The state of open source: Dave Rosenberg, Mulesource

Mulesource CEO views enterprise and VC interest as key indicators of open source's potential to lay claim to the core

Dave Rosenberg, CEO and co-founder of open source SOA infrastructure software vendor Mulesource, is well-versed in capitalizing on open source opportunities in the enterprise, transforming projects into products with viable business models. Here's how Rosenberg sees open source's business opportunities evolving.

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

In the last five years we've seen open source go from geek tools to mainstream applications. The challenge for open source, as with any emerging technology force, is to continue to be innovative while delivering high-quality products.

I see the current tech climate as ripe with opportunity for open source. With the murky US economy, companies are much less interested in spending huge amounts of their budgets on up-front license fees to proprietary vendors. IT shops are more interested than ever in controlling their fate -- and controlling their destiny.

The shaky economy means that traditional software companies with expensive sales models will become further relegated to the dustbin, as open source distribution puts software closer to customers

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

We've already seen the open source development model applied to areas far beyond software. We've also seen proprietary companies adopt similar development and distribution tactics to get closer to the user base.

I expect wide-scale adoption of open source in mission-critical applications as open source products continue to mature. I also expect the market opportunities to increase as we see more "closed" companies start to move further into open standards and development models.

Open source is no longer a matter of "if" but instead, a matter of "when."

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

Open source "projects" have a much greater possibility of turning into "products" now that enterprises have accepted open source as part of the core infrastructure, and because venture capital firms have been actively funding open source companies.

These do add pressure but also create more opportunity. And since there are now several successful open source business models to look toward, commercialization is becoming much easier.

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

Some of the tooling associated with group development needs to become more mature and needs to be able to be integrated effectively. Wikis and bug-tracking systems need to be integrated with build systems.

There are frameworks in place now that make distributed development easier, but it's not yet easy.

Open source now enjoys a rich and complex history, which is largely the result of trial and error over the years. What would you say have been the open source community's greatest missteps, or lessons learned?

There was no other way for open source to progress without trial and error related to both development and business. The biggest business misstep is probably the obsessive focus on licensing, which, while important, distracted people for way too long.

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