We are having tough times. Very few days pass without new messages of layoffs, budget cuts and mediocre results. We are in a deep crisis and the recession makes survival a priority. Typically enterprises tend to slow down in these times, projects get canceled, mandatory replacements get delays as far as possible, innovation becomes second priority. CEOs and CIOs seem to behave a bit like lemmings and all follow the same patterns. As if there wasn’t an alternative!This is the time to be bold. When the fight for business and customers is as tight as today, then innovative (web) applications and creative use of data and information can make the difference! And Open Source (and partially SaaS or cloud computing) allows to do this without doubling the budget. Actually, Open Source offers the opportunity to build great platforms and solutions with the staff that is on board already today, so little or no extra investments are needed. And, Open Source products and technologies have never been as mature and easy to consume as today. This is the perfect moment to enlarge the Open Source footprint in your enterprise! What about rolling out a purpose adapted CRM solution (e.g. SugarCRM) – for a smaller business unit? What about building a fancy portal (e.g. Liferay) for a specific customer segment that is under-served today? What about introducing business intelligence (e.g. Pentaho, Jaspersoft) and applying it on data not analyzed today? What about deploying an easy to use enterprise wide search feature (e.g. Lucene, Nutch, Solr) easing the knowledge intensive tasks of sales people and making them more efficient? And so on.Why hesitate? There are two kinds of decisions, reversible and non-reversible ones. Applying Open Source technologies to solving business issues are certainly examples of the first kind!
In a new report from the Linux Foundation a lot of data is published showing who actually helps to move forward the Linux Kernel. Interesting to see that the largest share (21.1%) of contributions comes from independents. Second largest contributor is RedHat (with 12%), followed by IBM (6.3%), Novell (6.1%), Intel (6.0%) and many others. What this report shows again is the important support of Open Source by large hardware and software companies. Many of these of course have vested interests, but that’s okay. Important is a well structured governance process that assures that the final deliverable actually fulfills the need of many and not of a few. The report is certainly a worthwile read.
People discussing the benefits of Open Source typically mention cost, vendor dependencies or flexibility. But one of the key advantages is also that Open Source allows for fast innovation at low cost. Let’s take an example: You want to devevelop a new browser, one with very specific features and maybe tailored for a specific type of application. Well you don’t need to start from scratch, you can re-use – and assemble a whole range of components that will speed up the development of your new browser and even make it more stable earlier. Even complex new applications can be developed in the matter of months instead of years. This accelerates innovation, allows for more trials and market tests, facilitates the usage of variants and alternatives and parallel technology implementations. And this is not just good for new young companies, it’s also great for grown up Enterprises. It’s just a question of doing it.
With SpringSource taken over by VMWare one more “Open Source Pure Play” disappears. We have seen it with MySQL, the range of open source providers acquired by Oracle and many others. It seems to be tough for Open Source vendors to survive independently. Or, it seems to be a very natural exit for a VC backed Open Source company to be acquired by a traditional commercial software company. The buyer typically gets a good and valuable new skill set, priviledged access to technology and additional market reach. But what does the Open Source company win, except receiving pockets of money?From the Enterprise’s perspective many of these acquisitions are good news, as most often this means that the Open Source vendor will follow more traditional ways of doing business than before, and therefore is easier to consume for an Enterprise. This is of course only valid, if the technology survives and continues to florish.We’ll keep an eye on these (acquired) companies and how they develop under the new owners.
Matthew Aslett posted a great blog post, explaining the Open Source influence on data warehousing yesterday. Talking about PostgreSQL and Ingres as the basis of many commercial datawarehouses (examples Netezza, Greenplum) he also mentions the first core warehouse software published under an open source license by Infobright. A lot has been happening recently in this scene and the article is a must read for everyone looking for an affordable technology in this space.