Open source has become big business, suggests an article in the Investors Business Daily, but it has done so by becoming more like the proprietary-software world it purports to leave behind.
The article cites recent research from IDC indicating that CIOs allocated up to 24 percent of their budgets to open-source software in 2008, up from 10 percent in 2007--a finding that jibes with recent data from Forrester. This open-source growth is propelling Red Hat to grow "at two to three times the rate of the broader software industry over a multiyear horizon," according to research from Piper Jaffray.
Red Hat is an example of "free done right," following analysis from TechDirt. We've moved beyond the business models that insist that every line of software be open source: they couldn't scale and tended to treat openness as an end in and of itself, rather than as a means to an end.
Today, if you look at the most successful open-source businesses, none of them pass the ideologues' unrealistic and counterproductive "100-percent freedom" litmus test. Not a single one of them.
And that's OK. Google does a tremendous amount of good in the open-source world, yet took a beating last week for not being open source "enough" on the Open Source Initiative's osi-discuss mailing list. Google's open-source program manager, Chris DiBona, responded:
Yes, I can see how people would think that Android and Chrome aren't 'real' open source. *rolls eyes* Damn foolish assertion, if you ask me.
DiBona is right to refuse to be goaded into a walk down an inaccurate and ill-conceived open-source memory lane. That "give-away-the-software-and-sell-support" model was always doomed to scale poorly and consign its adherents to minimal relevance to the wider software market.
Fortunately, the software industry has been embracing a broader definition for "open-source business" that includes many different ways to contribute to and profit from this interesting development and distribution model.
Those who persist in trying to shove the genie back into a crippled container are doomed to fail.
Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.