This article is a translation of Matt Esei’s article “Open source’s ardent admirers. Free riders' self-defeating logic ", published on August 13, 2010 in The Register .
Open source software has long been something commonplace. Therefore, it is all the more pity that many of his hottest fans still do not understand the principles underlying it.
For example, ask the CIO team, as Accenture recently did
: why are they so zealously implementing open source software — and they are implementing it really jealously, because:
- 50% of respondents are “completely loyal” to open source software;
- 69% plan to increase investment in it;
- 38% plan to transfer all critical for their business software to open alternatives in 2010.
And what do you hear in response?
Open source software is characterized by better quality (76%), higher reliability (71%) and lower support costs (71%). These figures are confirmed by Forrester polls
Great, right? Perhaps. Until we add one more spoon with numbers to this barrel: only 29% plan to return their changes in the code to the corresponding communities.
Generally speaking, this does not mean that everything is bad. In the end, the ideology of open source software does not oblige anyone who uses it to return input to the community — as long as there is a critical mass of developers interested in developing projects sufficient to ensure that these projects are not bent.
But the question arises: what do these CIOs expect to get from using open source software?
Imagine a situation: an enterprise makes changes to open source software, but does not publish changes, and these changes do not fall into the main branch. This means that from now on it must support this software on its own. And in this case, not only the costs of software maintenance increase, but also disappear, or, at a minimum, the benefits of quality and nondelivery of code decrease.
It should be recognized that not all developers are equal, and you cannot vouch that your engineers who fix the Linux kernel are as capable as Google Ted Ts'o or James Bottomley of Novell.
Curiously, these two were arguing about this last week at LinuxCon in Boston, which The Register has already reported
. Discontent caused Google: the fact that he allegedly forked
the Linux kernel for his Android; by not returning the changes made for Android back to Linux and thereby separating from it, and from the extensive Linux community; the fact that it reduces the efficiency of work and impairs compatibility between the two branches.
Although Google promises to return everything that Android has acquired, honestly, it doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Why did it happen? If Google is not heavily burdened with additional costs - and he, obviously, is not burdened with them, since he calls the
costs of developing Android "insignificant" - then he probably would have benefited from the publication of the Android code ... and yet he does not
As for Google, of course, he didn’t go too far to provide Accenture with information about the money saved on software maintenance. He almost certainly believes that he is able to provide equal or even better reliability and quality than the community that develops the Linux kernel. Google has ruled the core for many years for its search engine and other products and probably knows it thoroughly.
In other words, Google is not being clever when it comes to using open source. They understand the costs of their own development of Linux, and are willing to bear them.
Still, I’m curious if the CIOs surveyed by Accenture are aware of their conflicting views on open source software: what they expect to get from it and what they are going to pay for it.
But in general, is this a problem? Not.
Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin told me at LinuxCon for lunch:
Everything always ends with the fact that the code is returned to the community - even when the project begins with a fork of an existing project and is developed alone. Independently supporting a project over time becomes simply irrational, and companies eventually realize this.
An intelligent CIO must admit that open source software always benefits when a new player is included in the game. According to Zemlin, they do not always immediately understand this, but in the end they still give up, which is confirmed by examples from IBM, Intel and others.
Of course, there is a certain benefit from a simple “hitchhiking” at the expense of the community. But the benefit is multiplied if the enterprise not only exploits the community, but also actively participates in it.Matt Asay is Canonical Chief Operating Officer for Ubuntu Commercial Operations. Being engaged in open source software for more than ten years, Esey worked as general manager in the Americas at Alfreso, vice president of business development, and also helped launch open source software at Novell. He is an honorary board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column titled "Open ... and Slam" ("Open ... and Shut") goes to The Register every Friday.
PS Good health to you, Oracle! :)