There are certain phrases that we tend to hear a lot from vendors — ‘enterprise-class, best of breed, customer choice,’ etc. However, I was repeatedly hearing somewhat surprising phrases as I made the rounds at LinuxWorld this year: ‘We don’t care, customers don’t care, no one cares …”
Don’t get me wrong. Linux and open source have not reached the point where the software is so good, vendors and customers don’t have to care about it. The point seems to be this: there is less concern or ‘care’ about whether the operating system is Linux, Windows, Solaris or other; fewer customers care whether the software in use is open source or not; and there seems to be a general recognition that the fact a product or vendor is open source does not matter as much.
Sure, open source is still a significant differentiator. It allows vendors to get software and products into customer hands more quickly and broadly. It typically provides significant cost savings to customers. However, it is far less exotic and foreign in the enterprise, both for vendors and customers, who seem to be viewing open source not as religion, philosophy or idealism, but as just another option.
Vendors supporting various operating systems indicated there is less care about the underlying OS. Part of this can be attributed to virtualization, which allows servers and VMs running different operating systems to be managed in a unified manner. Still, even the difference between virtual and physical servers seems to be of less care to vendors, which are now moving to support and include both in their products and plans. Other vendors discussed how the use of virtual appliances and cloud computing were minimizing how much care centers on the OS, since it is becoming less visible to partners and users.
As for those users and customers, who are playing an increasingly significant role in Linux and open source, there also appears to be less care about whether software is open source. Instead, customers have come to expect comparable or superior features and functionality at less cost. Open source is often the way vendors and their products get there, but customers don’t really care.
So does all this lack of care mean that open source is in danger of losing its edge? I don’t think so. Rather, it is further testament to the continued enterprise maturation and acceptance of Linux and other open source software.