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Open source culture and licensing practices were in flux in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The number of licenses that can be called open source proliferated, many commercial open source-centric companies were acquired (some by other open source-centric companies), and the four leading enterprise-software companies -- IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP (in alphabetical order) -- embraced the open source culture to one degree or another.

The openness that has marked the information technology (IT) industry since its founding has merged with the availability of a lot of code for study, experimentation and improvement (to be accurate, a lot of code has been available in that way since the beginning of the IT industry. But that did not have much significance before 1990 because the code was tied to proprietary hardware designs).

The most important open source trend has been the continued movement of the culture "up the stack," if one views software as a progression "up" from types of software such as operating systems that rest on the "bare metal" of a chip set, through middleware categories such as application server and enterprise service bus (ESB), to applications software used by non-IT professionals. However, as analysts of the business process management (BPM) movement know, those that use the stack analogy do not agree on whether to place BPM at the top or in the middle of this theoretical stack.

  • To some, BPM is simply an extension of the middleware portion of the stack, and of enterprise application integration software in particular.
  • To others, BPM is at the top of the stack where it ties former-top-of-stack-type software such as ERP, CRM, collaboration and others together.

In fact, BPM increasingly ties such business software together with consumer capabilities such as social networking software and all types of C-side software in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world.

BPM puts open source at top of stack

If you feel that BPM is at the top of the stack, then -- as of mid 2009 -- open source has crept all the way up. It is well established in multiple senses of the word established.

  • If an individual developer wants to join a BPM open source community, there are multiple options.
  • If an IT manager or CIO wants to deal with suppliers that offer both open- and other license terms and conditions (Ts&Cs), this is increasingly the norm.
  • From a Ts&Cs point of view, multiple types of open source tooling related to BPM are available. The latter is primarily important for software companies that use open source in their own development efforts although their ultimate products or services are not open sourced.


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