Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud

Open Source Cloud: Article

Open Source, Part of a Bigger Trend

During my career I have had the privilege and the misfortune to be involved with quite a few nascent businesses

During my career I have had the privilege and the misfortune to be involved with quite a few nascent businesses. Some have been small, with no more than five or ten employees. To this day they still have that many or less. Others grew from 50 employees to over 10,000 in a very short time. In every case there was a technology component involved in my job.

During this time I have consistently been an IT buyer. I still cringe at the $3,000 a piece I spent for DX2-33 PCs with 8MB for a financial services firm back in the mid-1990s, though at the time it was a heck of a deal. I still fondly remember the first time I successfully installed Linux from floppies downloaded for free from the Internet onto those PCs, though both of them were rewarding acquisitions for different reasons.

Not so many years back I was involved in a start-up. We had tons of money in the bank from a generous VC and a bright future ahead of us. After all it was 2000, the height of the dot-com bubble. We were instructed by our board of directors to build out infrastructure, hire employees, and be ready to "scale." Being a simple country boy, this didn't make a lot of sense to me, since I was raised on the aphorism, "If you don't have it, don't spend it," and other lessons of frugality. At the time I figured that those older and wiser than I were giving sage advice. Let's just say that chapter of my career didn't end as lucratively as others. I suspect there are many others who had similar experiences during that time.

Fast forward to present day - I am involved in another start-up. We sit four to an office (some days we cram in more). We watch our pennies and cash flow and tighten our belts when things start to drift out of line. In the heyday of the tech bubble, companies like ours bought full-page advertisements in thick glossy trade magazines (many of which have since folded or moved to online-only publications). Today we shrewdly buy online advertisements that we can update in real time and we post to blogs to promote ourselves.

The most notable change between then and now is that I don't invest capital in infrastructure to the degree I once did. In 2001, I had a beautiful fully redundant data center with shiny new racks, raised panel floors, and the snazziest ultra-secure firewall. Today, we lease servers and use hosted infrastructure at reasonable monthly fees and we can choose to migrate to another provider with very short notice. Also we don't tend to buy software per se; we buy service contracts or hosted solutions. In my early days I purchased, as a percentage, a large number of Microsoft products; today I use far fewer.

I don't begrudge Microsoft its fortunes. Really I don't. I also doubt that we will ever see an "open source billionaire" and I wonder if we will see a new proprietary software billionaire in the near future. I think that time has past. The model of build it once, sell it 100 million times (or more) is probably not going to work for too many software vendors. Times are changing; as consumers of technology we require more flexibility and adaptability that match the pace at which we do business. Going forward, the most practical way for a software company coming to market these days to achieve widespread success is to not only make a good product but also leverage the efforts of others. If Microsoft and other traditional proprietary vendors lower the barrier to use and improve their ability to integrate their software with others, I probably will buy more of their products.

Let's use a non-open source example to prove my point - SalesForce.com. When they launched, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software had become expensive, it required a full-time administrator to customize and keep running, and feature requests were greater than any one software company could adequately address. Along came SalesForce.com with a hosted model that virtually any small business could adopt for a relatively small price. Plus they opened their AppExchange where others can offer additional add-ons to their product, making their product very sticky by adding features in a leveraged manner. Ironically SalesForce.com is no longer being used in just small businesses; they now have customers with thousands of users.

The change in the software industry is not simply the rise of open source software; it's the need of the customer to maximize the value that she gets from the new technology. In response, software offerings are changing, and vendors are obligated to continue to earn the loyalty of their customers. This model is one where software vendors are beginning to resemble service providers. They are obligated to improve and service their customer or risk losing them. As I look at the old days versus today, there's a big difference.

The Old Days: On-site data centers, servers, T1s, firewalls, and OS software
Today: Leased servers in someone else's data centers

The Old Days: Commercial firewalls hosted on commercial Unix and proprietary routers
Today: Inexpensive SoHo routers flashed with embedded Linux and complex security and networking tools

The Old Days: Commercial PBX phone switch, with voicemail system for tens of thousands
Today: Asterisk-based phone switch for less than $1,000 a year

The Old Days: Solaris or Windows NT Web Server running Netscape Server or IIS
Today: Debian or Red Hat Linux running Apache

The Old Days: Lead tracking in commercial CRM solutions with proprietary databases
Today: Open source CRM or hosted CRM solutions using open source SQL databases

The Old Days: Solaris, Windows, and Oracle
Today: Linux, MySQL, and PostgresSQL

The Old Days: Large capital outlays, yearly and maintenance contracts
Today: Low upfront investment, subscription fees

Despite these examples I still buy things: Dell desktops running Windows XP or Mac Book Pro Microsoft Office. I am sure our accounting guy runs QuickBooks or Peachtree or some other commercial accounting package, though I do believe we use a hosted version of that software with online access. When given the choice though, I tend to go for the option that has a subscription, which reduces my upfront expense and doesn't lock me in.

I think there is a phenomenon in enterprise software that goes something like this. You buy an application for a large chunk of change and once you get it into production, it just doesn't meet your needs. In order to get the appropriate ROI (or save face in front of your CIO), you keep that system for a number of years despite the fact it never works as promised. In the meantime there is an opportunity cost to your implementation and little empirical data to support the losses in productivity.

It's easy to dismiss the open source community as a bunch of overly enthusiastic technophiles. I see them as people who intelligently identified and embraced and helped to create this new trend. The open source community is a group of individuals and companies that are effectively harnessing the power of peer production to develop high quality, feature-rich applications that meet technical needs. This development model also lends itself to greater flexibility in product features, distribution, and releases. While the attention getter for open source usually is that it's free, it's not the real hook - flexibility is. The trend is that buyers want flexibility, including price and licensing terms. That's why open source and Software-as-a-Service are increasingly prominent in my and probably your IT purchases.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER gives detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPOalso offers sp...
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time t...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...