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Open Source: Article

The Open Solutions Alliance Enters Its Second Year

Making the World Safe for Commercial Open Source

Anyone who’s ever been involved in the beginning of a nonprofit consortium will tell you that the first year is the hardest. The initial high of coming together in the name of a shared cause gives way to the drudgery of meetings, working groups and member politics. The realities of executing against the vision and the inherent challenges of keeping an all-volunteer organization active and engaged set in. For many such consortia, the first year can be the last.

The Open Solutions Alliance overcame these challenges in its first year and has emerged as a successful, thought-leading organization, representing some of the strongest companies in the industry. The OSA formed in February 2007 as a nonprofit consortium of commercial software companies, focused on promoting the adoption and interoperability of open solutions. During our first year, we learned what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve adjusted our plans accordingly, maintaining our momentum along the way.  Now, the OSA is entering its second year with a growing membership roster, a new global chapter structure and a renewed commitment to these goals.

But in a larger sense, what the OSA represents is a path for the evolution of the commercial open source ecosystem.

This year more than ever before, there is a sense in the industry that it’s no longer a question of whether commercial open source will succeed, but how and when.  However, some challenges remain that could limit its success in the future.

At the Olliance Think Tank event in February, representatives from ABN Amro, Golden Gate University, Rolls Royce, Silicon Valley Bank, Seagate, and Bank of America, described their use of open source. All shared their positive experiences and the reasons why open source was strategic in their organizations. Lower cost, less risk of lock in, ability to innovate with people outside their (and their vendors') organizations, and the spirit of open-ness and collaboration were all reasons for using open source.  This sentiment closely mirrored the results of the OSA’s own customer outreach, published in last year’s Customer Forum Summary Report.

Still it wasn’t all wine and roses. Shortcomings of open source were acknowledged right alongside the benefits. Many open source solutions, these technology leaders pointed out, lacked the same fit and finish that they have come to expect from the traditional proprietary vendors. What they achieved in innovation and elegant technology often came at the cost of ease of deployment, user services, documentation and, yes, interoperability with other solutions.

But even while all these earnest discussions were going on, the conversations in the hallways and cocktail receptions often focused on recent successful exits by commercial open source vendors, such as the $1 billion valuation placed on MySQL with news of its acquisition by Sun. That news, surfacing in mid-Janaury, placed a large exclamation point to the slogan, 2008 is the year for open source! 

More Stories By Dominic Sartorio

Dominic Sartorio is president of the Open Solutions Alliance and senior director of product management at SpikeSource.

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Most Recent Comments
nnot hte one to answer this either 04/18/08 08:33:03 PM EDT

Who cares about htis anyway?

Don't sue me, but you look like an ass in that picture man... GET IT CHANGED you Nerd!

We all geeks, but you look like NetMan without Dan Williams polish...