|By Blue Box Blog||
|September 25, 2015 02:00 PM EDT||
Why Open Source Software Is Taking Over
By Tyler Britten
You don't have to look far to see evidence of open source software's impact on IT as a whole. It starts with large open source projects like OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, and Hadoop and continues to smaller but widely deployed components like OpenSSL and MySQL.
I know what you're thinking.
But no one is making real money from open source. Red Hat is the big player and they're still tiny.
This is something I hear often when talking about the inevitability of open source. Yes, open source software companies make less money than closed source software companies. But that's exactly why it's attractive to customers. Let me explain.
Intellectual Property and the Endless March to Utility
Over time, ideas, products-and yes-software, follow the same predictable path. They all start as something new and novel, then over time become commoditized and eventually utilitarian.
This chart is courtesy of Simon Wardley. He has covered this topic endless times, explaining how to use mapping to build strategies and take advantage of this. Here is a good primer on Wardley Value Chain Mapping.
Software (as intellectual property) is no different. As the software or feature moves up and to the right, becoming more commonplace and clearly defined over time, prices (and margins) predictably fall. Companies are constantly adding new things on the left which consistently follow this pattern.
The problem is, multiple competitors are solving the same component problems multiple times in slightly different ways. There's generally only a subset of the total product or solution that's truly unique. Although they have limited value, they're still necessary components that require time and money to create and maintain.
Where Open Source Comes In
Software companies are now collaborating on piecing those necessary components together, publicly as part of open source projects. It reduces the amount of overlapping work and allows the companies to focus on the part of their products that are novel and valuable. It also lowers the cost to the end customers as well.
Proprietary software vendors leveraging open source components is not new. Why build something from scratch that already exists and is available?
- The realization that a specific, necessary component doesn't already exist in the open source community.
- The understanding that the component isn't material to their value proposition.
- The fact that others may need the same component as well.
What are they doing about this? Creating new open source projects and collaborating with others including competitors, right from the beginning.
This is what is changing the economics of the software industry as a whole.
Open source components make it harder for companies to use their novel components to keep customers paying for their commoditized, closed source components. While this might mean lower revenues for software vendors, this is the unavoidable future. The software companies that will be most impacted are the ones that have built a mountain of closed source software.
Project vs Product: Operationalizing
If everyone can use open source software for free, where's the incentive for software companies to create it? It's actually pretty straightforward; most open source projects are just that-a project. They generally require additional work before they're in a state that's useable for commercial purposes. The process of taking that unpolished project and operationalizing it (packaging, upgrade and integration testing, monitoring, etc.) make it ready for IT organizations to use can be done by either a vendor or the IT organization itself.
A great example is OpenStack. Large or specialized organizations like telcos, research facilities, and cloud operators consume the OpenStack projects directly and operationalize it themselves. At the same time, vendors turn those projects into different products and distributions for customers who don't want to invest in that skillset.
That's the beauty of open source. Enterprise IT organizations can decide if they want to pay a vendor or invest in the skillset based on what makes the most sense for their organization-either way they get the benefits of using an open platform.
"The future is already here-it just not very evenly distributed."
That infamous quote by William Gibson is incredibly applicable here. Open source software has been around since the invention of the computer, but over the last decade it has moved to the forefront. You'll still find vendors pushing proprietary whole-stack solutions against alternatives built on open source, but even the staunchest opponents have begun to open up more.
IBM has been involved with the open source community for years. Both consuming (and operationalizing) projects as well as contributing to them, including legal assistance. The company has embraced the open source community and a new economics of software that has emerged. The IBM Cloud portfolio reflects this-an open cloud architecture built on OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, Docker, and a host of other open source projects.
For organizations that want their transition to cloud to be an open one, but can't (or prefer not to have to) operationalize these open source platforms themselves, IBM Cloud is making it our mission to get you there. We're dedicated to turning these open source projects into not just products, but easy to consume services.
The open cloud future is here, are you ready to join it?
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