Definition of devops harkens open core debates

When open source software was still getting established in the enterprise five years ago or so, there was a lot of discussion about so-called open core ripoffs. The concern was that anyone and everyone was proclaiming an association with open source software, even if most or all of their products were proprietary. Today, a similar debate has arisen about devops, a convergence of software development and IT operations for optimal speed, efficiency and other advantages.

For those concerned about misuse or abuse of the term “devops” — which has come to be positively associated with rapid releases, collaboration, efficiency and effectiveness rather than the somewhat rogue movement it was considered a few years ago — there may be some lessons in open source software that indicate the movement and the term will endure, regardless of the posers.

Read the entire article at LinuxInsider.

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.

Rise of Polyglot report is out

We recently wrote about a disruptive trend we are following along with cloud computing, devops and open source software in the enterprise. Our 451 Research subscribers also got a preview of our findings in a recent spotlight report.

Polyglot programming is the use of many different languages, frameworks, services, databases and other pieces for individual applications. The trend takes today’s developers and IT shops beyond .NET and Java to node.js, PHP, Python, Ruby, Spring and further still to Erlang, Scala, Haskell and others. Also in the mix are widely used API Web services, such as JSON, REST and SOAP, which are increasingly significant to building applications, as well as developer and user communities. There is also polyglot disruption present at the database layer with MySQL still being popular, but with ample use of the growing number of alternatives (NoSQL, PostgreSQL, NewSQL, etc.), including virtual and cloud-based services. Don’t forget today’s applications will likely pull in effective user-interface technologies such as Javascript, XML and HTML5, whether for internal enterprise, Web, mobile, consumer or converged audiences.

Although there is added pain in programming with multiple languages, benefits such as scalability, interoperability and concurrency increasingly necessitate it for optimal efficiency and quality.

Now we are pleased to present our latest special report, ‘The Rise of Polyglot Programming.’ The report investigates the drivers, disruption, challenges and opportunities from the trend. We also present market sizing and growth implications for polyglot programming, drawing on data and analysis from our Market Monitor service to show how polyglot programming will be part of a growing opportunity worth more than $35bn by 2015.

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.

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.

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.

Open Source Coopetition Fueled by LF Growth

The Linux Foundation has come a long way since initiated in 2007 as the fusion of the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) and Free Standards Group. At its start, I wondered why there was no membership or representation from Canonical, which was the hottest thing in Linux at the time.

Today, Canonical is a member of the Linux Foundation and the
organization continues to grow in its core of system software and Linux as well as in mobile devices and, more recently, the automotive industry — among my predictions for Linux strength in 2012.

The Linux Foundation has also gained some significant members and new groups of collaborators — the latest batch including graphics and microprocessor giant Nvidia.

Read the full story at LinuxInsider.

2012 to be year of Linux domination

Previously, I’ve called out years for non-desktop Linux in 2008, Linux in both the low and high-ends of the market in 2009, ‘hidden’ Linux in 2010 and last year, cloud computing in 2011. For 2012, I see continued growth, prevalence, innovation and impact from Linux, thus leading to a 2012 that is dominated by Linux.

I expect to see nothing but continued strength for Linux and open source in cloud computing in 2012. The cloud continues to be the biggest disruptor and opportunity for Linux providers. 2012 got off to an interesting start with Microsoft’s efforts to support for Linux on Azure, which highlights just how pervasive Linux has become in cloud computing. As detail in our special report on The Changing Linux Landscape, we also expect Linux to continue to be the basis for most offerings in IaaS and particularly PaaS, which is burgeoning across open source languages and frameworks as well as verticals and enterprise customers. Its popularity among enterprise and other developers will also bolster Linux and open source software in 2012.

We can certainly expect to see Linux continue its domination in supercomputing and the Top 500 Supercomputer List, where Linux continues to grow its share above 90% while others, such as Microsoft, Apple and BSD, fall off of the list.

I also expect Linux will grow its presence and impact on the wider, more mainstream server market, where Red Hat and SUSE continue to benefit from Unix migration, particularly from Solaris. Our analysis with survey data from 451 Research division TheInfoPro shows server spending for databases and data warehousing favoring Red Hat with Linux over Oracle with either Linux or Solaris. Out of more than 165 server professionals interviewed by TIP, 67% are planning to spend more with Red Hat on database/data-warehousing, and only 6% plan to spend less. The positive figures for Red Hat mirror negative spending intentions for Oracle, with 55% planning to spend less and only 9% planning to spend more. Spending continues to decline strongly for all of the primary Unix providers in the study, which in addition to Oracle includes IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

We may also see further expansion for Red Hat, which may be eyeing key acquisitions, and other Linux and open source vendors as they continue building their channels and wade more into midmarket and SMB customers.

In smartphones and mobile software, I also expect Linux will do quite well in 2012 with continued Android strength, diminished FUD and possibly an open source boost from a newly-open sourced WebOS. We also see Ubuntu arriving on the mobile and converged device scene, including ‘concept’ appearance at CES.

We’re also likely to see Linux in automobiles, health care and other electronics even more in 2012, though you may never hear Linux or open source. Don’t be fooled though, Linux is expanding its already impressive, wide presence and 2012 looks to be another year of significant gains.

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.

PuppetConf and the state of devops

It’s been some time now that we’ve been talking about devops, the pushing together of application development and application deployment via IT operations, in the enterprise. To keep up to speed on the trend, 451 CAOS attended PuppetConf, a conference for the Puppet Labs community of IT administrators, developers and industry leaders around the open source Puppet server configuration and automation software. One thing that seems clear, given the talk about agile development and operations, cloud computing, business and culture, our definition of devops continues to be accurate.

Another consistent part of devops that also emerged at PuppetConf last week was the way it tends to introduce additional stakeholders beyond software developers and IT administrators. This might be the web or mobile folks, sales and CRM people, security professionals or others, but it is typically about applying business operations methodology to applications and IT, thus bringing in more of the business minds as well. The introduction of additional stakeholders was also a theme we heard from Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies in his keynote address. Kanies then discussed how the community was working to make Puppet the ‘language of operations,’ which it basically is along with competitors Chef from Opscode and CFEngine when it comes to devops implementations.

There was another interesting point on the PuppetConf stage from DTO Solutions co-founder and President Damon Edwards, who said devops should not be sold as a way to achieve cost savings, but rather as something that will bring return on investment (ROI). This is similar to the shift of open source software drivers we’ve seen in the enterprise, which are sometimes changing from cost savings and time to factors of performance, reliability and innovation.

Later in the conference during his keynote, Eucalyptus Systems CEO Marten Mickos also had some interesting observations concerning devops, which he described as managing the cloud from both sides. One of his points was that developers have the most to learn about operations. While I would agree to some extent, this statement is interesting when considered alongside my contention that most of the change in devops is happening on the IT administrator and operations side. Later in an interview, Mickos elaborated on his devops thinking, indicating the experts who orchestrate applications in cloud computing — both developers and admins — must understand the entire lifecycle and environment. Continuing our comparison of devops to open source, Mickos indicated the open source MySQL database that he helped usher into the enterprise was disrupting old technology, while devops is innovating new technology.

While it remains early days for devops in the case of many enterprise organizations, we continue to see and hear signs that devops practices, technologies, ideas and culture are making their way into more and more mainstream enterprise IT shops. While we expect devops practices to be implemented by many enterprises based on utility and need to leverage cloud computing, we see a higher level of awareness and engagement from leadership and executives than we did with open source software. This means we expect uptake of devops to happen more quickly and to generate more revenue and opportunity.

Microsoft of old on Linux desktop, mobile and users

I wrote recently about how Microsoft is now among the broadest supporters of enterprise Linux server, but when it comes to desktop PCs and laptops, mobile and converged devices and end users, Microsoft’s Linux support is a time warp back to 1998 when computers and their software were fused by proprietary sodder.

Though probably not intended as one of the new Windows 8 features to be highlighted, recent reports indicate a boot requirement in Microsoft’s latest Windows 8 OS prevents booting of Linux.

As a Linux user who has installed several different distributions on several different failed Windows machines, I’m concerned for a few reasons. One, it can be difficult to impossible to avoid the so-called ‘Microsoft tax,’ whereby Windows machines are purchased with the intention of installing Linux. Two, this is a serious limitation to the growing segment of users that like a dual-boot option with Linux. Three, what will happen to all of those PCs, laptops, netbooks and other devices after the Microsoft software becomes buggy, broken or outdated?

In the past, I’ve written about how Linux, in its admitted geekiness and difficulty, can actually be easier and empowering. I learned this largely from installing Linux on a Windows machine for the first time more than five years ago. I’ve since slapped Linux on as many as a dozen other machines, including netbooks. For the record, I now run Linux software released a few months ago on my netbook, which is almost three years old.

Over time, I have encountered some significant stumbling blocks and hurdles in putting Linux on Windows machines, some of them suspiciously unnecessary. Given that, I’m not too surprised to see this secure boot business (link to SJVN)

We also see Microsoft taking an approach toward Android that is reminiscent of the Microsoft of old given its contribution to concern and doubt in the market over the competing mobile OS. We’ve also covered some of the Microsoft machinations that occurred over netbooks.

What’s even more surprising is that this boot limitation from Microsoft comes amid some amazing potential in dual-boot and auxiliary boot systems, such as instant on or media player boot options. Ironically, there are among the best ways for PCs to stay alive and running in the market. Unfortunately, Microsoft seems to be more interested in making sure the only OS you use is the one from them.

Microsoft, broadest supporter of Linux

In writing recently about the continuation (451 subscribers) of the Microsoft-SUSE Windows-Linux interoperability and patent agreement, it occurred to me that in a sense, Microsoft is the broadest supporter of Linux in the industry. Microsoft obviously supports SUSE Linux quite deeply given nearly five years of work with its commercial backer. Microsoft somewhat begrudgingly entered into a virtualization agreement with Red Hat, so that both could better support one another’s operating systems and hypervisors. Finally, Microsoft has been among the most aggressive vendors in the industry to back unpaid, community Linux, such as CentOS, for which it unveiled support last month.

Indeed, Microsoft has consistently displayed some respect for Linux in general, including its contribution of code to the Linux kernel under the GPL.

Despite the concerns about Microsoft’s control over SUSE Linux or Linux in general, the fact of the matter is Microsoft’s investment of both dollars, including its SUSE deals worth a few hundred million, and investment of of resources, such as the interoperability work with Novell/SUSE, the kernel contribution, the cross-OS and hypervisor support work with Red Hat and the support of CentOS, Microsoft is significantly supporting Linux development and use in the enterprise.

I wrote last year about the uncertainty around Novell/SUSE kernel contribution given the Attachmate acquisition.

That all-important contribution from one of the key drivers behind the Linux kernel will now likely continue in large part thanks to Microsoft. And while we cannot simply forget Microsoft’s past actions, such as resisting the GPL, the company’s position as a broad supporter of Linux certainly illustrates how we live in a much different Linux landscape today.

Economy up or down, can open source come out on top?

We’ve written about how a bad economy is indeed good for open source software. We’ve also recognized that with open source software’s maturity and place at the enterprise software table, a bad economy can be a double-edged sword for open source since the failure or fade of large enterprise customers, say big banks, hurts open source vendors right alongside traditional software providers.

What is interesting is that after a couple of years of economic rebuilding, we’ve seen recently how open source is being driven by innovation, particularly in cloud computing, where open source is prevalent and disruptive, and also mobile computing, which continues to be impacted by openness.

Given recent economic developments around the globe, I’m wondering whether we may see a return of cost as the main driver and benefit of open source software in the enterprise. Recent conversations with vendors and customers illustrates the fact that the motivation for adopting open source is not always the main benefit from open source. For example, open source users and customers identified cost as the main reason for adopting open source when we asked more than 1,700 of them two years ago. However, when the same group was asked what was the main benefit from open source, the top pick was flexibility. We also saw dramatic increases in factors such as performance and reliability when comparing drivers for adoption and benefits from adoption. Still, just as we’ve seen unpaid community Linux lead to paid subscription Linux and also paid Linux lead to more unpaid community Linux use, it can go both ways with open source advantages, as well. One recent conversation with an up-and-coming, open source-centered vendor in the NoSQL space highlighted how many large enterprise customers are deploying open source in divisional, departmental, pilot and other limited form to replace traditional databases primarily for flexibility, performance and similar reasons, but finding the cost savings to be significant and worthy of wider deployment.

This begs the question whether open source software, driven by its myriad of advantages for different contexts, finds a way to win regardless of whether economic conditions are good or bad? There’s no question open source has displayed staying power throughout both. We should also point out that these advantages and factors end up putting a lot of pressure on open source software development and projects, given there are inherent expectations of cost-savings, flexibility, speed, performance, scalability, etc. As we’ve highlighted recently, open source is not always the correct route for enterprise ogranizations. However, we do believe that if done properly, open source projects and communities can and do deliver benefits that enable both providers and consumers of technology.

Similar to sales and marketing, longevity, economic and developer opportunity, open core, etc., it all boils down to the community, which in a good economy tends to drive innovation and value or in a bad economy serves as a source of cost efficiency, savings and survival. That is, of course, if the community is properly supported in code, cash, contributions and stewardship that still allows open source to do its thing.

The rise, fall and reality of commercial open source

We’ve been writing ourselves about the move toward more permissive licensing in commercial open source, as well as a lessening of the use of ‘open source’ as an identifier or differentiator. We’ve also seen others comment on a perceived loss of significance and importance of free and open source software and open standards. Combine this all with some typical observation on the lack of contribution back to open source software projects, and it might appear that open source software is a once-mighty empire in the midst of decline. However, from my perspective it seems despite all of this, open source software has never before been as pervasive, disruptive and innovative as it is right now. While we have yet to reach open nirvana, open source software is playing a pivotal role in the two most significant software markets currently: cloud computing and mobile computing.

Much of the gloom and doom in open source software the last couple of years has centered on the evil that is ‘open core,’ yet I have been among those contending that open core and the mixing of open source and proprietary models is often something that customers want. In addition, rather than just a matter of converting much or all that open source community goodness to cold hard cash, I believe all of these trends and perspectives support the idea that open source software is actually gaining in significance. Whether it is viewed as an effective marketing mechanism may be another thing, but the fact that open source is prevalent in the two hottest categories of IT today: cloud computing and mobile devices.

We’ve written extensively about open source software’s prevelance in cloud computing. We’ve also covered how the many, critical open source pieces of cloud computing stacks, whether SaaS, IaaS or PaaS, are also having an impact on openness and discussions of it, something we also see when considering recent partnerships and a changing landscape for Linux and open source software.

We’ve also covered the significance and prevalence of open source software in mobile computing. At the same time, we recognized that while open source software was a key ingredient to most if not all mobile software platforms and application ecosystems, there was a lack of open source software reaching end products and users.

In both cases, there are reasons and incentives for ‘going closed,’ so to speak, but it is the true open source efforts that elicit true community benefits: collaboration, transparency, speed, flexibility, security and more. So while open source as a term or identifier may not be what matters most to vendors or customers, there is no question open source is key to the business and future of many, if not most vendors in cloud and mobile computing. Ask Puppet Labs or Chef sponsor Opscode whether open source matters to their customers and their business. Ask Google whether openness is something they consider as they move forward on Android and Chrome. Ask Rackspace whether open source is critical in its open source cloud computing stack, OpenStack. Ask HP whether it is meaningful that WebOS is open source. I have. It is. So the next time we hear about the surrender, retreat, fade or decline of open source software or its importance in today’s computing landscape, just remember that today’s key markets tell a different story.

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.

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?

Apple gets its Android on

Another week, another Apple hype cycle, but what is most interesting about Apple’s recent unveiling of the new iPhone 4 was what came with it — iOS, which is being viewed as Apple’s platform play beyond just iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

What’s also interesting is that recently, we’ve been seeing Android hype actually keep pace with iPhone/iPad hype. We’ve been seeing Android command headlines, not only in smartphones, but also:

Android in tablets, where we are seeing the same type of reaction and strategy in response to iPad as we did from iPhone from a wide array of key vendors and groupings held together by Android.

As we anticipated in our report, Mobility Matters, Android in the enterprise, which also involves cloud connectivity and competition.

Android in automobiles, where we not only see a strong presence for embedded Linux, but we see additional evidence of smartphone players and strategy stretching out to cars and telematics and other devices in RIM’s acquisition of RTOS vendor QNX, which opened its code in response to the surge of Linux in the embedded OS space.

Android in TVs, where there are obvious synergies that fit into Google’s TV play, as well as broader in-home implications.

Android in other mobile devices and electronics as evidenced by the embedded Linux nonprofit Linaro, created by hardware heavies ARM, IBM, Samsung, ST-Ericcson and Texas Instruments to support Android, among other Linux-based software, with the latest system-on-chip (SoC) and device technology. Android has been a huge part of the consolidation we’ve seen in embedded Linux that includes Intel-Wind River, Cavium Networks-MontaVista, Mentor Graphics-Embedded Alley and RIM-QNX.

Android in toasters: OK, this was just an on-stage joke at the 451 Group Client Conference last November in Boston, but there may be some company or consortium working on it, so I’ll list it here toward the bottom.

But seriously, it will be interesting to see whether Apple’s advantage in closely connecting the hardware and software will turn into Android’s advantage in the flexibility to run on a wider variety of hardware and devices as competition broadens out beyond the smartphone.

Apple is now more formally aligning its different platforms and devices via the operating system, and this is something that has been happening with Android for at least a couple of years and with Linux for longer. There is no question Apple is finding success with its devices and market growth, but it is also interesting to see a more open alternative giving it real competition, not only in smartphones, but in many more facets of technology and our lives.

DevOps mixing dev, ops, agile, cloud, open source and business

We continue to see and hear signs of a new movement in enterprise IT: devops. The term has for some time been a reference to the blending roles and benefits of an integrated approach when it comes to the ‘development’ of an application through testing and QA to production and ‘operations.’ We cited this as the focus of SpringSource’s acquisition of Hyperic and then VMware’s acquisition of SpringSource last year. Still, we see the trend today on a few different levels, all of which are drawing in vendors eager to meet the opportunity.

On its most basic level, devops is about people. Developers and admins/operations have historically been separate camps within enterprise organizations. While there has been some integration and collaboration, helped by open source software and social networking trends, there seemed to be a persistent disconnect between these two parts of typical enterprises. Similar to how open source software developers have come a long way in considering usability, user interfaces and users in general, we now see enterprise developers taking into consideration the deployment and use of the software. I’ve also actually met some of these devops, hired to strattle the software from creation to consumption, and I believe it is a growing job title for enterprise IT. Further reinforcing the devops people factor, CollabNet indicated a need to manage not only code and applications with agility, but also to similarly manage people and teams as a driver of its acquisition of Danube, a project management company.

Of course, most of the people involved in devops come from the software development and IT operations worlds. At the developer level, we see open source software tools and practices, Web and agile development all contributing to devops, whereby development and production are getting aligned.

On a more technical level, we again see open source and agile development practices, but with the addition of cloud computing as the delta of all of these trends.

Yet another level of devops is the business level, whereby not only developers and operations folks are getting involved, but the executives and people representing business and application requirements, needs and realities are also finding they have a stake in devops. This is something we’ve already seen in open source software thanks to vibrant communities of not only developers, but users too, particularly in specialized fields where their stake in the development and deployment of the software is more critical. For example, we’ve heard from many vendors how their open source software for the healthcare and government sectors is pulling in new stakeholders and experts, including doctors and nurses, who are directly reporting their needs, issues and realities to developers, operations and in the best case scenario, to devops.

One thing all of these different levels of devops have in common: they are all driving activity and strategy among a wide array of vendors and projects. After all, at yet another level, devops represents the promise of cloud computing, elasticity, doing more with less and driving synergy and efficiency through people and technology.

We will be delving much deeper into this subject for a special report from our Commercial Adoption of Open Source (CAOS) and Infrastructure Computing in the Enterprise (ICE) practices planned for this summer. We look forward to speaking with more devops players and hearing what they think of the trend.