Jain Temple

Hot Spots

India Links
Call Home


Art & Culture
Book Shelf



About Us

Contact Us
About Us

Article by Mohan Babu


Open source: Myths and realities

The proponents of open source utter Linux in the same breath. MOHAN BABU says that Linux might be a poster child for the open source movement, but it is time we looked beyond it to where the real prowess of open source lies

The open source wave sweeping through the technology sector has been more in the news than any other area or trends in technology in the recent past. Software and applications ranging from operating-systems, databases, application servers, Web servers, and office productivity tools have all begun to enter the open source domain; in the process, this embracing of open source movement is shaking up traditional business models of selling, upgrading and supporting software systems. While it may still be a bit early to prophesise where the trend will eventually lead us to, the open source model of innovation is already spawning newer business ideas.

Though open source movement, and the development of software under this paradigm, has been there for a while, a number of myths persist. Some of the most common ones include:

Open Source IS Linux

I find it amusing to see proponents of open source uttering Linux in the same breath as open source. Though Linux is definitely a poster-child for the open source movement, it is time we move past discussion on just the ‘skin’ (GUI) to where the real prowess of open source lies: Business computing, applications, architectures, servers and the like.

Businesses have begun to embrace the open source movement in a big way but proponents still continue to drum up just the same old case studies like the city of Munich or Chinese government going in for Linux! It is perhaps time to look at the forest for the trees, to see that open source movement is much bigger than just an adoption of Linux.

Open source is about Microsoft/Oracle or IBM bashing

This myth follows from the previous one that open source movement was all about Linux vs Microsoft. Yes, large software companies including Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, et al, built their business models around developing and licensing software, operating systems, etc, but that is history. Nothing new here. The primary focus of open source is not to eat the lunch of software companies—though in some cases, software vendors will probably sit down to revisit their core revenue generation strategies due to the shift in the operating paradigm.

Open source is waiting for a buy-in from the corporate world

This myth goes back to the days of skunkworks whereby individual programmers afraid to flaunt their affiliation with the open source movement, would be content to working on such projects on the sly. Most large software and service organisations have graduated past that mindset; even so, many of them are going to be a bit wary of making a song-and-dance of their endorsement of open source movement for obvious reasons. (Many have deep partnerships and alliances with some of the largest software vendors in the world. Why rock the boat when you can have a cake, and it too seems to be the mindset.) This is not to say that people will not be tacitly encouraged to be a part of different skunkworks and open source projects.

Most large software and solutions companies are already ‘sold’ on the idea of open source. ‘Big guys’ of software are already talking of ways to eat their own cooking. IBM, for instance, is pushing to get Sun to open up Java. In a letter sent in early February, Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technology at IBM, was quoted saying that IBM was willing to work with Sun on an “independent project to open source Java.” Smith wrote: “IBM is ready to provide technical resources and code for the open source Java implementation while Sun provides the open source community with Sun materials, including Java specifications, tests and code.” Interestingly, even other non-IT companies are embracing the open source wave in order to shave costs off their operations.

Even back in India, things are hotting up on the open source front. Business and government leaders have been keenly observing this trend. Case in point: President

Abdul Kalam has been advocating embracing open source in India for a while. He was quoted saying: “Further spread of IT, which is influencing the daily life of individuals, would have a devastating effect on the lives of society due to any small shift in the business practice involving these proprietary solutions. It is precisely for these reasons open source software needs to be built, which would be cost-effective for the entire society. In India, open source code software will have to come and stay in a big way for the benefit of our billion people.”

The bottomline is very clear—corporations are looking past the ‘bells and whistles’ of Linux vs Microsoft pitch. Now the real battle is moving from just the desktop/GUI towards capturing the corporate-IT infrastructure. This is the most significant, and lucrative part of the computing puzzle and open sourcing of this space is going to be watched closely by IT companies and users of technology, which is almost everybody.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
  • Sponsored Advert

    Advert: Visitor's Travel Insurance

    Click for free online Quotes


    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


    GaramChai® 1999-2005