April 26, 2006 11:49 AM PDT

Banks 'should give back to open-source community'

Major open-source vendors on Monday called for financial companies to contribute more code to the open-source community.

"How many here have open-source developers working at their company?" Carl Drisko, Novell's Linux and open-source principal, asked the audience during a panel at the Linux on Wall Street conference in New York.

Relatively few members of the audience raised their hands, to which Drisko said, "It's pretty rare, the number of folks on the Street (Wall Street) that are making major contributions back. They are consumers of open source, but are not necessarily sharing well. We wish there were more that were going on."

In a separate talk at the conference, Larry Ryan, director of worldwide financial services at Hewlett-Packard, made a similar comment on the lack of open-source code contribution by the financial community.

"We've not seen a lot of participation yet from (the financial) community--I would be interested to hear your opinion on why that is," he said to the audience.

Banks are generally reluctant to collaborate with other members of the financial community as they are worried about giving advantages to competitors, Ike Garrido, the director of blade server vendor Egenera, said during the panel discussion.

Competitive-advantage concerns
"What we've found is that our clients (in the financial industry) are ruthless--they want a competitive advantage," said Garrido. "I don't see them playing nice."

Concerns over competitive advantage mean that it can be difficult to persuade companies to share code with the open-source community, as it can then be easily accessed by competitors. But for technologies that have little impact on competitive advantage, financial companies could probably be encouraged to contribute code, the conference panel agreed.

Brian Behlendorf, the founder of development software vendor CollabNet, pointed out that if companies keep their bug fixes private, the next mainstream version of the product may not include their bug fix, meaning they would have to patch the system again manually.

"If you're using open-source technology on Wall Street, unless you're completely reliant on a vendor to provide a certified version, you will probably invest extra time to fix it," he said. "What will you do with your fix? You can keep it to yourself, but if you move it upstream by passing it on to the vendor or submitting it as a patch, you know it will be available in the next version of the product. That's what drives most open- source development--collective self-interest."

Behlendorf also said that if companies are spending a lot of money maintaining a piece of software in-house that does not give them much competitive advantage, they could save costs by releasing the source code or migrating to an open-source equivalent.

Although the financial industry seems to be particularly reluctant to participate in open source communities, Novell's Drisko said any industry sector that is highly competitive is likely to be equally reluctant.

"A lot of other industries are doing a whole lot better in terms of collaborating, but most are not competitive," he said. "For example, there are initiatives to make government systems open source and there is a lot of collaboration between universities. But the closer it comes to affecting the dollar, the less you will see people participating."

Ingrid Marson reported from New York for ZDNet UK.

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5 comments

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So what happens...
if/when Linux or some other Open Source OS finally cracks the
big-time on the consumer desktop? I understand the desire to
have users "give back" to the community at large, but the idea
that the average consumer, be it a business or an individual, is
going to take the the time to "give back" something to the
community strikes me as wishful thinking at best and a
ludicrous, drug-addled fantasy at worst.

Businesses exist to make money and time is money. Having
someone devoted to creating content for the Open Source
community is a waste of business' time and money.

The average consumer can't code a line, let alone understand
how the OS functions. Asking them to "give back" in a tangible
way is silly.

The simple fact of the matter is there are more consumers than
there are coders and designers. It's always been this way and it
will always be this way. The Open Source community needs to
learn to deal with the double-edged sword that Open Source is
by its very nature.
Posted by nightveil (133 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A bit different for big business....
There is a difference between end users and organisational use.
I dont think the Open Source community expect every user to contribute, but organisations that are naturally doing things with Open Source Software should contribute these updates, bug fixes or enhancements to the community.
As the article said they dont even have to be enhancements or fixes that would affect their competitive advantage. So, there is no reason to not share. It is just a business practice attitude that needs to be modified.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Link Flag
What a crock!
I think this article shows some of the hypocrisy of the Open Source world....

You can not distinguish between the "end user" or the corporation that uses OS tools. Open Source means exactly that. Open to use, within the licensing guidelines, as how the individual, or company sees fit. There are no strings attached and no obligation to "pay back to the community" as the individuals quoted in this article suggest.

What is hypocritcal is that the author, nor those quoted in the article bother to look at the large technology corporations which are "involved" in Open Source projects.

There are several "Open Source" licensing schemes out there. Ever wonder why IBM released their Eclipse framework (under its own licensing terms) or Cloudscape under Apache's licensing terms?

Both license agreements essentially say that anything you contribute is fair game to anyone that wants to use your code.

Using Cloudscape/Derby/JavaDB as an example, Sun and IBM are looking for the OS Community for a "free lunch". That is to say, the OS community is "expected" to step up to the plate and volunteer to support the product (make enhancements, etc) and IBM and SUN are free to redistribute the products under their own licensing.

That is the business model, and if the reporters at C/Net News.com, ever grew a pair of balls, they
should report upon it.

And thus the hypocrisy. (These members looking for a free lunch while chastising Wall St. For not stepping up to the plate...)
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What a crock!
I think this article shows some of the hypocrisy of the Open Source world....

Its interesting that no one bothers to research and understand the motives of a corporation like IBM or SUN that release code under licensing models like Apache or Eclipse. (Eclipse and Cloudscape/Derby/JavaDB are both good examples of their involvements in OS...). Yet people chide those on Wall St. who by their adoption of OS code and tools, are adding weight to the OS movement.

True, there are excellent technical resources on Wall St. However, its not the products of these organizations that the OS community wants to harvest, but the brain power behind them.

Its up to the individual Wall St. developers to contribute and some do....
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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