The proliferation of open source has also led to new and innovative approaches to managing the legalities of intellectual property. Palamida, a start up in San Francisco, is able to review software code and compare it with 100,000 SourceForge programs to check for similarities. Many more examples are expected to emerge which address other obstacles in the deployment of open source solutions. The viability of these solutions will depend on their ability to persistently add value in the open source ecosystem.
The growing adoption of open-source software has created an urgent need for skills that have not traditionally been a part of the software ecosystem. Some vendors are taking additional steps to safeguard their future in open source. IBM is addressing the problem by providing professors with classroom materials on open-source software or by technically training faculty. Beyond school, some companies encourage their developers to choose the software tools they like, rather than tie them to a corporate standard. This looser approach gives developers the freedom to experiment and gain experience with open-source software.
Another set of vendors emerging in the open source ecosystem are those who provide product engineering services. These companies also resemble traditional software companies in their DNA but make their revenue from intellectual services related to product engineering without owning intellectual property. Some savvy independent software vendors interested in developing open source offerings have realized outsourced product engineering dovetails neatly with open source. Taking advantage of global talent pools allows them combine the advantages of open source with scalable outsourced services to get finished products in front of customers faster and cheaper than their competitors.
The new economics of open-source software are similar to the economics of free Internet search, TV, radio, or checking accounts ? the money is not in the product; it's in the services and value delivered around the product. In a sense, the new breed of intellectual service providers are the modern day version of inn keepers and blue jeans suppliers of the open source ecosystem.
A lot has been written about the raging debate between open source and proprietary solutions. In practical business terms, the choice of which software to use depends on a judicious trade-off between paying licensing fees for proprietary software versus paying for support services for open source components. A combination of open source and proprietary solutions may very well be the right answer for creating an infrastructure stack depending on the customer?s requirements.
The open source ecosystem needs to be customer-centric to be viable. There will be a lot of unknowns on the way to the evolution of the ecosystem with a combination of products, services and business models. While the new ecosystem may shrink the time to market and open source software may present a compelling alternative to proprietary solutions, the migration will not be easy. The Darwinian process will ensure that those who add value to customers will survive. Those who do not, will not..