Why Open Source has changed from the cheapest software to the best software

wso2 logo



Over the last 5 years we have seen a transformation in the way Open Source is viewed in Enterprises that is significant.

1.  Open source underwent a massive increase over the last 5 years with the help of organizations such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix and many others.

The number of new projects continues to grow exponentially and many senior people at mainstream companies are writing open source on the side.   Developers and technologists consider it important they are abreast and contribute to open source.

2. The virtuous circle or the rapid evolution of new technologies have forced open source into a critical position in software development

The rapid pace of evolution in open source has overtaken the closed-source world.  The closed source world is now FOLLOWING open source.  Back in the 2000 time frame open source was creating projects that were replicas of closed source software.  Now closed-source companies are copying open source components and ideas.

3.  The Enterprise Sales model continues to come under increasing pressure because of Open Source

The benefits of component technology whether APIs or open source components is so great that licensing component by component is unworkable.  You may use one open source project today and switch tomorrow.  You may use dozens of open source components.   The software licensing model is too cumbersome and limiting.

4. closed-source Enterprise License Model of Software is NOT aligned with customer

Closed source companies are interested in you re-upping your license to the next paid version.  They will put features into new versions to force you to commit and they will make you wait for those features you could get in open source today.

They want to write components because they make money by you using their closed source software NOT by making it easy for you to use open source projects.  They will want to lock you into their versions of these things and if they don’t have them yet they will make you wait.  The whole model of closed-source is opposed to the rapid adoption paradigm and reuse of the new era.

Lastly, it is hard to understand why anyone would pay a license fee for a commodity product and many enterprise closed-source products at this point are commodity products that are available in multiple different and in many cases better open source projects for no license.

Organizations are coming to realize that Open Source is NOT

1) the low quality but cheap software

2) a small part of the problem

3) a risky way to get software

open source icons4638740636_a12cdcfd86_z

Instead they are realizing that Open Source is:

1) The only way to get certain kinds of key software

2) The best software for some major pieces they need

3)  That they could benefit by participating in

4) that is more aligned with their business than closed-source software

5) that it is critical to their technology evolution and transformation

6) That it is critical for them to have the agility they need


Major companies are adopting a  “Open source first” policy or a “must look at open source alternative” policy. Many major companies have in the last year made open source the reference architecture in their companies.   Some companies are saying they must use an open source solution if it is available or that they must consider open source in any purchasing decision of software.

I have seen this more and more with bigger customers and talking to CIOs and even lower level people who say they have to talk to us (WSO2) because they need to consider open source in their decision making process.   That is a huge change from 5 years ago where many corporations thought open source was  “risky.”

Where will this lead?

The bigger question is whether “Open Source” is the way we should be doing software?  Will we ultimately suffer for doing open source, using open source?   I don’t think so.

I have thought about this quite a bit over the years.   For most enterprise software there is no need for software companies to use the closed-source model.  There is very little to be gained by a software company choosing to keep its software secret in my opinion and that advantage is diminishing every day.   Software like hardware is moving to a pay per use model.

The open source software issue is simply a variant of the entire problem of intellectual property in the digital age. Since all IP can be represented digitally whether news and reporting, music, film, education, software they all have the same problem.  When IP can be copied infinitely for free how do you maintain income to support the creation of IP?  The market is evolving to find answers to each domain in different ways.    I believe that no matter how easy it is to copy IP and use it that the users of content will be motivated to pay for the content in some way to cause the creation of the content (IP) they want.  It is simply a matter of the market to figure out how to do this but as long as people need and like and value music, film, software, etc we will find a way to compensate people to make it.  The fact this may not be the way traditional existing companies do business is irrelevant.

Many people bemoaned the music industries collapse but the fact that traditional music companies were vertically integrated to provide 100% of the value chain for a musician and had control of the musician and the listener was an artifact of history.  By disintermediating the components of the vertical industry into segments we still get our music.   In fact the amount of music has exploded and I would say our ability to listen and enjoy music has expanded at the same time musicians are not starving any more than they were.

You can take that example and see how all the IP domains in the digital world need to undergo a painful transition for some.  Universities is one of my favorite topics in this space.  What will happen to universities?  Another blog.

Other Articles on Opensource:

Open Source is just getting started, you have to adopt or die

Inner Source, Open source for the enterprise

Software Development today, Cool APIs, Open Source, Scala, Ruby, Chef, Puppet, IntelliJ, Storm, Kafka

The technology “disruption” occurring in today’s business world is driven by open source and APIs and a new paradigm of enterprise collaboration

The Virtuous Circle is key to understanding how the world is changing – Mobile, Social, Cloud, Open Source, APIs, DevOps

Enterprise Application Platform 3.0 is a Social, Mobile, API Centric, Bigdata, Open Source, Cloud Native Multi-tenant Internet of Things IOT Platform


One thought on “Why Open Source has changed from the cheapest software to the best software

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s