Commercial software vendors learning the value of collaboration

The realization that customers want transparency into the creation of software that runs their businesses could eventually mold a new model of commercial software development.

Debbie Moynihan, director of the Fuse community & marketing with Bedford, Mass.-based Progress Software Corp., said that while open source can bring cost savings to a company, the real value lies in what it brings to the end users.

The community aspect is appealing to engineers and developers, as is access to source code and the ability to contribute, said Moynihan.

“More and more organizations are going to learn that value,” she said.

Commercial software vendors, too, will eventually start adopting this collaborative approach with customers and, over time, build more products in open source, said Moynihan.

Moynihan and other open source experts participated in a Webinar this week on the state of open source.

Pierre Fricke, director of product management for the SOA and business rules management system products with Raleigh, N.C.-based RedHat Inc., said customers want that collaboration with the vendors who build the software that run their business.

By collaborating, customers will get transparency on the vendor roadmap and support processes. Basically, it’s “the things we equate with freedom,” said Fricke.

He foresees a mixed environment when it comes to software development models where community collaboration is one such type.

Software not considered core to the business like infrastructure and middleware will be increasingly community-developed, said Fricke.

In fact, he added, some proprietary vendors are already developing middleware components along with customers and independent software vendors (ISVs).

That being the case, he said software considered “competitive advantage software for a specific business” won’t get the community treatment.

Fricke said the realization that community collaboration is the way to go will ease acquisitions of open source companies by larger entities.

More on ITWorldCanada.comThe future of open sourceRecent announcements of industry consolidations include Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle Corp. buying Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems Corp., and Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware Inc. buying SpringSource.

Most large companies buying an open source business understand the importance of the open source community and the fact that customers want a certain degree of collaboration with the vendor, said Fricke.

Recalling Red Hat’s acquisition of JBoss in 2006, Fricke said Red Hat’s understanding of open source helped with certain aspects of the merger, like the developer side.

Moynihan said that while the integration of an open source business into a larger entity raises concern among the community, it can be a very good thing if managed properly.

When the company bought open source business LogicBlaze Inc., considerable time was spent on how to bring the open source developers on board, said Moynihan.

From a product perspective, the open source business unit was kept separate “because it is unique and different, and we wanted to keep innovation and disruptive forces happening there,” she said.

The spate of acquisition news of open source businesses will push the adoption of open source in the market, said Moynihan.

Anthony Gold, Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) president with the Open Solutions Alliance, said Oracle and Sun Microsystems form a “good symbiotic relationship” in which each pushes the other to drive innovation in a manner that is good for the community as a whole.

“It will be interesting to watch how it plays out,” said Gold, referring to Sun Microsystems’ open source initiatives.

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