Many times in the last year I have written about the Linux Foundation (LF) and last summer we caught up with Jim Zemlin, LF's executive director. In a wide ranging discussion at the time, Jim made the point that the open source software (OSS) movement has almost eliminated a big risk for independent software vendor (ISV) startups in the last few years: losing control of the code underlying whatever the ISV makes. He said he could not think of any Web 2.0 firm that wasn't safely on some OSS stack and therefore working with very low risk of losing the right to use its underlying software. Of course, OSS also lets the ISVs start with a very low cost of entry. Jim also mentioned that he had previously worked at the application service provider, Corio.
Application service provider 10 years ago meant roughly what software as a service (SaaS) means today. Jim's comments about ISVs made me think that he's probably on to one of the major aspects of OSS that we tend to forget. Open source software is also a major enabler of SaaS. As the application world goes SaaS, the eventual users have no strong opinion about the underlying infrastructure as long as service level agreements are met. This is a great boon to OSS suppliers because quality code will rise to the top, unrestrained by massive consumer marketing budgets and other marketing devices that often inhibit product acceptance.
This year we invited Amanda McPherson, the LF’s director of marketing and a popular open source blogger to pick up where Jim left off. Her feelings on the SaaS movement and other aspects of the Linux ecosystem are included in this podcast.
By the way, for the record, the LF is a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux. It is funded by Google, H-P, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Intel and others and was formed in January 2007 by a merger of the Open Source Development Labs and the Free Standards Group (not to be confused with the Free Software Foundation).