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Proprietary on life support? IT pros weigh in

Are reports of the death of proprietary greatly exaggerated? IT pros offer their opinions.

Speakers at the recent Red Hat Summit in New Orleans spoke about the historically dominant proprietary software model as though it had already gone away.

CTRL-ALT-Delete is generally not an option for space software.
William R. Gilchrist,
principal consultantMHS Information Technology

The proprietary model, they argued, causes too much fragmentation to meet the global IT demands of tomorrow and will soon be replaced by open source and open standards.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that open source is the … development model of the 21st century," Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik told attendees.

To find out if proprietary really is going away, asked our readers in the Linux and open source community what they thought. Our readers had an array of opinions as varied as today's IT landscape.

William R. Gilchrist, principal consultant with MHS Information Technology, said he believes that both the open source and the proprietary model will thrive in coming years.

"As open source becomes more widely implemented throughout the world, proprietary code will still persist, just as the mainframe continues its notable presence within a narrow band of functionality at Fortune 500 companies," Gilchrist said. "Put another way, companies will continue to need certain attributes, such as five-nine reliability, which mainframes are well suited to perform."

To further illustrate his point, Gilchrist brought up the example of NASA, which continues to use old FORTRAN and Cobol code because it fits the administration's unique requirements and works well for it.

"CTRL-ALT-Delete is generally not an option for space software," he said.


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Unix systems administrator Nirav Dani said he feels that proprietary technologies will find it very hard to compete over the next several years because they're too expensive.

"Companies are [getting] back to the basics [and] focusing back on the products or services they sell -- hence IT spending will be more conservative," Dani said. "[The] investment world will be extra cautious … in unloading tons of money in the market just based on some CTO's word of mouth."

Joe Klemmer, a Linux/Unix systems administrator for WebTrek, said if the word "proprietary" is taken to mean "a product not conforming to open standards," then it will probably go away.

"Software, or anything that is now being declared as being under the intellectual property umbrella, will find itself occupying a small niche in the world," Klemmer said. "The financial and business reasons for openness are just too compelling not to become the standard."

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