Open Source is Ready for Prime Time

Welcome to another edition of Take Five. In today’s edition I talk open source software development in today’s enterprise world with Clay Loveless, currently founder at Jexy and formerly of Mashery (where he was a co-founder).

Stephen Wellman (SW): Hello, Clay, welcome to Take Five, a new feature on the SourceForge blog where we discuss the pressing issues facing today’s IT professionals. It’s a pleasure to have with us. As someone who works with developers, how has the role of open source software development changed in today’s business world? Are larger businesses more amendable to open source now than they were a few years ago?

Clay Loveless (CL): Hi Stephen, thanks for having me on your blog!

It’s rare that I encounter customers at large or small companies who aren’t leveraging open source software in some significant way. Gone are the old days of programming languages driven by big companies, commercially licensed web servers, and in light of the NoSQL movement, there’s even less going on with commercially licensed databases than there used to be.

There’s still a desire among many to have a support contract with someone associated with an open source product. No one likes to find that their company is dependent upon an open source tool that no one understands but the guy who left the company last month… and typically the company will often discover that when that one piece breaks.

There’s hardly any reason for a new company to build on anything *but* open source, which is a big part of what’s driving this “lower barrier to entry than ever” theme that’s been floating around the startup entrepreneur and investment community for a couple years.

More established companies, however, will still gravitate toward the support contract and/or the commercial solution, simply to get an SLA that they can back their OWN SLA with. I don’t think that trend will continue, but the decline of that practice will be slow.

SW: What in your personal opinion, Clay, are the top three technology rends shaping today’s IT market?

CL: Mobile, commodity computing, and social media/customer support.

Mobile: I can hardly believe that just four years ago I was toting a Treo 650 and thinking it kicked serious a**. The rapid advancement of mobile technology is obviously something unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and we’ve barely begun seeing and understanding the ramifications of that growth. When entire regions leapfrog over technology evolution milestones we experienced in the US, there’s something that can’t be ignored going on. The real shaping of the IT market there lies with who’s paying attention to this trend, and who’s not. Those to don’t devote resources to mobile are those who aren’t going to be around too long.

Commodity computing: The REAL “cloud computing,” before marketing departments and windbags hijacked the term, was commodity computing. Infrastructure as a Service. It legitimized the whole burgeoning field of DevOps, where clever coders with sysadmin skills can conduct orchestras of computing resources all over the world from any Starbucks. When you step back from all the hype and look at what’s possible today with API-enabled computing resources, and it’s truly staggering. When I decided to build Mashery’s entire architecture around Amazon EC2 in 2006, people thought I was crazy. Now look at what’s possible. You’re crazy these days if you DON’T use commodity API-controlled infrastructure.

Social media/customer support: The increasing interconnectedness of geeks around the world is having a serious impact on the IT market. I wish I could see a show of hands of who’s still looking to InformationWeek (or similar print publications) for their IT news (A *weekly*? Seriously? And on paper?). Influencers have direct connection to the masses, as do the companies that want to reach those same folks. It’s possible now to see who *really* cares about their customers, and who’s just milking them. Just as with mobile, the tech companies who don’t realize that customer service is critically important in these transparent times aren’t long for this world.

SW: Is open source now more of a go-to for businesses looking to run commercially viable Web services and applications? Why do you think this is?

CL: Absolutely. After Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter have demonstrated that you can certainly build a top 10 internet property on the back of open source — AND contribute *back* to open source, as they all have — it’s hard to argue that you really need commercial tools to make it big. The proof is right there, and now that it’s been proven day in and day out for so many years, it’s finally sinking in for people and becoming much more of a go-to option for businesses of any size.

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