The open-source effect spreads
Open source seeped into nearly every software product category in 2005, leaving an indelible mark on how software is bought and sold.
Linux was once behind successful open-source companies such as Red Hat. Now vendors and corporate customers are showing interest in open-source "stacks" that include databases, application servers, tools and other back-end infrastructure software.
Maturing open-source products comprise only half of the story, though. The open-source business model, in which companies give away software and charge for a higher-end version or services, is taking hold widely. Venture money flowed to services-oriented companies such as SpikeSource and SourceLabs, which offer maintenance, testing and support.
Nobody pursued the disruptive nature of open-source business models more dramatically than Sun Microsystems. It started by open-sourcing Solaris in June to entice developers to use the code and generate demand for Sun servers.
In November, Sun made its Java server suite, its development tools and its N1 management software available free of charge and said it will make those products open source.
The strategy: Reduce prices and gain market share with a comprehensive open-source bundle that includes an operating system, middleware and database software.
Nearly all software incumbents adopted open-source products or business models in 2005. IBM acquired Gluecode, a tiny start-up that makes a low-end, open-source alternative to IBM's WebSphere application server.
BEA Systems, Oracle and Borland Software joined or boosted their participation in the Eclipse Foundation, which creates an open-source development tool framework.
The open-source database arena heated up as well, leading database giant Oracle to release a free database and acquire a company that supplies a popular storage engine for open-source database MySQL. Even Microsoft is increasingly embracing open-source development.
But an open-source strategy, while appealing to developers, is not a panacea. Witness Novell, the struggling purveyor of both open-source and closed-source software, which laid off 600 employees in November and redoubled its Linux efforts.
An in a somewhat surprising development, Microsoft found a new headache in open source, initiated by Massachusetts.
OASIS' Open Document Format for Office Applications, also known as OpenDocument, is a standard for desktop productivity applications. It is being implemented in both closed-source products as well as open-source varieties, including OpenOffice.
Ratified in May, the OpenDocument format rose in prominence when Massachusetts decided to eschew Microsoft and mandate the use of OpenDocument-compliant products. (Microsoft plans to "standardize its own document formats, a move that could meet the state's definition for "open formats.") IBM, Sun, Google and Adobe Systems have also boosted their commitment to OpenDocument-based software.
Meanwhile, the open-source business model is being further tested in application bundles that include free software, such as e-mail and calendars.
Companies are featuring those package elements prominently in their marketing efforts, betting that free access to their software will result in support sales. Firefox, an open-source browser, soared in popularity, topping 100 million downloads.
While software companies experiment with the right business model, the legal foundations for open-source were spruced up and pruned.
The first draft of the General Public License 3.0, used with Linux and many others, will be available in the beginning of 2006. And in an effort to address "license proliferation," the Open Source Initiative launched an initiative to pare down the number of certified open-source licenses.
Linux, Apache, MySQL and other open-source software are rewriting the rules in the computer services arena.
OSI gets under way with an effort to pare down the number of open-source software licenses in widespread use.
Big Blue fills out the low end of its WebSphere line and throws its weight behind Apache's Geronimo project.
Company posts more than 5 million lines of source code for the operating system's heart in an effort to regain lost ground.
Companies that thrive on Linux, Apache, MySQL and related software band together to better support corporate customers.
Though it still opposes open-source products and licensing, Microsoft is begrudgingly adopting similar practices to appeal to its corporate customers.
State finalizes policy calling for desktop applications supporting OpenDocument standard format. Microsoft Office is excluded.
Oracle's purchase of a company with close ties to open-source rival MySQL has people wondering what the database giant's motives are.
Layoffs are part of major restructuring at the server software maker. The sale of a division could cut at least 400 additional jobs.
Venture money going to companies with an "open-source" plan is rising rapidly. Is that a good thing?
Growing cadre of vendors vows to improve alternatives to Microsoft Office, as government customers voice more interest.
A competitive challenger in the messaging and collaboration market will release a second beta and a version aimed at businesses.
The company plans to give away Java Enterprise System, N1 management tools with its Solaris operating system.
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