PORTLAND—Open-source software has significantly affected Hewlett-Packards business, with its open source review board looking at between two and 10 new open-source and Linux products a week, Stormy Peters, who runs HPs open source program office, said in her keynote address here on Thursday.
In a talk titled “The Business of Open Source in the Enterprise” at the OReilly Open Source Convention (Oscon) here, Peters said open-source software is here to stay, evidenced by the growth of Linux in the server market.
Open source is not successful because it is free, as the software component comprises a small part of total costs to an enterprise, but because it is effective, she said.
In a rationale for why businesses should consider open sourcing software, Peters said it could commoditize a market they did not control; could make a product or technology pervasive; could lower the products overall cost; and could promote hardware or other value-add components.
Open sourcing could also create a custom solution for customers that would then allow companies to provide profitable services in relation to that product; it could also allow vendors to exit a business by giving the code to the community; and could allow businesses to leverage resources from others.
But there are instances when open sourcing technologies is not a good idea, particularly if the product is a control point for a company, such as Microsofts Windows domination of the desktop market, she said.
“The cost of open sourcing some products also does not justify the benefit, particularly if it involves the misdirection and refocusing of resources and if the intellectual property risk cannot be justified.
“HP does not allow any software to be open sourced if it cannot be proved that the rights to that code belongs to us. You also shouldnt open source a product if it competes against other products in the open-source community and doesnt add value or differentiate itself in any way,” she said.
Customers should use open-source technologies if they want to promote an existing standard or if there is an existing, pervasive technology, she said, adding that there are also some cases where open-source technologies should not be used.
These include instances where the technologys direction does not match the companys strategic goals; if the products chief architect does not agree with the proposal; and if the time-to-market is critical and that product does not currently have all the features needed, she said.
HPs internal open source policy was designed to ensure legal compliance, honor open source licenses, prevent unintentional “copylefting,” establish proper business controls based on a clear understanding of open source, and have a place where all open-source projects are understood, Peters said.
Open source customers also need to understand what they are using and the license governing it. Support levels also differ and are often not included with open-source products.
Documentation is sometimes not available or as comprehensive as with proprietary products, and indemnification and warranties can also be different from a piece of proprietary software.
Customers, especially governments, also want to know who is contributing the code, and are concerned about possible issues around ownership of that code, she said.