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Enterprise Open Source Editorial — Coexistence

Sometimes I worry that I sound like a broken record repeating the phrases Open Source and open standards

Sometimes I worry that I sound like a broken record repeating the phrases Open Source, open standards, and virtualization over and over again like an obsessive parrot. I refuse to stray away from what I believe are some of the most important considerations for your IT decisions. However, one thing I think I may not mention quite enough is coexistence. In the last year I've been preaching about keeping your options open. Maybe I've spent a little too much time on my soapbox so let me step back and explain myself a little better.

While I think it's important to see Linux gain adoption as well as other Open Source technologies, you may be surprised that I would be saddened to see Linux totally replace Unix and Windows. I view the adoption of Open Source technologies like Linux as a righting of the marketplace where through some series of consequences Microsoft has grabbed a disproportionately large share (roughly 90% of the desktop market, for example). This gives them an undue amount of influence on how we do desktop computing. In any market, competition will drive innovation and keep prices reasonably low, two conditions that I don't believe have been met in recent years.

In my utopian view there would be a split where Mac OS, Windows, and Linux each own a large part of the desktop market and market pressure would drive interoperability. In the back office I'm encouraged to see both Microsoft Server and Samba offer file server software. Over time I hope Samba makes Microsoft succumb to pressures to remove their CALs (client access licenses) model and only charge to license the server and adhere to the true value of the software, not impose a toll-based accessed to network services. I also believe pressure from OpenOffice.org (OOo) is helping drive open document formats. Even though Microsoft Office is still the dominant office suite, OOo is pressuring them to open their document formats and offer the prospect of better interoperability among office productivity users.

In the recent past I've been encouraged to see things that in my mind are going to drive co-existence, one of them being China. You see unlike the U.S. China is largely a blank canvas where the number of computer users and owners are going to grow well beyond those of today. In April 2006 IDC announced that Linux revenues in China were up 27.1% for 2005. And Microsoft has been working hard with the government to make sure Windows has a shot at gaining market share. Ironically, there have been initiatives to provide the Chinese government access to the Windows source code. Could China be the key in cracking Windows open and providing a precedent for Windows to start to become Open Source? Probably not, but maybe pressure will drive them to become more open then they are today and have a positive impact on the market.

Another interesting development is the wrangling going on in the Web application stack. At LinuxWorld IBM, vell, and Avnet Partner Solutions announced a new SMB stack that includes IBM DB/2 Universal Database Express-C Edition and the WebSphere Application Server Community Edition on Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9. With this move IBM really starts to promote its database in a space that's been owned by MySQL. It also provides an upgrade path to a scalable and proven enterprise database. Beyond that it starts to introduce the option of better interoperability between commercial and free software. (That's free as in freedom, by the way.) In some cases we may see a stack made up of free commercial databases and completely free operating systems. This is not ideal but it's a much better step forward then when commercial databases didn't include a free version.

There should be no holy wars in your IT infrastructure. It should always come down to the best tool for the job at the right price. That's why co-existence between commercial and free and Open Source software is important, providing a venue for you to develop a solution or use a tool on its merits, not simply on what you can afford. I'm very encouraged by this increase in Open Source and standards, and even free commercial software, and I hope you take advantage of the trend in your enterprise.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Vice President of Community at Cloud.com. the maker of the open source cloud computing management software, CloudStack He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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