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Open source philosophy under threat

Open source philosophy under threat

Independent software vendors (ISVs) could soon become a thing of the past as major software vendors continue to adopt open source software.

Sam Higgins, Forrester senior analyst ANZ, says there is ample evidence that giant software vendors are revising their product and marketing strategies around open source.

As Higgins points out, the last year has seen IBM acquire Gluecode Software, CA spin out the Ingres database into a separate open source company and even Microsoft create

several open source licences for its software.

“The thing that gets me is where do I go to find an ISV now that the industry is becoming so commoditised? Where did all the independent companies go?”

Higgins says Red Hat’s acquisition of JBoss makes perfect sense but says that if Oracle buys Novell it places CA as the only ISV left in the field.

“Given all the criticism that’s been thrown at Microsoft and even IBM over the years it’s a complete turnaround because that’s exactly where the rest of the market is going,” he says.

Higgins says the trigger for Forrester’s latest open source report was Oracle acquiring Sleepycat Software, developer of the open source BerkeleyDB database.

“We started doing some digging around and found there was a lot more activity going on. This is just the start of it — I think the next couple of years will be extremely interesting in the open source market.”

But Higgins believes this commercialisation of open source could put the very philosophy of the movement at risk.

“When clients phone me with questions about open source they are actually referring to the commercial open source vendors.”

He says open source communities will have to work to retain their hard-won independence and users may wonder what happened to the benefits they hoped to achieve from adopting open source software.

“I still think the issue for buyers surrounds the purchasing model. The irony of open source is the struggle to buy services from open source vendors and many users don’t have an understanding of the subscription model.”

This impacts resellers, says Higgins, who under the traditional model make revenue from flow-on services or take a cut of the licence fees.

“In the open source environment resellers are in the power position but the big boys recognise this and some are considering reducing their partner and VAR networks.”

Higgins says commercial vendors are looking at a variety of revenue-generation strategies and will move from one strategy to another — regardless of benefits to clients.

He says the open source ecosystem will only become more complex and gaining benefits from open source may become even harder.

“If such overheads become too great the pendulum may swing away from open source.”

Ultimately, says Higgins, if open source projects are acquired en masse by companies such as Oracle then he expects to see the broader movement retreat.

He believes any strategy employed by traditional software vendors to stamp out open source will only lead to stronger, more successful open source. It would just be a question of how soon, the form it would take and who the leaders would be.


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