5 key forces driving open source today

From the rise of foundations to emerging revenue models, the open source movement is primed for even greater impact on tomorrow's technologies

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The rise of cloud computing is also fueling new business models for open source. As an example, the services offered by CloudBees to enterprise developers are largely built using open source software. However, they're hard for a competitor to replicate because the full operational source (including operations scripts) is not supplied and the experience and skills to replicate it are costly enough to give CloudBees a competitive lead.

Witness the rise of cloud-focused open source communities, such as OpenStack, and you can see how central the cloud is to today's open source movement.

5. Big data: Value beyond software

The historic revenue model around open source software has been to monetize consulting, support, and services around software delivered free of charge. The rise of data-centric and data-driven organizations is changing this.

In today's market, the largest base for open source software -- companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter -- derive value from the way their users or customers access software online, rather than by charging for access to the software. They gather massive amounts of data about user activity and process it to drive their actual business. Thus, what differentiates their business is not the software itself, but the way it is configured, deployed, and combined with other software to manage and extract value from data on an epic scale.

For these businesses, tight control over software is no longer critical to their profit. It's no detriment to their business for customers and even competitors to have many of the same software components they are using. As a consequence, many of these entities experiment both by open-sourcing internally developed code and using open source code created by other entities, including competitors, in core business functions.

As more businesses move toward business models where the mere software they use does not differentiate them, we can expect to see further growth in open source: more projects released, more businesses engaging in open source communities, more pressure for patents to be remediated and licenses to be chosen wisely.

Open source future

The open source movement has evolved significantly since OSI was launched 15 years ago. Yet in many ways, the factors driving open source use and adoption are simply heirs of the original drivers of open source: the four software freedoms and their guarantee through open source licensing.

As long as we keep focus on those freedoms to use, study, modify, and distribute the source, we'll keep finding new ways that software freedom drives benefit to the individual, to business, and to society as a whole. The forces driving open source will continue to change; their origins in software freedom won't.

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This article, "5 key forces driving open source today," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest news in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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