I find there is increasing interest from organizations in open source solutions. These organizations are not only federal and state governments and universities as expected, but also vendors and global 2000 companies. The areas of interest range from application servers and business portals, to database systems and business intelligence tools.
Vendors having been using open source solutions for some time. These solutions often form the underlying application server and database system infrastructure of commercial products. Some vendors, IBM is a good example, contribute development code to the open source community. These donations may be motivated by the need to provide a reference platform for testing compliance to industry standards, or to provide a starter set with the hope that the user will migrate to commercial software when improved support and additional functionality is required.
Vendors have also been acquiring a wide range of open source solutions. Novell acquired SuSE Linux, IBM purchased GlueCode, Oracle bought Innobase and Sleepycat Software, and more recently, Red Hat acquired JBoss. Some of these acquisitions were quite competitive. Red Hat appears to have beaten Oracle to JBoss, and as a result, Oracle is now rumored to be looking at acquiring Novell.
Many of the open source companies acquired by the large software companies had previously allowed IT organizations to download their software for free. The companies made money by providing support, education, and additional functionality for a fee. Thee open source companies often also had large user communities contributing fixes, improvements, and so forth. In fact it is these user communities that often attract IT organizations to the use of open source software. Open source involves trading software costs for developing and support costs, but the user community can reduce some of the maintenance load.
The question arises as to why large companies like IBM and Oracle are acquiring open source organizations. Is it to remove potential competitors? Or is it to provide a basic product with the hope that the IT organization will upgrade when it requires better support and functionality? Acquiring the code, however, does not mean the user community comes with it. Novell found that when it acquired SuSE Linux. Open source communities are unlikely to help large software companies build their revenue and customer base when the whole reason for using open source software in the first place was to avoid vendor lock in. What do you think? Let me know.
Posted April 18, 2006 7:09 PM
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