The state of open source: Evolving trends

The state of open source: Evolving trends

Industry experts offer their thoughts on where open source is heading in the next five years

Robert Sutor, vice president of open source and standards IBM

Sutor: I've been talking to a lot of people lately who were relatively early adopters of open source in customer environments but who are now looking to start new projects with their peers in their industries. When this next wave of people come in, it may unsettle some of the earlier understandings of expectations and "how things are supposed to work." Everyone will just need to adjust. I think the area of open source organizational governance will become very hot in the next few years. What are your policies on open source entering or leaving your organization? How do you deal with open source in the products that you create or that you OEM from other people? How do you do this efficiently across all your business units so that you avoid unnecessary conflicts yet drive the whole business forward? Who decides?

Andy Astor, CEO EnterpriseDB

Astor: First of all, much greater transparency is where I see us heading. In the early days of commerical open source, people would say "commerical open source," with a smile and a wink -- meaning that they were using open source as a way to get people to pay attention to them. The marketplace stood for that for about a year or two. I think that time is over. OSI's definition of open source will rule. And if it's not an OSI-approved license, it won't be able to be called "open source." Fundamentally, we will see more maturity and transparency in the way people think and talk about open source.

Mark Spencer, Founder and CTO Digium

Spencer: The value of open source technology is widely recognized today. Even Microsoft has taken notice and built and is promoting their open source interoperability lab. Open source is a technology and licensing model that is here to stay and grow. Open source projects tend to start by focusing on highly technical interest groups (such as compilers and system libraries, which are focused at software developers). As adaptation of the open source projects grow broader, more products appear addressing a less technical audience, such as Open Office and "The Gimp," Ubuntu, and others have done. In fact, I personally view Open Office as one of the most critical open source software packages because it is the key to transitioning users and enterprises away from Microsoft Office and thus enables users to switch to Linux. Today, we are at the knee of the curve on this movement.

Sam Ramji, senior director of platform technology Microsoft

Ramji: As a development model, I think that five years from now open source will be like "object orientation" or "extreme programming" -- a once controversial and transformative idea that has found its way into how most people build software. I hope that we'll find ways to consistently reward developers of open source with the fame or revenue that help them continue their work. At the heart of development is a love for problem solving and helping users -- and this focus is often at odds with figuring out business plans and asking for what you deserve. Ideally we'd have a small number of well-known, federated marketplaces for open source applications that can connect these dots worldwide. Information technology has transformed the U.S. economy, and I'm personally grateful that it's the industry I've landed in. I'd like to see a marketplace environment enable developers in emerging markets to transform their lives by making their innovation broadly available and appropriately compensated.

As for market opportunities, the strength of open source development -- diversity -- is also a challenge when it comes to skills availability, consistency of user experience, and manageability. I would expect to see some standards emerge in these areas, or else to see new offerings that focus on integrating existing open source technologies in these three dimensions.

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