As open source gets more mainstream and more popular, whether your software is open source becomes less of an issue and more of a so what. In the early 1990s, if you told someone that you were going to run your business on open source software, they would have laughed you out of the room … assuming that they even knew what open source software was. Linux was a “toy” operating system and open source software was something for universities and crazy people. Those of us who were sys admins / network admins at the time would have quietly chuckled knowing that the company’s infrastructure was already running on open source software (BIND, etc.), but management did not need to know that little tidbit of information.
Fast forward a few years into the future around the time of the dot-com era when the early adopter companies began taking open source seriously and using open source software in increasingly important areas of their businesses. At this point, if you told someone that you were going to run your business on open source software, they would have mostly questions. Are you sure that is a good idea? Is it stable? Does it work? How hard was it to train people to use the software? Where do you get support, and is the support any good?
Today most companies are comfortable using open source software, especially in the lower software layers in the stack (application development / deployment, middleware, databases, etc.) Companies are picking solutions that meets their needs using combinations of proprietary and open source software. Occasionally people may still question a decision to run open source software in a particularly mission critical environment despite the fact that big sites like Amazon.com and Travelocity use Linux, MySQL, and other open source software to run the most critical parts of their businesses.
I read an interesting article today that got me started thinking about this topic. Executives from SpikeSource, JBoss, Sun, and EnterpriseDB debated on a variety of topics at The Open Source Effect event. Andy Astor, CEO of EnterpriseDB said that “open source will become part of the fabric of IT deployments the way client-server is now, Astor said. ‘Open source is going to be a big yawn in five years,’ he said.” (InfoWorld). This is what will eventually move open source into the “so what” camp. By “so what”, I do not mean that no one will care about open source software. I do think that choosing open source software will cease to become an issue. The decision to move to open source software will be based on the requirements and the business need unencumbered by current or past misconceptions about open source.