Towards more progressive open source

More need to be informed what is to be gained from open source and why it matters to them

I found Oracle's statements on open source, tendered at the Linux/Open Source on Wall Street conference, intriguing to say the least. I'll begin by making it clear that I don't doubt the veracity of the database giant's experience with its customer base.

In fact, I take Monica Kumar's word when she says "We haven't seen our customers asking for open source databases...Not many customers are interested in looking into the code and mucking around with it, and making changes to it." Honestly, the latter half is almost taken as established fact, especially as it relates to infrastructure software like databases, middleware, etc. Unfortunately, pointing this out does more to pawn off the entire open source value proposition solely as visibility into source code.

Strangely enough, I don't actually expect Oracle to recognise the varied dimensions of open source on account of having too much vested in the proprietary model. Industry leaders can be funny that way.

As Matthew Aslett over at the 451 Group points out, "It is no wonder Oracle hasn't seen customers asking for open source databases - it has been busy looking the other way." On the other hand, I'm sure the folks at Sun might disagree with the contention that there isn't a notable demand for open source databases.

Still, you would think that in an age marked by global conglomerates, rapid consolidation and break-neck competition, there is sufficient motivation to recognise how to fully leverage open source. And just as much room to express how to do just that. However, stock barrel line on open source remains, more or less,

  • Cheaper
  • No vendor lock-in
  • Better???

The first of which is being diluted by the dynamics native to any marketplace, see: the availability of products like Oracle Express. Number two still holds true, although to those already chained to a proprietary vendor/platform the talk of freedom of choice mostly comes across as just that, talk.

Which is precisely why I'm of the perspective that there's room for what might be termed as progressive open source. Yes, this terminology drips with political overtones, but pragmatically I think open source success, over the long haul, will be achieved by tending towards more progressive characteristics.

Thus far it has been well-established that open source is indeed different. What's needed now is to demonstrate how these multiple degrees of difference can help meet customer needs, solve complex business problems and power innovation. Up to this point, this brand of understanding has resembled esoteric knowledge more than it has mainstream thought.

And that's exactly what needs to change. More need to be informed what is to be gained from open source and why it matters to them. Instead of open source = cheaper and more open, it should be: Yes you will save money, yes you won't be locked in, but here's how involvement with an open community is profitable as well.

The root of progressive is progress, which can't be achieved without a break from the status quo. However, to overcome the inertia that can stifle progress an alternative mode must become real. Its benefits can't be vague and hazy.

The reasons to embrace a shift from established avenues can't be known only to an inner circle of the "enlightened" but should be expressed to the collective whole. This takes time, but the passing of time itself shouldn't be mistaken for gaining ground...its progressive action applied over time that breeds a desirable end result.

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