Feeds

Open source - the once and future dream

Ballmer, trolls, and the next ten years

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The open source lifeblood

Companies come and licenses go, but the thing that really makes FOSS are participants - those who build the code and make changes. Contributors are the lifeblood of Linux FOSS, and the 2000s saw Linux and FOSS attract legions of new contributors as businesses recognized the potential of the software and the development methodology. New contributors meant new features.

The challenge of the next 10 years is in continuing to not just attract more contributors - but to attract one very specific type of contributor: the end-user corporation outside the existing gene pool of IT that dominate.

Many of the contributions to FOSS come from those already in the tech industry. That's either because they have a natural inclination or interest in working on coding projects or have of a sense of self-interest with individuals or companies working on code to projects and products that help them down the line.

But end-user corporations outside the tech sector developed a reputation during the last decade for using open-source and not returning their changes to the community. In some cases, the terms and conditions of employee's contracts mean what ever work they do during their nine to five on the company clock belongs to the company and cannot - from a legal perspective - be simply donated to a community or given away. In other cases, employers would not release changes for fear of betraying competitive advantage.

Red Hat's chief executive Jim Whitehurst - an ex-Delta Airlines man - in 2008 put the subject of needing to get more users from outside the tech community on the map, lambasting the level of participation in open source. He slammed a lack of user-based projects, saying hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted each year as enterprises build their own software.

Bring out your contributors

Michael Tiemann, Red Hat's vice president of open-source affairs and president of the OSI, told us fresh contributors are needed to help bring improvements to code on a small level that can make open-source as a whole better. Tiemann believes there should be greater synchronization between different projects if open-source is to really make a change now that it's hit the mainstream.

"Open source dramatically expands the number of ways people can participate in this incremental improvement cycle, and when open-source is doing its synchronization job these smaller efforts come back to be a major one," Tiemann said.

He also believes those corporations that use open source and open-source methodologies will benefit from this process, because changes in code become synchronized and because software no longer becomes a big-bang release that can go wrong during rollout.

Backing Whitehurst, Tiemann claimed in a whiter paper here (PDF) that $1 trillion is wasted each year in failed IT projects as software runs late, goes over budget, or fails to deliver on the features promised. Last year, the Standish Group reported a quarter of all IT projects are considered a failure because they are canceled or are never used. Forty four per cent are late, run over budget, or are delivered without the required features. Thirty two per cent are considered successful.

Open-source helps, Tiemann says, because those changes on a small scale mean smaller upgrades and less "big" IT rollouts once there's been a major application upgrade.

Tiemann says it's in the end users' own self interest to join in because participation improves FOSS and makes the experience of using FOSS better, because users making the changes they want in the software. "Nothing succeeds like success. We have seen a growing number of companies trying, failing, trying again, failing a little more, and ultimately, the success makes it all worth it," Tiemann said.

"There is an extraordinary potential to be unlashed when people discover how to properly interact with open source, which is not consume, consume, consume, or buy, buy, buy - but by this behavioral ability to be able to inhale, process, exhale - to make participation rewarding."

So participation is good, but how do you convince those consuming to give back or circumvent the corporate legalese that prevents donations to FOSS during the next 10 years?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Next page: The cultural shift

More from The Register

next story
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.