Nowhere else can you spend two concentrated days talking to open source execs, thought leaders and CIO’s. It’s good for expanding the Rolodex. More importantly, its good for expanding my perspective on open source.
Last year, I was left with mixed feelings on the “state of open source”. I think timing had a lot to do with this. At the time, we were wrapped around the proverbial axle on licensing issues. As a result, much of the conversation was consumed with speculation around GPLv3, its impact, etc. While licensing is obviously is an essential underlying piece of infrastructure required to support the ecosystem, these discussions can quickly slide into the arcane and are often far removed from our core goal of making life better for end users.
This year, the primary conversation was different. While licensing remains an evolving and nuanced issue for all of us in the open source ecosystem, the topic has (fortunately) drifted into the background. In contrast to last year’s discussion which was internally focused on issues within the open source ecosystem, this year’s conversation focused externally on the end user perspective, needs, wants, likes, etc. Over the last year open source has made a leap forward as a valid approach to developing and distributing enterprise software. SaaS and commercial open source are entering the mainstream.
My summary observation is that over the last year open source as a viable approach to enterprise software has made quantum leaps in terms of entering the mainstream.
The best evidence of this progress is that the debate over whether “commercial open source” is really an oxymoron has all but died among this group. While there is plenty of divergence in terms of approaches to commercial open source, it is clear that free software, community and commercial business are symbiotic. It is now plainly clear that open source is a permanent and pervasive driver in enterprise software.
While we are each contributing at various levels to bringing open source to the mainstream, no doubt the MySQL / Sun transaction has moved the needle most significantly. I was sure to given Marten Mickos a big thank you and clink his glass of Pinot Noir when I saw him at the event this year.
For first movers and purists, there is always some ambivalence to the mainstreamifying of any concept. As a beta-geek myself and having made a career operating in the early phases of new IT paradigms (e.g. client-server, web, SaaS), I can relate to this odd mix of emotions.
For all involved however the progress is unequivocally good news. For us (the provider), the evolution is obviously positive. Mainstream adopters are the lifeblood of a vibrant software business (closed or open source). Users and contributors (community and commercial) clearly gain as well. Only a healthy and growing business can afford to invest in enabling the community and the next realm of innovation — and give most of it away!