The state of open source: Andy Astor, EnterpriseDB

The EnterpriseDB CEO sees harmony between developers and capitalists as essential to moving open source forward

As CEO of EnterpriseDB, Andy Astor endeavors to raise the profile of the PostgresQL open source database to the level of prominence he believes it deserves. But when it comes to capitalizing on an open source project's potential, there is much debate regarding the appropriate business model to employ. Here's how Astor sees the possibility of coexistence between developers and capitalists unfolding.

What do you see as the more pressing challenges and opportunities for open source given the current tech climate?

The chief challenge open source faces is the need to tease apart the development and community model from the distribution and business model. Open source is used as a label for two very different things. First, as a way to develop software, and second, as a way to distribute and make money on software. Because the label is used interchangeably, the two get confused fairly often. As open source development and open source capitalists, like me, become more prevalent, the great challenge will be to recognize that there are two very different currents in the open source movement, each with its own particular requirements to succeed.

Where do you see open source heading in the next five years, especially with regard to development, community, and market opportunities?

First of all, much greater transparency is where I see us heading. In the early days of commercial open source, people would say "commercial open source," with a smile and a wink -- meaning that they were using open source as a way to get people to pay attention to them. The marketplace stood for that for about a year or two. I think that time is over. OSI's definition of open source will rule. And if it's not an OSI-approved license, it won't be able to be called "open source." Fundamentally, we will see more maturity and transparency in the way people think and talk about open source.

Does widespread adoption and commercialization of open source software create new challenges or pressures for open source projects?

The greatest challenge for open source projects is to stay smart and passionate. The earliest open source projects were by and large built relatively small groups of people who were excited about a particular idea. And they were built, quite frankly, independent of any monetary award. But as the open source movement grows, practitioners will have to be careful. Somebody once said to me, "As organizations grow bigger, they get dumber." And I think that applies to any new technology or trend in the marketplace. So, what open source projects need to do is to stay smart and retain their edge, and not appeal to the lowest common denominator.

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

If open source is going to become mainstream, then we are going to need guidelines, standards, and best practices around how to make and create a successful open source project. And yet whenever you put too many guidelines, standards, and best practices on projects, they tend to lose their edge. Figuring out how to reconcile this contradiction is essential to moving open source forward.

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