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5/26/2008
04:56 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Misunderstanding Open Source

Richard Stallman announced the GNU Project in September 1983. Eric S. Raymond published the first version of The Cathedral and the Bazaar in 2000. IDC estimated a year ago that worldwide revenue from standalone open source software reached $1.8 billion in 2006, projecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26% from 2006 to 2011. That's revenue, not the presumably much higher avoided cost of closed source alternatives. So why are open-source fundamentals still so widely misunderstood, inc

Richard Stallman announced the GNU Project in September 1983. Eric S. Raymond published the first version of The Cathedral and the Bazaar in 2000. IDC estimated a year ago that worldwide revenue from standalone open source software reached $1.8 billion in 2006, projecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26% from 2006 to 2011. That's revenue, not the presumably much higher avoided cost of closed source alternatives. So why are open-source fundamentals still so widely misunderstood, including in the business intelligence and data warehousing markets?

Case in point: An advisory firm's recent ranking of Top 200 Private Technology Companies misclassifies DATAllegro, a data warehouse appliance vendor, as open source. Now DATAllegro's innovative "direct data streaming" and database parallelization technology is built around the Ingres open-source DBMS, but they haven't opened their own source à la Sun and OpenSPARC.Case in point: Cindi Howson reports she is getting an increasing number of BIScorecard inquires about open source, complete with the old canard that "many organizations are leery of legal entanglements stemming from misuse of open source licenses." Cindi asks, "I have heard of many reasons why not ranging from concerns about who owns the code and concerns that 'free' is not as robust, but I hadn't come across this legal one before — have you? Is it valid or FUD?" (FUD=Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, a time-honored even if dishonorable approach to scaring your customers into loyalty.)

Not as robust? JasperSoft, Pentaho, Jedox, Eclipse BIRT, and others have been growing like gangbusters. They've won over developers and ISVs seeking to deliver very competitive BI capabilities — reporting, OLAP, ETL, spreadsheet services, and workflow management — at low cost, and their recent and forth-coming releases enable open-source BI (OSBI) to compete in the enterprise via broadened direct appeal to business analyst end users.

Mark Smith, CEO & EVP Research of Ventana Research, agrees with my view. Mark believes, "in regards to business analysts and end users, [OSBI] is getting pretty good in capabilities and providing a lot of the interactive and analytic needs."

On the code-ownership front, the reality is that lawsuits for intellectual property (IP) infringement don't win — take SCO's attempted Unix bullying as a prime example — and even Microsoft has abandoned IP saber rattling as a FUD tactic in favor of a cryptical embrace of open source. The IP workaround, regardless of the low risk, is to license open source commercially from the owner of the IP. Those commercial licenses come with indemnification in addition to support and, sometimes, extended feature sets.

So why are we still misunderstanding open-source fundamentals? Commercial open source business models work, including in the BI/DW/analytics world. The success of DATAllegro and dozens of other vendors in the BI and DW spaces — established and emerging, product vendors and service providers — illustrates that use of open source is robust and can even create competitive advantage. Again citing Mark Smith, "the faster we get focused on solutions for business and get [OSBI] further deployed the better off we are."Richard Stallman announced the GNU Project in September 1983. Eric S. Raymond published the first version of The Cathedral and the Bazaar in 2000. IDC estimated a year ago that worldwide revenue from standalone open source software reached $1.8 billion in 2006, projecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26% from 2006 to 2011. That's revenue, not the presumably much higher avoided cost of closed source alternatives. So why are open-source fundamentals still so widely misunderstood, including in the business intelligence and data warehousing markets?

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