OPEN SOURCE THINK TANK FINDINGS PUBLISHED

Computing

The Second Open Source Think Tank was held in March in California. A report on the events findings has now been released.

The event saw 100 key members of the open source software (OSS) industry collaborating, discussing, brainstorming and developing solutions to develop and mature commercial open source. Topics covered included business models, licensing and intellectual property issues as well as adoption and usage models.

The findings can be downloaded in a 16 page report, 2007 Open Source Think Tank: The Future of Commercial Open Source. (Oddly the file name suggests the document was compiled using Microsoft Word rather than an open source application, showing a little less dedication to OSS than would have been hoped from an event of this nature.)

The 100 attendees were drawn from a variety of fields interested in OSS including senior executives from large and small software vendors (both open source and proprietary), CIOs, venture capitalists, analysts and other industry experts.

The key issues raised were those of financing of open source projects; confusion and incompatibility around licensing; the need for enterprise-level integration and support; and the need for an industry forum that represents the interest of commercial open source vendors and customers.

The report came up with some interesting findings, with both agreement and disagreement amongst the attendees. Following are noteworthy excerpts taken from the report.

Areas of Consensus

- Open source and proprietary software models are converging, and virtually all proprietary software companies will adopt key elements of the open source model, including collaborative development, and the building of viral distribution channels.

- A new open source branding or certification is not needed, beyond the established (Open Source Initiative) OSI definition and approved licences.

- There are too many OSI-approved licences, and much confusion over licence terms in the most popular licences.

- There needs to be a new OSI-approved open source licence that better meets the needs of commercial open source vendors and commercial customers then existing licences.

- There is a need for a new industry body where the concerns and requirements of commercial open source vendors and customers are represented. Existing organisations such as the Linux Foundation (see previous Tectonic story) and OSI do not yet meet this need.

Areas of Disagreement

- GPLv3 (draft 2) is accepted by some but disliked by most. (see Tectonic story on the third draft's release) Many open source companies and customers had very strong negative opinions about GPLv3 (draft 2), and will manage their organisations to reduce their exposure to GPLv3.

- The Microsoft-Novell deal remains controversial. While San Ramji and Justin Steinman did a good job explaining some of the reasons for the deal, some in the open source community remain skeptical.

- The future of open source vendors is uncertain. Some were very bullish on open source vendors, but others noted the relatively small number of "successful" open source companies and that most of them were started and funded many years ago. There was also disagreement on what would happen to open source if the economic cycle turned and companies cut back spending on IT. Would open source accelerate due to lower licensing costs, or would it stagnate as companies revert to tried-and-true solutions?

- Is open source good or bad for the software industry in the long run? Many cited the open source development model as the future of software development, producing better software faster. However, the difficulty in building strong open source business models could jeopardise the future as venture and other investment capital is redeployed, away from software startups.

Tectonic