The state of open source: Avenues for acceptance

Ways in which open source as a software production methodology can reach the next level

11 leaders from the open source and vendor communities discuss the current open source climate and outline the challenges and opportunities ahead.

What are the next steps needed for open source as a software production methodology to reach the next level?

Matt Asay: Vice president of business development Alfresco

If by "the next level" you mean widespread adoption, commercial success, and rampant fear within the proprietary vendors, aren't we already there? Seriously, open source has proved its merits as a commercial and development methodology. The only thing remaining is for a few industry laggards to stop consolidating long enough to realize that they have more to gain from open source than lose, but to gain they must act immediately.

Chris DiBona: Open source programs manager Google

The marketplace is still trying to understand open source, and so a better question is, How long until the business world understands how to best use and take part in open source software development? I think the answer for some companies is never; and others, well, that depends on the company.

Robert Sutor: Vice president of open source and standards IBM

More software development companies need to adopt internal software development models based on what we have learned from open source communities. We need more best-selling books on open source development models that are bought and studied by mainstream programmers. We need more people to ask, "Why wouldn't we open source this?" We need to better reward developers by recognizing merit and earned technical reputation.

Mark Spencer: Founder and CTO Digium

I think increased focus on the transition from project to product (especially through for-profit companies) will help carry open source projects from a more limited audience to the consumer markets at large. For example, Digium's focus today is not only on providing component hardware and software but on providing solutions for small businesses that are not only understood by consumers but understood by the traditional channel that reaches those consumers as well. I think that partnership between open source projects will also help improve their ability to interact with one another, thus helping innovate in the area of high integration. The power of that integration will in the long run help solidify the value proposition for enterprise customers, in particular.

Javier Soltero: CEO Hyperic

We need a better understanding of the economics behind the various business models used by open source companies. At this point, no company except Red Hat has been able to demonstrate the type of large-scale economic viability that is necessary for a software company to be able to innovate at scale while using open source. Many are trying, but we're not there yet. The reason this is important is it acts as the proof behind how a company can fund the development of product(s) that are delivered in an open source model and still stick around to realize the benefits. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach, so I would not expect there to be a single recipe that everyone can follow. However, I do believe that the whole equation needs to be considered in order for this to work -- low customer acquisition cost + continuous feedback and contribution from the community + subscription value + scaled R&D. The R&D benefits are the most difficult to realize for a company like ours [Hyperic] because the audience for the product is not composed of software developers and the software is inherently complex. It's a little like operating systems such as Linux ... lots of people use them, very few know how to build them.

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