Feeds

Fresh blood - the new fight for open source

Send in the committers

The essential guide to IT transformation

Meet "Zorro, master of the night". Zorro is a Java developer for a major US bank that makes widespread use of open source software. Zorro is keen to participate in open source projects, too, except for one thing - his employer won't let him.

"For me, to contribute back to open source, I'd have to become 'Zorro, master of the night' - you have to go underground," our programmer said during last week's MuleCon in San Francisco, under condition of, yes - you guessed it - anonymity. "You have to understand the risk that we take."

We're so deep here, Zorro isn't even his real alias - he just plucked it out of the air - but his case is typical. Like many developers working for The Man, his time and any intellectual property he creates during work hours belong to the company.

And that's creating a serious challenge when it comes to open source projects, as they rely on the contributions of volunteers who are paid for, and effectively owned, by employers.

Forget potential litigation from another SCO. Get over the shadow of Microsoft. The real challenge facing open source is how to bring in fresh contributors and code contributions to sustain projects and meet users' needs. Without fresh blood, projects progress relatively slowly and are likely to stumble towards meeting the requirements of the end user, the consumer of IT.

Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat chief executive, last month joined a growing chorus voicing frustration with lack of corporate participation in open source projects. This means that IT projects do not get the direct input they need from a requirements perspective. For all Red Hat's success, Whitehurst knows that unless more users participate, Red Hat faces a significant challenge filling out its technology stack, delivering software users want and - ultimately - growing its business.

Drumming up corporate involvement also explains the motivation behind the creation of companies like the Collaborative Software Initiative. This is working to bring projects to open communities that might actually be useful, as opposed to peddling some vendor-filtered dream of what it wants you to want.

The challenge is real. Open source has done well in operating systems and middleware. Fedora and MySQL are regarded as successes. It's the fledgling projects that face the challenges as the industry tries to define what's next in open source middleware and applications after things like JBoss?

Open source projects are being particularly challenged because many large organizations - such as Zorro's employer - suck in huge quantities of open source code, but are not returning changes, which could have been useful to the community at large.

Fortune 500 companies who can't give the code back are the biggest challenge facing MuleSource, an open source service-oriented architecture (SOA) start-up from San Francisco, says chief executive Dave Rosenberg.

MuleSource customers include large banks, big financial institutions and major retailers and their reluctance to commit, may stem legal challenges - the companies own the IP - or the feeling among the developers that their bosses know their Gmail address, and that they will get in trouble if they flout company rules.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
China: You, Microsoft. Office-Windows 'compatibility'. You have 20 days to explain
Told to cough up more details as antitrust probe goes deeper
BBC: We're going to slip CODING into kids' TV
Pureed-carrot-in-ice cream C++ surprise
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.