Recommended reading for the week of June 15
Outing the open-source leeches
Sources: InfoWorld, InformationWeek
As open-source boosters soak up the positive signals they hear from new federal CIO Vivek Kundra, it’s worth noting how much the open-source world has — and has not — changed in the past few years.
Part of open source’s growing mainstream acceptance is no doubt attributable to the entry of profit-seeking firms that tweak and improve the software or provide helpful support services to those who want to use it. This makes it more palatable to enterprise customers such as the government.
However, InfoWorld’s Bill Snyder writes that this commercial success increasingly rankles open-source traditionalists who are philosophically committed to the community-minded roots of the movement. In particular, the worst offenders are those freeloading companies that profit from the code but don’t give back with their own new contributions. And as the old guard points out, contributions are the sustenance of the community.
But your open-source leech is my open-source user, and getting more of those is a good thing, points out InformationWeek’s Serdar Yegulalp. One of the problems with the polarizing labels, which by the way are very old-school open source, is that they are not as cut and dried as some might think. What constitutes giving back is a subjective call. So deal with the fact that some people will make a buck off open source, get over the name calling, and focus instead on developing useful software that benefits people.
The water’s great
You don’t need to convince the Defense Department that open source has a place in government information technology. Defense Information Systems Agency CIO John Garing tells InformationWeek that open source is the wave of the future and figures in largely with the agency’s goal to be the military services' internal cloud provider.
DISA's role as an active participant and contributor — what do the open-source collectivists think of that? — in the open-source community allows the agency to enjoy the benefits inherent in that model. For example, one of those perks is that open software can be more secure than its proprietary, commercial cousin because it has more eyes on it and fingers poking at it, so flaws are found and fixed more quickly.
Guide to local customs
Another longstanding benefit of open source is that it can often be less expensive than commercial software options, no small factor during ever-tightening budgets. That’s prompting more organizations to explore tapping the open-source community for their own pet IT projects.
To succeed, you must have a well-thought-out community plan that details exactly what your organization needs and wants from its community and how it can achieve those goals, writes Joe Brockmeier, the openSUSE Community Manager, in CIO. One tip: if you really want a village contributing to your project, you need to cede some control — or at least some semblance of it — or no one will come to play.
Get revved up for the new model
There is one area where commercial software will always have open-source beat: You will never see a big-budget marketing blitz with TV ads, free T-shirts and sun-splashed destination events when new open-source software debuts. But that doesn’t mean freshly minted open-source apps are any less useful, cool or beneficial.
ComputerWorld’s Esther Schindler highlights 25 highly anticipated open-source releases expected in 2009.
Her list includes the prerequisite nerdy items such as programming and IT administrative tools, but it also includes plenty of business and everyman apps that we all can appreciate.
One example is the Android mobile device operating system, developed with a big hand from Google. It’s goal is to unleash an open source-based ecosystem of developers creating cool and useful smart phone apps such as the ones spawned by Apple’s wildly successful iPhone. Web 2.0ers can also get their motors running with new wiki workgroup collaboration platforms such as MindTouch Deki and Foswiki.