A funny thing happened to open source in 2009. In a year when the viability of open source business models came into question, and the debate over what is or isn't open source software got messier, open source became the dominant software paradigm.
Yes, as Ashlee Vance famously noted in the New York Times last November, few open source pure plays besides Red Hat are making serious money. Even acquisitions of independent open source companies slowed, with many smaller plays simply falling into obscurity. But that doesn't change the fact that open source software is taking the lead in a number of categories, with big guys like Google and IBM using it as a wedge to dislodge commercial software competitors.
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And then there's the game-changing Hadoop, the Apache project based on Google MapReduce that enables developers to create applications that run HPC-class jobs on commodity hardware -- either locally or in the cloud.
Google, of course, has been highly adept in using open source as a weapon in its own march to world domination. The blog post written by Google senior vice president of product management Jonathan Rosenberg, "The meaning of open," has become a kind of open source rallying cry as well as a brilliant piece of marketing, with Rosenberg providing a philosophical wrapper around the company's commitment to Apache 2.0 licensing for its four projects: Chrome, Android, Chrome OS, and Google Web Toolkit.
We all know Microsoft has been making noises about interoperability with Linux ever since it announced its deal with Novell some years back. But last November it felt compelled to take another step and announced that the 4.0 version of the .Net Micro Framework (mainly for embedded systems) would be available under the Apache 2.0 license. And in December, after it became clear that open source code was in a Windows 7 installer, Microsoft quickly announced that the installer would be available under GPL.
There are many more examples of open source ascendancy than I can cite here. Even WhiteHouse.gov adopted Drupal as its content management system. (And do I really need to mention that the whole EU mess over Oracle's acquisition of Sun is about ensuring that MySQL stays a viable alternative?) Clearly this has been a banner year, despite the grinding forces of the Great Recession that pushed many open source startups to the edge of disaster. I'm betting we'll have a lively Open Source Business Conference this year.