Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

The future is open source

Filed under
OSS

Like many developments in the IT sector, open source seemed to come out of nowhere. Linux was first developed in 1991, and since it began to be taken seriously as a commercial product a few years later, the industry has been caught up in a whirlwind that saw developing business models threaten established ones and philosophical wars break out.

People who thought the whole thing was a storm in a teacup began to realise otherwise when they heard Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer call open source "a cancer" in 2001.

Given the volatile nature of the concept over the past 10 years, what can we expect to see from it in the next five? Is the firestorm over open source likely to abate? Not according to Bill Welty, a mySQL customer who works at the California Air Resources Board. A convert to open source, Welty believes the recent industry shakeup is only just beginning.

"The force for California that is going to drive some of the decision making down that path is probably the same decision that's driving some third world countries, which is money," he says. If anything, he expects the use of open source to grow for this reason, and also because it offers more flexibility. "There's the flexibility that you have to prototype - if you don't like it you can throw it away. It doesn't have to cost anything."

The figures bear him out, at least for web servers. Statistics from web monitoring company Netcraft show that 70 per cent of web servers on the internet use the open source Apache compared to a share of roughly 25 per cent for Microsoft's Internet Information Server.

California last year recommended the use of open source in its performance review, following national governments across Europe who are developing a public sector love affair with open source.

This could have a cumulative effect, argues Brian Hanley, director of agile development consultancy Exoftware. "First, companies who want to do business with governments will need to embrace open source. Second, as governments continue to show support of open source, we should see a knock on effect on the private sector," he says. "Third, government systems are complex, which will force the open source community to innovate in line with more complex needs of government."

And the biggest public sector player of all is China, a quasi-Communist country with a large element of state control and a billion people. China has already embraced open source, creating the China Standard Software Company (CSSC), a collective of state companies licensing Linux-based software stacks in large volumes from companies such as Sun Microsystems. The China Open Source Software Promotion Alliance is another group working with western vendors like HP and IBM, already big open source shops.

Developments such as these are bound to leave Microsoft worried in the coming years. Rampant software theft in China is keeping proprietary vendors from a huge market opportunity, leaving open source players like Red Hat preparing to clean up on service revenue as the Chinese market matures.

How are these proprietary vendors fighting back? "Microsoft is going to have to get into the service business, and I would say they had better ramp up," says California Air Resources Board's Welty. "And it has to build a reputation around that." However, this will also require a move towards service models that don't lock the user in, he warns.

The alternative is to pummel open source users with threats of lawsuits, as SCO has done with Linux users. Malcolm Cartledge, managing director of Linux security consultancy Kyzo, thinks that others may follow suit. "It has long been a commercial reality that where there's money and profit, the lawyers will soon follow, and IP is the political landscape of commerce nowadays, so yes, there will be more IP disputes but probably on a smaller scale than SCO," he argues.

If the open source model does continue to grow as much as its advocates suggest, its underlying development methodologies could change, says Cartledge. Open source projects will adopt more structured traditional methodologies as its development matures, he hopes. "In the future more OSS [open source software] projects will employ traditional methodologies to code, control and coordinate the software development tree, and this will most likely be at an increasing rate as open source software projects become bigger."

He says bigger, because in the future, size really will be everything. At present, many projects on Sourceforge, a directory of open source endeavors, involve one or two people and are largely unstructured and undisciplined.

As the concept matures, these sorts of projects are unlikely to die but Cartledge hopes they will be outshone by a growing number of meatier open source initiatives. "The number of significant and important OSS projects will have grown significantly in five years' time," he says. If true, this would reflect a maturing of the open source concept as it gains respectability, thanks not only to its adoption within the private sector but also its popularity among governments.

In 1995, at an IDC conference in Europe, Bill Gates said his biggest enemy was the unknown. Business challenges in the IT sector can come from left field in a very short time, he said. Ten years on, his enemy may now be known.

By Danny Bradbury
silicon.com.

More in Tux Machines

GNOME and Fedora

  • RFC: Integrating rsvg-rs into librsvg
    I have started an RFC to integrate rsvg-rs into librsvg. rsvg-rs is the Rust binding to librsvg. Like the gtk-rs bindings, it gets generated from a pre-built GIR file.
  • 1+ year of Fedora and GNOME hardware enablement
    A year and a couple of months ago, Christian Schaller asked me to pivot a little bit from working full time on Fleet Commander to manage a new team we were building to work on client hardware enablement for Fedora and GNOME with an emphasis on upstream. The idea was to fill the gap in the organization where nobody really owned the problem of bringing up new client hardware features vertically across the stack (from shell down to the kernel), or rather, ensure Fedora and GNOME both work great on modern laptops. Part of that deal was to take over the bootloader and start working closer to customers and hardware manufacturing parnters.
  • Fedora Atomic Workstation: Works on the beach
    My trip is getting really close, so I decided to upgrade my system to rawhide. Wait, what ? That is usually what everybody would tell you not to do. Rawhide has this reputation for frequent breakage, and who knows if my apps will work any given day. Not something you want to deal with while traveling.
  • 4 cool new projects to try in COPR for February

Why You Shouldn’t Use Firefox Forks (and Proprietary Opera)

  • Why You Shouldn’t Use Firefox Forks Like Waterfox, Pale Moon, or Basilisk
    Mozilla Firefox is an open source project, so anyone can take its code, modify it, and release a new browser. That’s what Waterfox, Pale Moon, and Basilisk are—alternative browsers based on the Firefox code. But we recommend against using any of them.
  • Opera Says Its Next Opera Release Will Have the Fastest Ad Blocker on the Block
    Opera Software promoted today its upcoming Opera 52 web browser to the beta channel claiming that it has the faster ad blocker on the market compared to previous Opera release and Google Chrome. One of the key highlights of the Opera 52 release will be the improved performance of the built-in ad blocker as Opera claims to have enhanced the string matching algorithm of the ad blocker to make it open web pages that contain ads much faster than before, and, apparently than other web browsers, such as Chrome.

Graphics: Glxinfo, ANV, SPIR-V

  • Glxinfo Gets Updated With OpenGL 4.6 Support, More vRAM Reporting
    The glxinfo utility is handy for Linux users in checking on their OpenGL driver in use by their system and related information. But it's not often that glxinfo itself gets updated, except that changed today with the release of mesa-demos-8.4.0 as the package providing this information utility. Mesa-demos is the collection of glxinfo, eglinfo, glxgears, and utilities related to Mesa. With the Mesa-demos 8.4.0 it is predominantly glxinfo updates.
  • Intel ANV Getting VK_KHR_16bit_storage Support Wrapped Up
    Igalia's Jose Maria Casanova Crespo sent out a set of patches today for fixes that allow for the enabling of the VK_KHR_16bit_storage extension within Intel's ANV Vulkan driver. The patches are here for those interested in 16-bit storage support in Vulkan. This flips on the features for storageBuffer16BitAccess, uniformAndStorageBuffer16BitAccess, storagePushConstant16 and the VK_KHR_16bit_storage extension. This support is present for Intel "Gen 8" Broadwell graphics and newer. Hopefully the work will be landing in Mesa Git soon.
  • SPIR-V Support For Gallium3D's Clover Is Closer To Reality
    It's been a busy past week for open-source GPU compute with Intel opening up their new NEO OpenCL stack, Karol Herbst at Red Hat posting the latest on Nouveau NIR support for SPIR-V compute, and now longtime Nouveau contributor Pierre Moreau has presented his latest for SPIR-V Clover support. Pierre has been spending about the past year adding SPIR-V support to Gallium3D's "Clover" OpenCL state tracker. SPIR-V, of course, is the intermediate representation used now by OpenCL and Vulkan.

Security: Updates, Tinder, FUD and KPTI Meltdown Mitigation

  • Security updates for Friday
  • Tinder vulnerability let hackers [sic] take over accounts with just a phone number

    The attack worked by exploiting two separate vulnerabilities: one in Tinder and another in Facebook’s Account Kit system, which Tinder uses to manage logins. The Account Kit vulnerability exposed users’ access tokens (also called an “aks” token), making them accessible through a simple API request with an associated phone number.

  • PSA: Improperly Secured Linux Servers Targeted with Chaos Backdoor [Ed: Drama queen once again (second time in a week almost) compares compromised GNU/Linux boxes to "back doors"]
    Hackers are using SSH brute-force attacks to take over Linux systems secured with weak passwords and are deploying a backdoor named Chaos. Attacks with this malware have been spotted since June, last year. They have been recently documented and broken down in a GoSecure report.
  • Another Potential Performance Optimization For KPTI Meltdown Mitigation
    Now that the dust is beginning to settle around the Meltdown and Spectre mitigation techniques on the major operating systems, in the weeks and months ahead we are likely to see more performance optimizations come to help offset the performance penalties incurred by mitigations like kernel page table isolation (KPTI) and Retpolines. This week a new patch series was published that may help with KPTI performance.