Open source could become ‘boring’, execs warn

At a recent panel discussion, leaders from free software vendors talked about the effect the widespread adoption of non-proprietary applications is having

The open source paradigm has changed the software market, but open source itself is becoming so established that it will be boring in five years, according to panellists at a recent conference held at the Computer History Museum, in California, last month.

Executives from companies including SpikeSource, JBoss and Sun Microsystems debated everything from open-source business models to how commercial software giants will respond to open source.

“The game has changed completely. There is no rulebook, no guidebook to consult,” says SpikeSource CEO Kim Polese, commenting on the difference in business models between her previous commercial venture, Marimba, and open source-driven SpikeSource.

“We’re having to be creative here on how we bring these products to market,” she says.

SpikeSource has focused on enabling use of open-source software at small- and medium-sized businesses, and has also been working with resellers.

The open source world is young enough that there is no right answer as to which business model to use, says Andy Astor, CEO of EnterpriseDB. “It’s really a fascinating time,” he says.

However, open source will become part of the fabric of IT deployments the way client-server is now, Astor says. “Open source is going to be a big yawn in five years.”

Marc Fleury, JBoss founder and now a senior vice president and general manager of the JBoss Division of Red Hat, stresses that people working on open source software should get paid for their work.

Sun Microsystems’ Rich Green, the company’s executive vice president for software, repeats Sun’s mantra that it is probably the number one contributor to open source. He also says Sun started out using Berkeley Unix and Network File System, which have been freely available.

Asked to comment on how the main commercial software vendors will deal with an open source world, panellists had mixed opinions.

Open Source Development labs chief executive Stuart Cohen says, “If Microsoft open-sourced all these apps, they’d have tremendous opportunity in the marketplace.”

But Microsoft is not confused about open source, Fleury stresses. “They hate it,” but will collaborate on it, he says. JBoss has a collaboration agreement with Microsoft.

Oracle, however, is a different story, according to Fleury. “Larry [Ellison, Oracle CEO] is infatuated with open source. He needs open source like a hole in the head.”

IBM has been embracing open source, Polese says. Eventually, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP will be open source companies that figure out a way to make open source drive their business, she says.

Polese notes the shift open source has brought, in which heavy, up-front licensing fees have given way to generating revenues through service and support, with software being freely available. While this may be seen as bad news for business, the good news is that open source has grown the overall software market, she says.

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