The OpenStack Pulse 2014 – new 451 report

We’ve recently updated our coverage of OpenStack with a new report, ‘The OpenStack Pulse 2014.’

The OpenStack project continues to be something of a lightning rod and also something of a dichotomy in the industry. On one hand, it has drawn the involvement of hundreds of supporting vendors and more than 17,000 individual members. It ranks highly among priorities, particularly for private clouds, among 451 Research survey respondents.

Yet critics are quick to point out issues: the continued difficulty of installing and implementing OpenStack; the challenges of pushing it to production and fragmentation — including different vendor objectives and agendas. Despite its downsides, one thing remains clear: OpenStack is a major concern and focus for large enterprises and service providers today.

Read the full article.

451 Research perspectives on OpenStack and Amazon APIs

There’s been an interesting debate on the OpenStack cloud computing project and its API compatibility with Amazon. The discussion and debate over the open source cloud software’s compatibility with cloud leader Amazon’s proprietary APIs was just beginning when the 451 Group released The OpenStack Tipping Point in April. With the advancement of the OpenStack software and community — along with lingering questions about the desired level of compatibility with Amazon’s cloud — the matter is heating up. However, the issue of Amazon cloud compatibility is largely a non-issue.

Enterprise customers are focused on solving their computing and business challenges. They typically center on promptly providing their customers and internal users and divisions with adequate resources and infrastructure; speeding application development and deployment; and avoiding so-called “Shadow IT,” which normally involves use of Amazon’s cloud. Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

I’m not the only one with an opinion around here. My 451 Research colleagues have also weighed in on the matter and 451 Research subscribers can view their argument that Amazon API compatibility may be a fool’s errand.

Open source ushers mobile OS changes

The year is starting out with what may turn out to be significant changes in the mobile operating system market, with open source software playing a significant role just as it has in enterprise software, virtualization and cloud computing.

With fading heavyweights and interesting new challengers, there are changes afoot in the mobile OS market, but we must first acknowledge the market today is still mainly a duopoly of Apple with iOS and Samsung with Android.

However, if we look back five years, we see how dramatically the mobile OS landscape has changed. Given the pace of today’s device and application development and support, as well as users from consumers to the enterprise, we can expect similarly dramatic changes in the coming months and years.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Open source lives in polyglot programming

The prominence and pervasiveness of open source software in cloud computing is something I’ve researched and written about quite a bit. I’ve also discussed how open source software is a key component and catalyst for the devops trend that blends application development and deployment via IT operations. Now I’m seeing the same effect from open source software yet again in a disruptive trend: polyglot programming.

An upcoming report on polyglot programming by 451 Research will more deeply explore these drivers and impacts, including the role of open source software.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

OSS support grows among proprietary players

VMware continued its embrace of open source software with its recent acquisition of open source and virtual network provider Nicira. The move continued VMware’s aggressive M&A strategy and its effort to transition from proprietary software and virtualization to a broader market and cloud computing, largely through open source software.

With previous open source software acquisitions that have included Rabbit Technologies’ RabbitMQ messaging, Zimbra email and collaboration and SpringSource, VMware seems to have found it paramount to participate and integrate with open source software technology and communities, despite its heritage as a strictly proprietary virtualization vendor.

VMware continues to back and sell mostly proprietary software and products, but its broader engagement of open source also highlights how nearly all vendors in today’s market are, at least to some extent, users or purveyors of open source software. We’ve also seen examples of how the vendors that resist open source are likely to find themselves isolated from vibrant communities if they stick to a closed technology approach.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Future of open source survey highlights progress, changes, challenges

451 Research was pleased to collaborate on the Future of Open Source Survey 2012 with North Bridge Venture Partners and Black Duck Software. This year’s survey garnered 740 responses from a variety of vendors and non-vendors in the industry. Overall, the survey highlighted some subtle and sometimes dramatic changes in what is driving open source software. It also made clear that while there is still a good degree of education and awareness yet to occur around open source software, there is a large amount of open source code making its way into today’s enterprise, webscale, consumer and other computing environments.

Some of the key findings:

*The survey reinforced the prominence and influence of open source software in the enterprise and in key trends driving it, as we and others have highlighted for some time with reports such as Seeding the Clouds and Mobility Matters. When asked which technology areas would see the most significant open source software community innovation from, respondents ranked ‘cloud’ highest at 40%, then ‘mobile apps’ (19%) and ‘mobile enterprise’ (15%) for a combined 34%, then ‘analytics’ with 10%. These areas are indicative of where we see open source software projects, communities, vendors and consortia continuing to broaden use of open source software.

*The survey asked what are the top barriers to selecting open source software when compared with proprietary alternatives, resulting in unfamiliarity (48%), lack of internal technical skills (47%), lack of vendor support (35%) and legal concerns about licensing (33%) as the top answers. Although this indicates there is still some trepidation and lack of awareness around open source and commercial options for support, other survey responses indicate open source software is still spreading to new industries and customer categories. When asked about the most important trend for open source software over the next two to three years, respondents identified the top choices as: adoption in non-technical segments such as government or healthcare (42%); enterprise adoption (40%) and growth in industry-specific communities (10%).

*The survey also showed there is a heavy volume of new, meaningful code coming out of open source software’s many communities. When asked what share of their deployed code they anticipate will be open source software over the next five years, about one third of survey respondents (32%) reported open source had already reached major deployment at 75% or more of their code. Another one third of respondents (30%) said open source will make up half to 75% or more of its deployed code. About a quarter of respondents (23%) indicated open source would make up 25-50% of their deployed code over the next five years, while 15% of respondents said the open source share of deployed code would be a quarter or less.

*We also saw a high rate of open source participation from the survey. When asked about community engagement with open source and their preferred method, 49% of respondents said consuming code, 36% said reporting patches or fixes, 31% said contributing new features, 28% said initiating new projects, 25% said contributing through partners or industry alliances. We believe this shows a high rate of open source participation beyond using code, which is also a meaningful contribution. This also indicates a greater willingness to get involved with open source projects and to start new projects.

*The survey also highlighted the changing drivers of open source software in the enterprise. When asked what are the top factors that make open source software attractive, respondents identified freedom from vendor lock-in (60%), lower acquisition and maintenance cost (51%), better quality (43%) and access to source code (42%) as the top answers. While we had seen vendor lock-in fade as a factor and cost as paramount two or three years ago, today vendor lock-in has become much more of a factor for customers. We believe this has to do wtih cloud computing and customers’ desire to maintain flexibility as they figure out how to best leverage cloud resources. The survey also showed that cost, which we also equate to time and efficiency, is always a strong factor, with 62% of respondents identifying reduced cost of development and maintenance as the main reason they use open source or initiate projects.

*The survey also reinforced our belief that while open source software lays the groundwork and underlies much of cloud computing, the cloud is also giving back to open source by providing vendors a way to differentiate free downloads from paid, cloud-based services. In fact, it seems support and services subscriptions are a much higher priority for open source software vendors than so-called ‘open core’ models that provide software for free and certain extensions, features or support as paid. When asked which revenue generation strategies are likely to create the most value for open source vendors over the next two years, respondents ranked an annual, repeatable support and service agreement as the top answer (52%). Other open source revenue models, such as ad-hoc services and support (41%), value-add subscription (40%), hosted or cloud software services (38%) all ranked higher than a closed-source license or open core model (12%).

For our full analysis on the results of the 2012 Future of Open Source Survey, see our Spotlight report. The results were also presented this week on a panel at the Open Source Business Conference and that presentation is available at the Open Source Delivers blog.

Reading between the lines of the Linux contributor list

The recently released Who Writes Linux kernel contributor list reveals that some of the usual supporters of Linux — Red Hat, SUSE, IBM, Intel, Oracle — remain firmly behind the open source OS.

There has also been a lot of attention on the other contributors, which now include Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT). What I find most fascinating about the Linux contributor list — beyond the increasing rate of code change with some 10,000 patches from 1,000 developers representing 200 companies in each quarterly kernel release — are the contributors that show some new direction and potential for Linux, in this case the processor players.

Whenever the Linux contributor report comes out, there is also typically some focus on those that use the Linux kernel code but do not necessarily appear among its list of core contributors.

One of the most frequent names to come up in this regard is Canonical, backer of the popular Ubuntu distribution.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Open source moving in mobile

We got another reminder of how disruptive open source software is to mobile computing this week, when Linux and Android merged back together. This appears to be good news for a number of parties, but Android and Linux developers and users seem particularly likely to benefit. The inclusion of Android code in the Linux kernel and the ability for Linux developers to more easily work on the Android environment and applications also ties into some of the key topics we’ll be covering in a Webcast March 21 titled ‘Open Source, A Tale of Two Cities in the Mobile Enterprise,’ presented by 451 Research and Black Duck Software.

This webcast, as the title implies, will focus on how open source can present both challenges and opportunities as enterprises adapt to market changes and mobile devices. This includes the fact that open source software frameworks, pieces and development are all enabling new applications to be quickly developed and deployed. However, this presents tremendous pressure on enterprise IT teams already dealing with disruption and change from cloud computing and the trend of ‘devops,’ which blends application development with IT operations and application deployment. The Webcast will cover how open source software is mixing with devops and other trends, such as the consumerization of IT and BYOD, to both disrupt and develop the mobile enterprise. We will also highlight some key open source software technologies in the mobile space and highlight some observed best practices for both vendors and customers.

Ada Initiative highlights challenge to get more women in open source

The lack of women involved in open source has unfortunately long been a weakness for open source software and its many, varied communities around the globe. In fact, we found out recently just how significant the problem is, with troubling figures as reported by Valerie Aurora with the Ada Initiative that indicate significantly lower representation of women in open source (2%) compared to the overall IT industry (20%).

Though there are some signs of improvement, with apparent growth in awareness of the issue and thus a more respectful environment, there is still obviously a long way to go before open source can live up to its ideals of transparency, collaboration and openness.

There is also some belief that female participation in open source software and other development and IT work is underestimated by handles, nicknames and identities that might appear male to avoid any sexism. In addition, there is also the fact that while open source software communities are typically true meritocracies, the initial experience for the new developer can be a harsh one, regardless of gender. Still, it is somewhat shameful the representation of women in open source is typically less than what we see in proprietary software and, as alluded to earlier, the rest of IT.

Aurora wisely argues we need more women in open source so that we have more women in startups. We also see other sub-communities of IT and software, such as the new Women Innovate Mobile effort, that similarly aim to involve more women. Given the longstanding nature of this issue, it is disappointing to see open source software and its communities left behind by mobile, other parts of IT and other industries that are more effectively incorporating women and expanding their reach.

The Ada Initiative, named for the first computer programmer who was also a woman, Ada Lovelace, is a nonprofit organization formed to grow female participation in open source software, Wikipedia and open technology in general. In addition to awareness and education, consulting, workshops and other services, the initiative is primarily focused on teaching women skills to help them succeed in open technology and its culture and how men can help. The group is currently raising support as it seeks to boost awareness and help build an open source software world where women are not only more prevalent, but are also more welcome, encouraged and respected for their work, their code and their talents. In order for open source software communities, projects, products and commercial plays to succeed and reach their full potential, the greater open source community and its supporters should be finding ways to incorporate women, wherever they can contribute and improve the effort.

WebOS and the open alternative live another day

There has been no shortage of reaction to HP’s move to make the Linux-based WebOS open source software. Below, I offer some of my thoughts on the meaning for the different players affected.

*What’s it mean for WebOS?
Moving WebOS to open source was best option for HP. It retains some value in the software depending on its involvement. It is also the best fate for the code, rather then being sold or simmered to its IP and patent value or even used as another weapon in the ongoing mobile software patent wars. Still, the move comes amid huge developer and consumer uncertainty for WebOS. Nevertheless, at least WebOS was already in the market with a compelling products, the Palm the Pre, in the modern smartphone market. WebOS will hopefully have a faster path to open source than Symbian since the former is based on Linux. I still think the greatest opportunity for WebOS may be in serving as an open alternative in the market, particularly after Android has proven to handset makers, wireless carriers, OEMs and others that a Linux-based, open source mobile OS can succeed in the market and provide profit for multiple parties. Furthering this opportunity, WebOS may be even more attractive to these key vendors, channel players and other stakeholders who are tired of the IP and patent stress and expense around Android. Of course, Android was not under patent or IP attack until it was successful in the market and the same may be the case for WebOS, though we think its IP roots and history in touch and smartphone technology are less complex in terms of origin and ownership.

*What’s it mean for competitors?
For Apple, an open source WebOS means more market pressure and open pressure, more competition for developers and a real danger WebOS hooks into the Android ecosystem. WebOS may also be harder to attack from a patent and IP standpoint since it is older and more singular in ownership (Palm and now HP). Other factors include HP’s own formidable patent portfolio and the perception of Apple as a patent aggressor, which would be reinforced if it attacked WebOS the way it has gone after Android.

For Android, it may finally get a dose of its own open medicine, feeling the pressure of another Linux-based, open source mobile OS that is familiar to many developers, compatible with newer smartphone technologies and appealing to handset makers and other key OEMs. However, WebOS is also a validation of Android, which paved the path for mobile Linux and open source to finally break through beyond geeks to reach a mass consumer audience.

As for other proprietary players such as Microsoft and RIM, another open source rival is bad news. It presents another open source option and potentially serious competition on developers, applications, devices, carriers and consumers. An open source WebOS may also make Android, in effect, more open with faster, easier access to code for both Android and WebOS compete. This could make it even harder for these older, proprietary players to get developer or consumer mind share that is already slipping.

*What’s it mean for open source? Really, there is no downside for open source except that it will be viewed as a form of software cemetery if WebOS is not developed or delivered to market. HP’s WebOS move does give open source greater prominence in mobile software. Again, it is a validation of Android, which is Linux-based and open source, and shows that we haven’t seen the last of mobile Linux and open source software in Android.

Linux-like, devops management moves to enterprise, Windows

Signs that the devops are coming — both in the form of new software engineers and system administrators that are working more closely together for collaboration and in new automation and agile technologies, many of them open source — continue to highlight the movement of continuous integration and continuous management of applications into more mainstream enterprise IT environments. Devops, which refers to the confluence of application development and deployment of applications via IT operations, is spreading beyond Web 2.0, technology and media organizations to some of the same key verticals that have been early adopters of open source software.

One of the most obvious signs that devops is moving to more mainstream enterprise IT — adding users in financial services, insurance, telecom and other key verticals — is the extension of open source server configuration and automation to Windows environments, which are typical alongside Linux in most enterprises. We’ve recently covered this extension in reports on CFEngine, Opscode and Puppet Labs, all of which report demand and traction in mixed Windows-nix environments and in more mainstream enterprises.

Our coverage of CFEngine (451 subscribers) highlights the Norwegian vendor’s latest paid release, CFEngine 3 Nova, features simplified configuration and management along with scalability and the ability to continuously monitor, update and facilitate system self-repair. Other highlights of the release include simplified compliance features and a new GUI dashboard for setting policy and monitoring system health, as well as the state of IT services and systems. As for the added Windows support, the CFEngine 3 Nova update includes new native support for Windows with more fine-grained management of Windows servers and desktops via Windows Registry, Windows Services and Access Control Lists.

We covered some similar extension to management of Windows environments in our recent report on Opscode with Chef (subscribers). Reporting more demand for private Chef, rather than hosted, particularly among large enterprise users with Windows resources and systems to manage, Opscode enhanced these capabilities with new Chef software and cookbooks. Features include deployment and automation of Windows PowerShell task framework, IIS Web server, SQL Server and Windows Services.

We also covered an update from another open source server configuration and automation player: Puppet Labs (subscribers). The company’s of Puppet Enterprise 2.0 was focused less on Windows support, which is nonetheless previewed in its latest software, and more on improving usability and serving orchestration and compliance needs of large enterprises.

All three of these open source software-centered vendors report the transition of devops practices and tools being implemented (sometimes under other monikers such as continuous integration, continuous application management, cloud application management, release management or other) by more mainstream enterprises in financial services, media and others in addition to tech and web-oriented companies you’d expect to be doing devops.

Our view on the Changing Linux Landscape is out

We are pleased to present our latest CAOS special report, ‘The Changing Linux Landscape.’ This latest in our series of long-format reports takes a more in depth look at the Linux server market and how cloud computing, competition and the confluence of application development and IT operations known as devops are all affecting it.

Basically, we still see commercial vendors Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) leading the market, but there are significant changes afoot, ushered in by cloud computing, wide use of other distributions such as Ubuntu, and continued use of unpaid community Linux such as CentOS and Debian. In addition, other distributions such Oracle Enterprise Linux continue to evolve and grow, as do the providers of Linux support, which now includes Microsoft. These additional competitors and choices, along with the new way of developing and deploying enterprise applications known as ‘devops,’ are all driving and disrupting the Linux server market.

This means challenges and opportunities – particularly in PaaS, which embodies devops practices – for both vendors and users. The report focuses on market dynamics with competitive analysis of leading Linux distributions, analysis of adoption drivers and hurdles, and customer case studies highlighting how Linux is put to work in today’s cloud computing environments.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2011.09.30

Topics for this podcast:

*Cloud M&A potential around OpenStack
*Oracle’s commercial extensions for MySQL
*Puppet Labs rolls out Enterprise 2.0, hosts PuppetConf
*Basho bolsters Riak distributed data store in NoSQL race
*Our latest special CAOS report, ‘The Changing Linux Landscape’

iTunes or direct download (25:59, 4.4MB)

Community Linux love from Microsoft

One of big stories out of the Open Source Business Conference this week was Microsoft’s announced support for the CentOS community Linux distribution, a free clone of RHEL that nonetheless enjoys significant enterprise and cloud computing use, as we’ve covered extensively, including a special report that is currently being updated, in part, with a new survey.

This is not the first time MS has displayed love for unpaid, community Linux, given its 2009 contribution of GPL-licensed code to the Linux kernel. This was significant in that it was contribution and participation by Microsoft in the Linux kernel, beyond one of its partner’s Linux distributions, such as the case of Novell and SUSE Linux and more recently, Red Hat and its RHEL for mutual, customer-demanded virtualization support (451 subscribers) between Microsoft and Red Hat.

It seems Microsoft understands that unlike pirated Windows, which it considers a loss, the use of free, unpaid Linux — particularly by large enterprise, government and other organizations — is a big opportunity for it.

True, use of community Linux is typically driven by cost savings and the capability of sizable organizations to self-manage their Linux servers, often involving no payment. However, our research indicates there is often is still a need for higher level support and, more commonly, the ‘insurance factor’ of having a commercial vendor behind your infrastructure software so you, or your boss or board, have someone to call or blame if things go wrong. Microsoft is capable of supporting CentOS in both cases of technical support and being the insurance for an organization. It will be interesting to see the kind of reaction and traction the company gets from customers, presumably Windows shops, running CentOS.

It was only a couple of years ago we were writing about the death, and ongoing life of CentOS.

Today, it continues to be one of the most fascinating open source software projects in that it has no formal commercial backer, not even a foundation, but yet benefits from a solid, dedicated development team that continues to push the OS forward. We, along with Microsoft, continue to hear about use of CentOS increasingly in cloud computing, where it can be used, often free of charge, to add, subtract, scale and scrap as needed. It is, like other Linux distributions, also popular among hosting and other service providers, who again are primarily building public, private and hybrid cloud environments and ecosystems.

This is why again it is very interesting to see Microsoft supporting CentOS with HyperV and Windows. It’s not the first vendor to do so, as server giant HP has supported CentOS, Debian and other community distros to some extent in its server and support offerings. Microsoft’s CentOS support is certainly another example of how the landscape and market for various Linux distributions and operating systems in general is currently undergoing disruption.

DevOps and PaaS, yes, but now No-Ops?

We continue to closely watch the devops trend, with some new offerings and new nomenclature, but also validation of our contentions this would begin washing over more mainstream enterprise IT.

Some of the most recent discussion of devops is coming in context of VMware’s Cloud Foundry announcement and offering, an open source PaaS that gives developers another option for building, testing and deploying cloud applications and services. While I do believe Cloud Foundry and VMware’s decision to opt for an open path in PaaS is further evidence that cloud computing may be opening up.

Based on some of the initial Twitterverse reaction to Cloud Foundry, it is also further evidence that devops is contending with another term that has emerged in the discussion of deploying applications in and among today’s cloud computing resources and environments: ‘no-ops.’ The idea is that infrastructure – servers, storage and network — as well as its configuration and maintenance are so automated, there is really no need for the ‘ops’ or system administration part of devops. However, in the larger picture and in the long run, particularly at greater scale, there is undoubtedly need for system administrators. One of the bottom line findings of my research on devops is that the trend is very much about a dramatically changed purpose and role for system administrators, who are typically freed up of mundane OS maintenance and other tasks, but who must also embrace openness and transparency in their operations and scripts, which can be very foreign. While no-ops may be one way to respond to developers cries of ‘give us root,’ I believe that devops with the ops is required for a successful approach. That ops part may indeed be handed off to someone else, and the options and ability to do so have never been greater — again thanks mostly to readily-available cloud resources and infrastructure. Another perspective on devops is that it is bringing some of the agile and automated practices and procedures of software development into the datacenter and operations team, which have previously been focused on their own scripts and stability above all else.

So when I’m asked does devops mean devs doing more ops? Is it ops doing more dev? I say this: devops is the confluence of roles and duties among both software developers and IT operations professionals — many of whom are increasingly working in both jobs at various points or together in their careers. No-ops may emerge as a preferred option as organizations use and grow confidence in various PaaS offerings, as well as more openness in the clouds in general, perhaps. Still, I think that the ops folks still have a tremendous role to play, and I wonder about the PaaS innovation that will be possible when we see the same style of collaboration and communication in operations that we have had on the development side, in large part because of open source, an example being Facebook’s recent move to open up on its datacenters.

Is cloud computing opening up?

We’ve already identified the significance of open source software to cloud computing, based on the cloud stacks from large IaaS, PaaS and other providers, on the most popular projects used for public, private and hybrid clouds and on the traction of key open source pieces such as Linux, Xen, KVM, Apache Tomcat, Hadoop, PHP, Ruby and many others. We’ve also discussed how open source is playing a role not only in the technology, but in the discussions, debates and overall evolution of cloud computing. While we believe the continued use and growth of critical open source pieces in cloud computing will contribute to a more open cloud ecosystem and market, we actually saw some evidence of this recently with word that the next Ubuntu Linux from Canonical will support not only the Eucalyptus cloud framework, but also the ever-popular OpenStack technology, project and community.

We wondered recently about the impact of a cloud partnership between Red Hat and Eucalyptus Systems, which also works closely with Canonical for its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. In a recent discussion, Marten Mickos told me Eucalyptus Systems fully expects and supports Canonical’s moves toward another cloud framework, OpenStack. While Canonical’s strategy probably has as much to do with customer demand, particularly for cloud flexibility, as it does with responding to rivals’ moves and deals, I believe that both the Red Hat partnership with Eucalyptus Systems and Canonical’s support for multiple, open source cloud computing frameworks signal a more open cloud computing market that is evolving. Customers are prioritizing flexibility and portability, and open source represents both perceived and real mechanisms for providing it. We’ve seen similar support from rival vendors on the operating system and hypervisor, most notably with Red Hat and Microsoft on virtualization, and I expect we’ll see this repeated with other vendors and technologies in cloud computing.

Sure there is still the question of how open is open enough, but the latest activity is truly good news for users of open source software and customers of open source vendors, who will benefit from this cross-project, cross-cloud platform support, collaboration and perhaps, community.

Big business better use open source

There was a recent skirmish about open source software in the enterprise regarding a contention that open source is not really used by big business, which was refuted, naturally, by open source vendors. Nevertheless, my experience among not only vendors, but also investors and particularly large enterprise end users, is that open source is typically atop the list of priorities, strategies and options. Granted, I’m an analyst working primarily covering open source software in the enterprise, but I have many conversations with non-open source companies, and the end users with which I speak are focused on open source among many other things.

I wrote about big companies using open source last year, and today I find that most companies, whatever vertical or industry, are leveraging open source software in one way or another, whether infrastructure software and operating systems such as Linux, middleware where we see Apache Tomcat and Red Hat JBoss going strong or applications, where every category has open source options, and most categories have paid, commercial open source options.

I am currently repeating a theme that I came up with when economic conditions were growing the use of open source, including paid use, mission-critical use, production use and, yes, big business use. The theme is this: a few years ago, enterprise organizations might say they were not using open source or did not want to use open source for this reason or that reason, and it was probably accepted as somewhat reasonable. Flash forward to today, and the commercial support and credibility of open source have evolved amid a drive toward open source alternatives from economic conditions. Thus, to say that an organization avoids or bans open source software today is tantamount to saying that organization does not save money, does not do things efficiently and is not progressive. There may be those who continue to believe that the use of open source is still relegated to geeky development or IT operations teams, or that it is limited to test and dev projects, but it has already made inroads into production. Whether the leadership of big business knows it or not may be another matter.

Lessons learned from Symbian’s journey to open source and back

With word that the Symbian Foundation is transforming again, this time away from an open source nonprofit to a licensing operation of Nokia and other Symbian developers and backers, there are indeed some lessons for how commercial open source communities work, and how they don’t.

First, we’ll cover some of the meaning and implications for what remains of the Symbian Foundation, the Symbian OS and its primary backer Nokia. There is no question it is rightfully being viewed as a failure in terms of open source. While Symbian had some of the ingredients for a vibrant open source project — significant developer, manufacturer and user penetration, commercial backing, open source Eclipse Public License and community structure — it also struggled from the start to address one of the greatest challenges for open source projects: balancing control and community. As we’ve seen with other cases in the past, it seems it is difficult for a software project or community to succeed and grow beyond its roots and original supporters if it was not open source from the start. Even when open source from the start, it can be particularly challenging to benefit from corporate interests, investment and participation while still maintaining community independence and enthusiasm among open source developers. We also see continued evidence of this challenge and struggle with Oracle and its ongoing stewardship of and interaction with open source software projects and products that were part of Sun Microsystems, including Java, OpenOffice, and OpenSolaris.

The Symbian Foundation is not the only group that has something to learn from all of this. Open source projects, developers, companies, investors and others should also be aware of why open source did not seem to generate its benefits of faster development, flexibility and future path through community growth in the case of the Symbian Foundation. It would be a shame if open source developers and communities were unable to accept software or a project because it was not open source from the start, but that seems to be the case. The key to overcoming this, and to moving beyond perceptions that a single company or group is attempting to benefit to the exclusion of others seems to be in attracting cross-industry and cross-open source and proprietary support, similar to what we have seen with OpenStack from Rackspace, which incorporated NASA and its open source Nebula code at the start and has since won the support of a range of industry players, including open source vendors and non-open source vendors. In the end for Symbian, the use of the Eclipse Public License and establishment of a nonprofit foundation did not ensure the development and emergence of an Eclipse-type community. Instead, Symbian has continued to languish in terms of attention and developer mind share while iPhone, iPad and Android garner more.

So the lessons from the Symbian Foundation’s journey to open source and back are basically in order for an open source community to flourish, that community must take priority over control and commercial interests. It is also fair to say Symbian is a reflection of the reality that the odds of open source success are increased if the software project is open source from the start. At the very least, the challenges of building community around software that has transformed from proprietary to open source are much greater, and the need to involve and advertise additional involvement are also greater. Even aside from these factors, open source communities that succeed are also arguably the benefactors of timing and luck, and these also seem to be tipping the scales in favor of others.

Linux Foundation highlights growth, but what versions?

The Linux Foundation has released some survey findings as it hosts its End User Summit. We agree with many of the findings, and discuss our take below. But we also wonder more about which version of Linux these large enterprises are using for their own infrastructure, for cloud computing and for the technologies and services they build on top of Linux. More on that below, too, but first, some thoughts on the survey results.

One of the more interesting findings from the survey pertains to migrations to Linux from Windows. More than 36% of respondents said their Linux deployments in the last two years had been from Windows. More than 31% were moving to Linux from Unix, 13.5% reported no new Linux deployments and most, 66%, said Linux deployments of the last two years have been centered on new applications and services (greenfield deployments).

In terms of Windows migration, we agree there are significant drivers for Linux over Windows in cloud computing, where more than 70% of Linux Foundation respondents cited Linux as their primary cloud platform. We agree that Linux appears to be the preferred route to cloud computing offerings, both public and private (as covered in our special report, Seeding the Clouds). However, we must also acknowledge that the continued, wider availability of Microsoft’s Azure is having and will continue to have an impact on the market and may help Microsoft mitigate the cloud connection to Linux, according to cloud users and mixed-environment shops with which we’ve spoken. Another point to remember here is that Microsoft, which has changed significantly in its approach and strategy with Linux and open source, will likely support other hypervisors and perhaps Linux with Azure as well.

The Linux Foundation survey also highlights continued gains for Linux at the expense of Unix, with 19.8% of respondents indicating a decrease in their use of the OS (compared with 18% decreasing use of Windows and only 1.8% decreasing use of Linux). Those planning on increased use were 76% for Linux, 41% for Windows and 19.5% for Unix. We also wonder whether Oracle’s end of support for OpenSolaris will perpetuate Unix-Linux migration?

We also saw consistency from our own research in the Linux Foundation survey’s coverage of the drivers for and benefits of Linux. We asked more broadly about the factors driving open source software, not just Linux, but the results from both our survey at the end of last year and the recent Linux Foundation survey do match up. While cost savings was cited by our own survey respondents as the top reason for adoption, flexibility was cited as the top advantage after adoption. Similarly, the Linux Foundation survey showed that 67.5% of respondents cited ‘features/technical superiority’ as the top driver for Linux adoption. Next, with 65.4% of LF respondents, was ‘lower total cost of ownership.’ A recurring theme we are hearing in terms of Linux and open source cost savings centers on licensing. Not only do users and customers report cost savings from royalty-free open source software, but they also cite license maintenance as a key source of cost savings. Basically, because software is open source, organizations do not have to worry about convoluted IT audits and keeping track of licensing across physical, virtual, cloud and other resources. Though there still may be some trepidation around open source licensing, it seems that Linux and open source software represent both cost-savings and simplicity in terms of licensing for many users, particularly in cloud computing.

While Linux Foundation does not delve into the version of Linux, we recently asked open source consumers about their Linux choices. We have covered unpaid, community Linux in the enterprise since 2008 and more recently community Linux in the clouds, but we were amazed to hear the response when we asked 286 open source users about their Linux choices. More than 70% (206) of respondents cited ‘unpaid community Linux, such as CentOS or Debian’ as the distribution they use. 12.6% reported use of ‘paid, subscription Linux, such as RHEL or SLES.’ With respondents able to check multiple categories, another 26% said they used a combination of paid and unpaid community Linux and another 5% cited other options. Our survey pool of more than 1,700 open source consumers is made up of about 65% with 50 or fewer employees, 10% with 50 to 100 employees, 7% with 100 to 249 employees, another 9% with 250 to 2,500, and 6% with more than 2,500 employees, but we were interested by the fact that only 16% of our survey pool claimed to be non-paying open source users. We also acknowledge the Linux Foundation survey was aimed at large enterprises and government organizations with $500m or more in annual revenue and 500 or more employees.

Still, we continue to watch community Linux, particularly in cloud computing uses, and have no doubt it is having an impact on the paid, enterprise Linux market, mainly in terms of pricing, support and flexibility.

Do customers want open core?

There is renewed and meaningful discussion going about open core with several good insights and arguments: Simon Phipps, Mark Radcliffe, Stephen O’Grady and our own Matt Aslett to name a few.

Still, when we consider the various people and sides arguing for and against pure open source, open core or something in between, I wonder if there is one key group being left out of all this discussion going on amongst vendors, open source companies, open core companies, open source projects, open source developers, open source investors, open source analysts and others: customers.

It’s been my experience that customers typically want the features and insurance (SLAs, indemnity, certification) of open core, provided it remains flexible and the code and option to self-support always exist with a usable, updated, free, open source community version. As we saw when we surveyed open source users and customers, while cost continues to be a big driver, flexibility is among the most cited reasons for and advantages from open source software. While ‘flexibility’ can be admittedly nebulous, what we hear from customers is that they want the freedom and free availability of open source software, but they also want and need the option of paid, commercial support, features and functionality.

Whether a vendor is pure open source or mostly proprietary open core, the advantages of open source software — reduced vendor lock-in, future-proofing and the freedom to continue working with the code, to work with other community members on the code and its direction, the option of self-supporting or otherwise continuing with the code, but not the vendor — all of these things come only with truly open source software and open source communities. I believe the community around the software and its well-being is the true differentiator when it comes to success with commercial open source, whether pure open source or proprietary-heavy open core. If the free, community version is truly crippleware or even if it is not updated and vibrant, then the vendor is less likely to reap or offer those advantages of open source. If the community version is comparable except for higher-level features, functionality and scale, and if that community is supported by the vendor and the community version is updated in parallel with the paid versions (which we typically see in successful open core models), then the vendor is more likely to reap and offer those advantages. The bottom line: flexibility and freedom for the user/customer are not tied to the vendor’s license or business model, be it pure open source, open core or other, but instead are connected to the state and health of the open source software community that is the basis for that vendor’s offering.

I’ve heard similar arguments and demands for flexibility — the option for free community versions that provide decent functionality and features along with the option for more advanced features and subscriptions in paid versions — from vendors that partner with open source software-based companies. Often, there is a reticence and inability, sometimes by policy or procedural rules, to effectively work with an open source software project or community, but once a vendor that supports that software and community commercially emerges, the opportunities for partnership become much more practical and doable. That does not mean the commercial backer has to take an open core route, but I believe the demand for things typically associated with traditional, proprietary software, such as SLAs, indemnity and certifications, are part of what drives demand for open core among open source customers.

This further reinforces the idea that the market and the customers will determine the success or failure of an open source-centered or focused vendor, regardless of how pure open source or proprietary open core they are. Whichever side or wherever in the arguments you find yourself, I believe we should consider IT end users and customers more in this discussion, since they’re always right, right?