Welcome!

Linux Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Phil Whelan, David Dossot

Related Topics: Open Source, Linux, Web 2.0

Open Source: Article

i-Technology Viewpoint: "Open Source Is Not a Trend, It's a Paradigm Shift"

Why free and open source is more than a fad

I recently read an article in the "mainstream" media that gave me pause. The author made an assertion that the current trend towards Open Source might just be a passing fad. I thought about this and looked critically at the software industry, thinking about whether there was merit in that statement. After all, we have seen plenty of high flyers peter out in a software industry riddled with buzzwords and acronyms-of-the-day. I just don't believe that open source is one of them.

When I worked in the Internet Service Provider (ISP) business, we saw every new consumer Internet fad firsthand. I remember PointCast, a push technology with a screen saver and news ticker that sucked up bandwidth and reduced office LANs to a crawl. I recall the days when every other technical support call was for help setting up the hot new Web browser, Netscape (the code that has, ironically, been given a second life as the basis of the free and open source Firefox), or the time when when thin clients were first championed by Sun Microsystems. However, not everyone grasped the idea that we would have always-on "dumb terminals" and that all our applications would live on the servers carefully maintained and backed up by application service providers (ASPs), though this vision may someday be realized by Google (who may be setting the stage with their Google Desktop (http://desktop.google.com). Thin clients seemed to have found ways to remotely access internal applications in order to keep data from leaving secure networks. Besides, like so many others, I still love my data-laden, fat-client laptop, and as much as I enjoy tools like hosted e-mail and online back-ups, I don't foresee parting ways with my laptop anytime soon.

What makes free and open source software more than a fad? The notion of free software is nothing new - in fact, it's how software was originally distributed. In the earliest days of computing, you usually got the source code for the operating system at the time you purchased the mainframe. At that time, of course, there were very few computers - most of which were for use at large companies, government agencies, and universities - so users often shared programs and source code. Since free software has been around for over 40 years, it can hardly be called a fad. Furthermore, there are more and more long-term projects that continue to gain momentum. Linus Torvalds started Linux, for example, in 1991, and 15 years later, the operating system is enjoying quarter after quarter of double-digit growth in the server market. That's hardly a flash in the pan. Apache, too, the dominant Internet Web server, has been growing by 4.4% since July, and holds 63.09 % of the web server market, according to Internet services company Netcraft (http://news.netcraft.com/archives/web_server_survey.html).

Not only do open source markets have a reliable history, but their future, too, is nearly guaranteed by the continued need for the adoption of open source software in order to sustain the efficiency they have brought to the industry. First, open source software is by and large a pull model. Before any corporate vendor can get involved, software is usually developed to solve specific problems faced by end users who they self-identify in market. Most people like to showcase their accomplishments and share their knowledge (look at the blog phenomenon), and because the development of a piece of software that's useful and well written is something to be proud of, people usually share it. Then, when someone else sees the value of the pet project, he or she is likely to not only use it, but also share improvements that can benefit the original author and the additional contributor. Clearly, it's a more efficient practice than commercial models. Red Hat and Novell, for example, both fund development of the Linux kernel by paying the salaries of developers. They each focus on adding value in other areas as well, like testing and other quality assurance measures, efficient delivery of a commercial version operating system, and technical support. After all, there's little incremental value between the two base operating systems. It is a much more efficient model than say, commercial Unix, where each vendor duplicates efforts in areas that add very little incremental value.

In other industries - especially businesses that have similar needs and whose competitive advantages are based on assets unrelated to information technology infrastructure - shared development can help the whole industry. Unlike commercial software, open source software is driven from the bottom up, which means it's not typically developed by independent software vendors (ISVs) and then distributed. However, we are starting to see that happening, as well as more and more software vendors turning over their software to the open source community, just like database vendor Ingres has done. Some do it because they don't want to maintain the software, but the smart ISVs know that innovation comes from the end user. Mature products can receive new life from the open source vendor community and adapt to an ever-changing IT landscape.

Invariably, leading commercial software in a variety of software segments will be challenged by open source markets. The following are current trends I believe will outlive the fad moniker:

  • Virtualization: It's what's hot right now, but there's no slowdown in sight. Over the past ten years, our thirst for faster computers drove the industry to provide blazingly fast chips that sipped more power and threw off a lot more heat. Now, those efforts are being penalized by data centers that can't meet electrical and cooling needs. Virtualization allows consolidation and higher utilization on Linux servers. Commercial software vendor VMware (an EMC company) was one of the fastest-growing software companies in the past five years. The Xen project, a hypervisor, which is a piece of software that allows multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on the same server, is the open source alternative to VMware. Open source virtualization is being advocated by more than just Linux users. Even Microsoft has announced they will be supporting Xen even though it might be competitive with their Microsoft Virtual Server.
  • Open source systems management: Systems management is an established software sector used pervasively across many industries that have been paying dearly for expensive seat licenses and up-front royalties. New monitoring companies like Zenoss (www.zenoss.com), GroundWork Open Source (www.groundworkopensource.com), and Hyperic (www.hyperic.com) are offering subscription-based monitoring products that offer very similar products at attractive pricing models. Some of these projects use the same open source projects to build their commercial offerings. Because they are sharing the burden of development, they don't have to fund all the R&D on their own, and they can bring products to market quickly and inexpensively, which enables competition with the Big 4 management vendors (HP, CA, IBM, and BMC).
  • Open source business intelligence and planning software: This is more of a prediction than a trend, but it's one of the next sectors to be challenged by upstart open source projects that are replacing traditional enterprise software vendors. It's an industry ripe for open source: long-established vendors who have a broad customer base and a need for customization. Pentaho (www.pentaho.com), an open source business intelligence platform, will start to challenge companies like Business Objects, SAS, and Hyperion. In Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), the open source company Compiere (www.compiere.com) is going to challenge industry leader, SAP. Both companies will offer a competitive price and an easily integrated solution that will be a viable option to the entrenched vendors.
If you are still skeptical about the longevity of commercial viable open source software, that's fine. There's no place to check the open source scorecard and, truthfully, you could and might conduct all your computing on proprietary closed source software. Of course, you will probably end up with greater expenses from software royalties and a lack of flexibility. As I write this article I am using a mixture of open source and commercial software, but as I look back 10 years ago, I didn't use a single free piece of software as part of my desktop computing regimen. I don't recall even using the term open source or reading about open source in the mainstream media, whereas now, lengthy conversations on the topic are the norm for technophiles and business people alike. Open source has transcended fad status and gone beyond being a trend. It is the evolution of a better way to develop and maintain software, and many of us would be well served to see how we could capitalize on it.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. 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.

Comments (4) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Ajay D. Desai 10/18/06 01:57:40 AM EDT

Concept of open source is commercially not viable. Creator of source code want recurring revenues from the work done once.

Laura DiFiore 10/16/06 12:20:48 AM EDT

I've been using free, open-source software for at least 15 years now. The overwhelming majority of software on my computer is freeware. The company I work for recently switched from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice not only because of the price (free!) but because it is smaller, more stable, and provides better compatibility with other document formats than MS Office does. The decision was, without doubt, forced by the extremely high cost of upgrading to Microsoft's latest version. By deciding to switch to OpenOffice, our company saved at least $22,000 in software costs for this year.

factpoint 10/15/06 02:21:08 PM EDT

Free and open-source software is good for you and for the world. This is the best Windows software that we know of.No adware, no spyware, just good software. View link: http://digg.com/software/Open_Source_Windows_2

Sid Boyce 10/14/06 07:31:50 PM EDT

Most of the naysayers are too afraid of the prospects and deploy their arguments more as a wish that some day soon the old familiar paradigm will survive intact. If you have followed reactions from some who are amongst the staunchest supporters of Open Source, you will have seen the initial hostile dismissal, followed by increasingly mellow statements and finally the volt-face. Very early on I asked a number of them to write an article a year hence and I would remind them of the first one they wrote - I have never been disappointed, it took one writer just 10 months. Of course, the proponents of the old proprietary order are still there, perhaps never to be convinced - they have too much at stake to change their views, King Canute characters standing resolute against the oncoming tide, to be washed away and their words with them. My manager who tried giving me a hard time when I switched away from Windows to Linux at least had the humility years later to admit that he thought I was going out on to a slender branch which was already consigned to falling. I was even introduced to one of our customers as a "Linux Bigot" by one of our salesmen who had been asked by the customer to have someone give them some information on installing Linux on their mainframe. The undying truth is that whatever and however harsh the criticisms, Open Source developers keep writing code undaunted. My guess is they had a forlorn hope that the developers would realise they were on to a loser and redeploy their efforts back to proprietary code writing or to sitting in front of TV sets with cold beers instead. At best most developers were disdainfully regarded as college student type amateur software writers incapable of producing anything of quality, at least nothing that sould match the professional standards of proprietary products. Here in the UK, we were even called users of Boys Own Unix, a disparaging simile of a once very popular "Boys Own Comic" that has long ceased publication.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Smart devices that use wireless technology to exchange information with each other and with their human owners: this is the Internet of Things (IoT). This incredible level of connectivity is already transforming how we exercise, treat diseases, park our cars and access business documents. Research firm IDC projects that the IoT world of connected devices will grow to 200 billion objects by 2020. As more businesses, entrepreneurs and government entities embrace the IoT, more data will be generated daily than the already mind-boggling 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. However, even curren...
The Industrial Revolution in the 18th to 19th centuries was a period during which predominantly rural societies in Europe and America became industrial and urban. Advances in steam technology, transportation, mass production and the telegraph collectively transformed industry and society. Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to once again transform industry and society just as the Industrial Revolution did. Analyst firm IDC forecasts that the IoT market will grow to $8.9 trillion by 2020 with anywhere between 30 to 50 billion connected autonomous things, making the potential g...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world. The next @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, in Santa Clara, California. Since its launch in 2008, Cloud Expo TV commercials have been aired and CNBC, Fox News Network, and Bloomberg TV. Please enjoy our 2014 commercial.
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Located in booth #314, the Bsquare team will present DataV demos and discuss how DataV will help customers put their data to work to improve business outcomes. DataV is unlocking new initiatives across a wide landscape of customers in industries such as industrial manufacturing, transportation, retail and mobile. The solution is designed to complement a new project start or help to enrich an existing machine investment.
The Physical Web incorporates beacons that can be put in any small retail store, for example, so that every store now has "an app" for its customers. In this Birds-of-a-Feather session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Scott Jenson, Product Designer at Google, will discuss the Physical Web and how it is an open standard so any device can broadcast a URL wirelessly, so any phone/tablet/watch nearby can see, and rank those devices. When the user taps on one, they just go to that web page. It's really that simple. It's about thinking small, enabling micro-information (what is in my prescription bottle...
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.