Introducing the 2007 InfoWorld Bossies
InfoWorld editors and reviewers award the Best Open Source Software for the enterpriseFollow @infoworld
Not too long ago, open source meant starving developers; scant documentation; an ugly, outdated Web site; and software that lived in perpetual beta. Now open source software is becoming big business. “Now hiring” is a common sight on project home pages, and .org and SourceForge sites that used to point straight to source code archives are redirected to .com URLs that celebrate the commercial success of what started out as collaborations among unpaid coders of like mind.
Open source’s ongoing transition from rags to riches is a good news/bad news proposition. The good news is that massive and landscape-changing projects such as JBoss (the elements of which were scattered, inadequately documented, and awkward for users and developers alike) drew polish, character, and direction from commercial acquisition -- in the case of JBoss, by Red Hat. The bad news is that as open source projects go commercial through acquisition or evolution, enhancements that would have been opened to the community often get held back as proprietary.
Should you be ticked off, for example, that Scalix doesn’t give away the code for its Outlook server-side functionality? You could, but having most of the source code for what’s running in your datacenter affords you more self-sufficiency and investment protection than running on completely closed code.
Some products that were once exclusively commercial got religion, or had it thrust upon them, and re-emerged as open source. OpenLaszlo, a multi-platform rich Web application solution, may be the best closed-to-open success story. Laszlo Systems’ open source conversion unquestionably put the company in the right place at the right time, adding orders of magnitude to its installed base and even setting the stage for Adobe’s incremental opening of its crown jewel Flash and Flex technologies.
Some projects seem to grow out of commercial companies’ skunkworks, and make it out into the open, so to speak, before marketing can lay claim to them. Tibco General Interface could easily win both worst-named product and “that can’t possibly be open source!” prizes. This gold standard among Ajax toolkits is unexpected generosity from a middleware titan. It is unquestionably worth charging for, and yet it’s not only free, it’s open sourced under the extraordinarily liberal BSD license.