Mixed Experiences with OSS

Ok, this is the last entry on the Gartner OSS Summit, I promise. And, rather a regurgitation of the keynotes, etc, it’s my own impressions. It was surprising to me to see how many of the attendees were au fait with Open Source software being used in their organizations. It was even more surprising to see how many of those who were purposefully using Open Source actually changed the source to meet their needs – unfortunately I couldn’t get any information on how many of the changers submitted patches. Conversing with individuals that stopped by the IONA booth showed a vast continuum of experience with OSS. For example, one visitor, employed by an enormous and well-known bank, spends his time working in a group that performs risk assessments on OSS and approves it for use in the IT infrastructure. Other visitors from budget-free government organizations were keen to make progress on projects using the lack of license fee as the carrot to lure their patrons. Some others were a little frightened by the whole thing, but of course, felt reassured by Gartner :-) A brief aside - earlier on this year I attended a talk at Engineers Ireland on the merits, and de-merits of Open Source. The protagonists were IBM and Microsoft. I went hoping for a least a minor bunfight, if not a celebrity deathmatch smackdown. Alas, this was not to be as each side of the affair merely introduced Open Source from the perspective of their business models, which are discrete and different. However, one developer person that was there came out with a most excellent question that I will have to paraphrase:

But doesn’t that mean that a developer that does Open Source is debasing their skills and going to put themselves out of job?
It was very nearly a cola-out-the-nose incident. Unfortunately I didn’t get to catch up with the individual after the event to elicit more from him and then attempt to explain why he was barking up the wrong tree. The overall message here is that while awareness of OSS is heading towards an acceptable level in the ‘industry’ (that’s the Silicon Valley definition of the word, not the Hollywood one), there’s still a lot of education to do at the level of the usual corporate decision-maker. Enterprising and visionary individuals continue to market OSS, but having an organization like Gartner, who really are at the top of opinion-maker peak for the traditional big-company IT development teams, pushing OSS as a good thing for business is a very powerful boost.