot of time scrutinizing code and being sure they know what they have and are selling," he said.
Shaun Connolly, vice president for product management at JBoss, said the more open-source technologies are embraced, the greater the issues arising around this. "It is now enterprise software, and things like patch management and avoiding breaking other components in the stack are issues that enterprise open source has to deal with," he said.
Staying competitive and looking at, evaluating and using new technologies are also challenging, and processes have to be in place to ensure that those co-exist with the existing infrastructure, he said.
Ike Garrido, a director at Egenera, pointed to standards developed by governmental bodies and agencies as a problem.
"Anything the government touches will drive open-source developers away, as the open community is fueled by innovation. Standardization bodies founded by governments tend to limit creativity," he said.
Carl Drisko, Novells Linux and open-source principal, said one of the primary challenges facing open-source software is making sure users can manage the environments that the software set up.
For his part, Brian Behlendorf, founder and chief technology officer at CollabNet, said open-source software projects often take a long time and require passionate developers and companies with long-term vision.
"We have to realize that software is a perishable good, and maintenance is required to maintain the pieces. Good projects also have good community management and are kept as sustainable projects into the future," he said.
But, that being said, there is a range of short-term and longer-term opportunities for Linux and open-source software.
Behlendorf said Wall Street firms need the ability to do a real-time integration of data, manage that and process it. "But there are a lot of open-source projects working on all that, and these are the kinds of tools people will look at next," he said.
Egeneras Garrido said his companys clients are focused on grid computing, but noted there is a lot of movement from a Sybase-Solaris environment to a Sybase-Linux or Oracle-Linux one.
A lot of mission-critical applications are also moving over to Linux, and customers are increasingly becoming more accepting of the provisioning tools required to manage an on-demand Linux data center environment, he said.
"Our clients are ruthless, and they want a competitive edge and will try new software at an early stage if it gives them that," Garrido said. "They also do not want to have to worry about IP issues; they simply want the edge that allows them to trade faster. I dont see them playing nice with one another. They want a single function that lets them cut their trading time and time to market." Novells Drisko said his company is seeing an uptick around virtualization technologies like Xen, particularly as an alternative to the proprietary VMware solution.
The middleware stacks are also getting a lot better and will continue to do so, facilitating even more robust applications, he said.
Asked what the benefits would be if Oracle bought Novell, as is rumored to be under discussion, Drisko said Oracle would benefit by having a whole open-source stack. It would also "shake up the distribution market a bit and would make a statement about the industry and its distributions, and this could spur Microsoft to buy Red Hat."
JBoss Shaun Connolly said the application infrastructure is really the power of open source, adding that it is important to be aware of and test those emerging technologies like Xen.
Fidelity Ventures Jenvey said there is a lot of activity in the security arena as well as around the development of an open platform for authentication.
"The idea of open standards and a financial services industry stack is also becoming more common, and a number of companies are working on that," he said. Business intelligence is another area of possible growth, where a simple, easy-to-use platform is needed as SAS is very complex, he said.
Fidelity uses a lot of open source, and the differentiator for this is how you implement and use those tools, Jenvey said, adding that this is one of the reasons Fidelity has invested in SpikeSource at such an early stage.
"If open source can help accelerate the development of open-source products, sure, Wall Street companies will use it," he said.