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Golden's Rules: Open source at LinuxWorld could blow away software slump

The twice-yearly LinuxWorld Conference & Expo provides an opportunity to check the pulse of the open source community. This time around, in San Francisco starting August 8, that pulse will be racing.

I expect to see more new open source products unveiled than ever before at this show. In this column, I'll predict a few of the striking developments that IT pros should check out, either in person at LinuxWorld or virtually.

More open source products and commercial initiatives

This may be the biggest LinuxWorld ever in terms of product announcements. The increasing adoption of open source and resultant buzz has made open source the hot topic here in Silicon Valley.

Since LinuxWorld is a leading open source-focused conference, historically many companies have waited to announce new products and initiatives there. So, it was surprising how many open source-oriented product and commercial initiative announcements came out in June at JavaOne, which is not especially oriented toward open source. At JavaOne, for instance, Sun announced the open sourcing of its Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition, which carries significant positive implications for open source development.

...the open source announcements made at this year's LinuxWorld will be seen as the wind that blew enterprise software out of its doldrums.
Bernard Golden
CEONavica, Inc.

If JavaOne brought a lot of announcements, I predict that there will be a cornucopia of them at LinuxWorld.

This intense interest in open source software is driven by three critical IT realities:

  • The negligible growth in the enterprise software industry, as it nears saturation in its addressable market, is making open source appealing to all software developers, even established software companies, which are trying to get out of their low-growth rut by incorporating open source initiatives into their product lines.
  • The enormous distribution numbers or downloads of open source software, showing that the IT market is turning to free open source rather than expensive commercial applications.
  • The emergence of new users in markets previously underserved by commercial software companies (e.g., governmental, small and midsized businesses, developing nations).

All these factors have generated incredible activity in open source product development.

I believe that some of these new products and initiatives will have a "wow" factor -- open source unleashes creativity. Because the software is freely available to developers and users, experimentation is fostered. People have the ability to do it themselves, extending functionality or using a product as the foundation for new applications. Open source enables passionate and gifted people to invent new, useful and very cool software.

I predict that the open source announcements made at this year's LinuxWorld will be seen as the wind that blew enterprise software out of its doldrums.

Venture capitalists galore

In my work in the IT field, I've found that open source software has become the de facto business model for entrepreneurial startups. Venture firms, by their nature, chase growth. This year, the venture capitalists have come out in force for many of the smaller shows. Just look at people's badges at LinuxWorld, and I bet you'll see many representatives from venture capital firms and hear many funding announcements.

More customer stories

Most companies find new product announcements interesting, but when it comes to deciding what to do, they want to know who else has done it.

Real-world examples of open source implementations have been sadly lacking at LinuxWorld and in general. This is due, in part, to the nature of open source. After all, with anonymous downloads, it's not always easy to know who is using open source.

More fundamentally, the paucity of success stories has reflected the previous user base of open source. Early adopters are, by their very nature, focused on what they want to achieve, not what others are doing.

Corporate IT decision makers see the world differently. They like to know that others have succeeded before they make a product decision. They'll fidget through a vision pitch, but sit up when they see usernames they recognize.

That message has finally been heard by open source software companies. I predict that vendors will deliver a slew of real customer stories about open source at LinuxWorld.

More on this topic

Read more Golden's Rules

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Get personal at LinuxWorld

In this age of cyber-relationships, often longtime collaborators never meet in person. I attend many conferences because I enjoy meeting my cohorts face-to-face. I enjoy meeting my readers, too, so please look for me at LinuxWorld. I'll be speaking -- at my publisher Addison-Wesley's booth -- on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 1:30 p.m. on "Enterprise Open Source Adoption" and on Thursday, Aug. 11 at 10:30 a.m. on "Open Source ROI: The Real Story." In addition, I'll participate in Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall's authors' panel on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at noon.

Please stop by and introduce yourself. I look forward to seeing you at LinuxWorld.

About the author: Bernard Golden is CEO of Navica, a consulting firm offering open source strategy, implementation and training services. A resident expert for, Golden is a well-known authority on open source, particularly regarding enterprise adoption and use of open source. Also, he is the author of Succeeding with Open Source, as well as the forthcoming book Open Source Best Practices.

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