Gartner on the evolving nature of open source

Has open source sold out? Or is it just part of the mainstream?

Brian Prentice over at Gartner has posted an interesting blog article called "Open Source's Dying Narrative." While I don't quite get the title, it's an insightful piece about how open source has attracted attention and (gasp) money from venture capitalists and large software vendors in order to become a bigger part of the software industry.

[ Also on InfoWorld: "Open source's transitional phase" | Stay up to speed with the open source community with InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

Prentice dispels the romantic myth of the "fiercely independent geek-heroes" toiling away on open source, presumably without a worry about how they will make a living. I think the most important observation Prentice makes is that open source continues to get stronger:

And it’s doing so because it is becoming an integral component of modern software businesses. Gartner has been predicting that by 2011, at least 80% of all commercial software solutions will include elements of open source. That prediction is based on our observation that nearly all software vendors are finding ways to weave Open Source Software within, and around, their core offerings. It’s becoming quite common to find open source software that is tightly bound to some proprietary component – either other software or vendor-specific service offerings...

The fundamental principle upon which this aging narrative has been crafted – that Open Source sits in juxtaposition to proprietary software rather than being connected with it on a continuum – is today a false dichotomy.

For those who are trying to run an open source business, it is clear that pragmatism, rather than puritanical beliefs, is key to business growth. At MySQL, we used the GPL because we felt it was the best way to achieve our business objectives of creating a popular, affordable database. It turned out we were able to build a substantial business (about $100 million in revenues as a stand-alone company) by offering a subscription model on top of open source software. And we were able to maintain the principle of having an open source database server, thereby giving MySQL users freedom from vendor lock-in.

Venture funding and acquisitions just prove the point: Open source is here to stay, and it will continue to co-exist with proprietary software.

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