Click here to close now.


Linux Containers Authors: Pat Romanski, Dana Gardner, Flint Brenton, Liz McMillan, David Dodd

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Linux Containers, Agile Computing

Open Source Cloud: 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 ( 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 (

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 (, GroundWork Open Source (, and Hyperic ( 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 (, 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 ( 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

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:

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
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.