Question No. 2: Where do you see open source heading in the next five years, especially with regard to development, community, and market opportunities?
Vice president of business development
Asay: We have demonstrated that it's possible to kick-start successful open source projects with venture capital. As such, I believe we'll see a real flowering of commercial open source projects with significant competition within markets. We're seeing this today in the IT management market, with Hyperic, GroundWork, Zenoss, and others competing aggressively for market share. In the enterprise content management market, Alfresco finally got a real peer in Acquia. This is good and indicates that the best is yet to come in commercial open source.
I also believe we're going to see the proliferation of projects like Eclipse, Linux, and Firefox -- projects that command significant commercial investment, simultaneously serving as hubs for competition and collaboration. As such projects flourish, we'll see greater innovation because each individual market participant won't have to reinvent the wheel and will instead innovate around the edges of communal projects.
Creator of the Open Source Definition
Co-founder of the Open Source Initiative
Perens: I think that most reporters are misreading the economics of open source, and I hope that changes. You see a lot of publicity for companies that put open source in a profit center, like MySQL. But for most companies, open source is operated in an IT cost center. Many open source developers are paid these days, but the majority are actually working for customer, not vendor, organizations. For those companies, open source is a way to distribute the cost and risk of developing non-business-differentiating software that they need to support their own operations, but which isn't particularly visible to their customers. Those folks are interesting because they don't have the problems with sustainability or conflict of interest that the open source vendors can have.
So, I think the currently underreported and future trend is the shift of the development of non-business-differentiating software within companies to open source. Consider that if you are an IT manager, you can directly help your company's bottom line if you move as much money as possible to developing the software that is customer-visible and provides your company with a business differentiator against its competitors. But where do you get the other 95 percent of the software in most companies, which isn't business-differentiating? You participate in open source communities to build it, and thus spread out the cost and risk with your partners in those communities. You can share the development with them without hurting your company, because the software isn't business-differentiating.