These companies have fought long, hard battles to get Open Source into the corporate data centers. It was an uphill battle, requiring education on a concept new to many people. They couldn’t just blaze a path for themselves, they had to prove an entire business model; explain its viability, its resulting products, and value. The developers and executives at these companies fought a hard, honest war and have established a beach head.
The Marines have blazed the trail. No mucking around with convincing a CIO that “not just anyone can update their source automatically” and that Open Source companies can generate real value, revenue with a product you COULD use for free. The value they’ve provided has EARNED Open Source (as a defined concept) the respect of IT purchasers/developers/users to be treated as equals.
After fighting with both hands tied behind the back (education process, incumbent vendor FUD, giving product for FREE) they’re winning their fair share of market; true to their values and they’re being rewarded for their hard work and this commitment to Open Source.
I’m baffled. Why are none of these leaders speaking up about people taking what THEY’VE worked for (CIOs willing to buy Open Source when it meets their needs) and turning it into something confusing, less valuable, and ultimately NOT what Open Source is?
These companies have partnerships, alliances, webinars, back scratching, with a new breed of “open source” (term used lightly and incorrectly) companies who find no need in actually being Open Source. I’m not dogging OS companies having partnerships with proprietary vendors; I think there’s plenty of room in the world for FOSS and proprietary code to coexist. MySQL and SAP; no problem. Good for MySQL, good for SAP. I take issue with them building partnerships, sponsoring conferences, etc with companies claiming to be Open Source that are not.
These companies are short sighted if they don’t see that by offering to let these new entrants muck with, distort, nudge, and ultimately dilute the term “Open Source” that their long term prospects diminish. Five years from now, Open Source could be identified by confusion, vendor lock-in, and ultimately probably some nasty litigation/complaints made quite public. Picture this: Customers buy services from these new “open source” companies only to find out later they don’t have the “things” they thought made open source compelling. For instance, the ability to customize their own GUI of an open source application (mockup here) How about being allowed to fork a project if the original vendor isn’t providing the best service?
MySQL, Redhat, IBM, Apache, Eclipse, HP, Novell: You all have a stake in making sure Open Source is not a concept to invite scrutiny and mistrust. You have significant influence and can help your own business stay healthy by keeping Open Source real, and healthy. Why associate in partnerships with companies claiming to be Open Source without adhering to the same honest commitment to Open Source that you have? You are helping companies that dilute the value of Open Source for everyone; it may, temporarily, benefit their and your bottom line but what happens when the term Open Source becomes just as useless as “100% Organic,” “Money Back Guarantee,” and “As Seen on TV?
I suppose, the final question might be, do they even know? Are these companies taking the claim of Open Source at face value? Open Source is a trusting environment; perhaps it was just assumed they were OSI approved (that’s the Open Source thing to do)?



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