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The LAMP Cooperative

From the Editor

In an April 2005 Netcraft survey of over 62 million Web sites, Apache was far and away the market leader for Web server software with 69.19% of the total market share, followed by Microsoft with 20.55% and Sun a distant third with 3.04% (click here).

Looking back to September 2001, Netcraft also reported that Linux owned 29.6% of the market for Web server operating systems, second behind Windows with 49.6% (www.netcraft.com/Survey/index-200109.html#computers). As a measure of progress, the Apache project was started 10 years ago and is a pinnacle of open source success; in fact in August of 1995 the initial Netcraft survey indicated a mere 658 Web sites were running Apache. Another interesting statistic comes from the Fortune 100 where a September 2004 survey of Web server operating systems by Netcraft showed 32 of these companies using Solaris, followed by 26 running Windows 2000, and 12 running Linux. Why the disparity? Maybe the reality is that Apache alongside Linux, MySQL, and PHP provides the tools that small businesses need to be competitive with companies many times their size.

I also suspect many of the Fortune 100 feel more comfortable using something coming from a company with a long track record like Sun. Although these captains of industry might do well to consider Google, which may not have been able to grow to the size it did without freely available and alterable open source software. You see, the lion’s share of their infrastructure relies on the ability to leverage open source, which has allowed them to grow into a $49 billion company running on what is estimated to be the largest Linux implementation in the world.

Conversely, the ability to do business on the Web brings small businesses onto a more level playing field, allowing them to compete globally with their limited resources without shelling out a large portion of their IT budgets for expensive proprietary software. When you consider the way LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, or Python) has evolved, you could draw comparisons to a very low tech but effective method of collaboration: the farmers’ cooperative. In my hometown these farmers’ cooperatives were formed to bring apples to market. Individual farmers on their own lacked the means to collect, negotiate, store, and ship their produce to market. However, by pooling their resources they formed a successful venture that allowed them to produce their crops, collectively negotiate prices, share expensive farm machinery, and provide a marketplace for buyers to receive their goods.

Ironically, there are numerous types of co-ops, many of which are driven by the business needs of a group and often by social needs or a common set of values. That’s why LAMP could be considered informally to be a co-op – different groups have collected around Linux and Apache and, by sharing a common set of values with regards to open source development methods, they have been able to create businesses around this community property. By donating back the snippets of code that one person needed, other users benefit. In fact, as more and more users do this, the value of the LAMP co-op grows, whether it’s from simple CGI scripts to complex content management systems like MamboCMS (www.mambo-server.com).

    Considering the large adoption of these technologies, it’s also interesting to analyze the types of organizations that share these values. JBoss (www.jboss.com) has similar interests as IBM with their WebSphere products, though you could consider this to be a case of David and Goliath dining at the same table. Nonetheless, without the LAMP co-op, JBoss may very well not have an entrypoint to compete with IBM and IBM could not focus on what they are really good at – developing their middleware (WebSphere) and providing the tools and services around it. The alternative to LAMP is to divert resources tomaintain an operating system and a Web server on which to host their products.

The bottom line is that the collective suite of LAMP technologies is a great equalizer that can allow a relatively small vendor the option to build a world class Web site and compete next to a Fortune 1000 company. Maybe not blow for blow but for a relatively small investment, they can do business globally and competitively. On the other side of the coin are the Google and Amazon.com success stories, where starting small they grew quickly into industry leaders using open source software. There are no stories about how their Linux and Apache infrastructures were left on their doorstep once they made it big and had, in comparison to their humble beginnings, acquired unlimited resources.

As you evaluate your infrastructure, take a long hard look and decide, are you doing the best you can with what you have? Are you providing the Web presence you want to? Do you need to look to complex commercial packages alone or can you provide as good or a better solution using LAMP? My bet is that you can.

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.

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