The future of open source

11 leaders outline the challenges and opportunities ahead

There's no question that the open source community is a passionate one -- and one with significant influence on technology directions and options. We're way past the days when people asked if Linux or Apache was safe to depend on in business. Open source is now a mainstream part of the technology fabric.

Yet it remains connected to its roots around a passionate community working together to solve problems and share the fruits of their labors with others. Any endeavor based in community is bound to spark passionate debate. After all, without contention, how else to determine the best way forward?

Since its emergence, open source has embodied this spirit. Part defiant, part self-reliant, and often outspoken and opinionated, those immersed in the community have worked both in tandem and at odds, all with the intention of pushing the movement in as many worthwhile directions at once.

[ See the slideshow: Roundtable: The state of open source | Discover the year's best open source apps: 2008 InfoWorld Bossie Awards | Keep up on open source developments with InfoWorld's Open Sources blog. ]

It's so worthwhile that the drumbeat of business can now be heard in nearly every corner of community, drawing the attention of vendors and capitalists alike. And with greater attention and potential has come a measure of added strife. Questions of selling out and just desserts surface more frequently, yet not to the jeopardy of the endeavor, as the code keeps proliferating, thanks to those who participate.

Given the increased reliance on open source by users and commercial vendors, as well as by the commercialization of some open source projects, InfoWorld spoke with 11 thought leaders in a roundtable discussion about the current open source climate to uncover the most vibrant themes and conflicts shaping open source today.

From pioneers Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond to technology strategists at Google, IBM, and Microsoft to the new guard of entrepreneurs and developers working to transform projects into products, each expert sheds ample light on the opportunities and pitfalls ahead.

Topic No. 1: Issues and opportunities
Topic No. 2: Evolving trends
Topic No. 3: The cost of commercialization
Topic No. 4: Avenues for acceptance
Topic No. 5: Missteps and lessons learned
Topic No. 6: Visions of utopia
Topic No. 7: Competition and dissent

Roundtable participants


Matt Asay
Vice president of business development, Alfresco


Andy Astor
CEO of EnterpriseDB


Chris DiBona
Open source programs manager, Google


Bruce Perens
Creator of the Open Source Definition and co-founder of the Open Source Initiative


Sam Ramji
Senior director of platform technology strategy, Microsoft


Eric S. Raymond
Programmer, author, and open source software advocate


Dave Rosenberg
CEO and co-founder, Mulesource


Javier Soltero
CEO, Hyperic


Mark Spencer
Founder and CTO, Digium


Robert Sutor
Vice president of open source and standards, IBM


Zack Urlocker
Vice president of products, MySQL

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.