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Look at the top twelve information technology (IT) suppliers’ activity in both the open source software engineering movement and in their use of the open-source business model over the last ten years and you will find the answers to important questions about 2007 enterprise technology trends.

Some of the questions are:

  • Will open-source software (OSS) break out of its present role of being primarily a technology embedded in devices such as TiVo and used in large enterprises—especially governments? Can it actually replace more popular mainframe and server software? 
  • Will the broader OSS movement recover the “purity” that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) defined when its founder laid out a plan for a free UNIX 20 years ago?
  • Will independent software vendors, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and enterprises of all sizes embrace a hybrid “open-choice” approach, one that combines OSS and today’s leading popular infrastructure software stacks?

The answers are no, no, and yes.

The Status Quo Holds

First, “no.” The stranglehold that IBM’s mainframe zOS and its predecessors have at one end of the compute-load spectrum—and Microsoft Windows XP/NT and their predecessors have at the other—are dominant for 2007 (and probably for the rest of the decade). The status quo wins the functional discussion (there is still no open source transaction monitor to replace IBM’s CICS or BEA’s Tuxedo). More important, the next great battle among IT providers is not infrastructure or technology based. The major question going forward is how IT will be delivered and savvy users are not going to make major information technology moves until that business model issue firms up. The ecoprotest-like FSF campaign to try to get consumers to choose an open-source desktop operating system and IBM publicity about Linux and other open source software on the mainframe are both interesting sideshows but still sideshows. Consumers do not want a desktop operating system that begins its Features description with:

“gNewSense is derived from Ubuntu, and thus has most of the same functionality. There are a number of differences though.”


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