As I noted yesterday, the topic of open source hasn’t gotten much shine at the analyst event here at IBM Impact, the big WebSphere/SOA pow-wow going on right now in Las Vegas. Little wonder, more or less, as the discussion has really been more about the idea of SOA as a whole lot more than some boxes and diagrams: it’s a whole lotta business/IT alignment. What’s open source got to do with that, eh? Eh?
During an early morning session with Tom Rosamilia, GM of WebSphere, one of my fellow analysts asked about open source. Tom’s answer was, very loosely quoted:
Well, I talked about WAS CE which has been bundled with Novell SUSE servers, is in the many millions of downloads; also, open source is more of a software development concern; but, “from a business model [perspective], I’d like [or "be happy to"] to debate who’s making money.”
Do You Want a Rich Vendor?
Ah, yes, the old “who’s making money.” This is one of those takes that’s dangerous for a vendor to state. A buyer of IT, you’d like your vendor to only make as much money as needed, and no more, and you want those cost savings passed on to you. Your dream vendor is one who’s (a.) stuff works, and, (b.) margins are slim. And, yes, to emphasis the point again: you want your vendor to stay in business for as long as you want to use their wares. You just don’t want to be the one gold-plating their elevators.
Who Gives Two Shakes?
As a “feature,” why would open source matter? The answer seems to be easier access to getting the code and doing PoCs, theoretically faster release cycles (though, I’m curious if this OSS folklore is true), and overall transparency into the software design process and ongoing relationship. One could even argue that the neutrality (or, at least, non-money driven desires) of some open source projects give you different results than “commercial source” software – both good and bad, I’m sure. Indeed, open source is a lot more than just for development, it shoots out its rainbows and sandals throughout the life-cycle of software. See more here.
To be puckish, I bet the open source world would have a new take on the question, “what’s an SOA?” It might even include an answer that doesn’t require getting The Business on board, which seems to be the spurted crazy-glue that locks up all clear-headed discussions of SOA.
All of the benefits, none of the hassle
IBM’s Rational Jazz project with it’s open commercial development schtick is going for pretty much all of that but without being fully open source.
The real question, which I’ll hopefully be able to ask a customer panel and others while I’m here is if customers and developers in IBM land care about this at all. I know ISV developers, more or less, lust for open source in all situations. When it comes to corporate developers, which are the main constituency at Impact as far as I can tell, the story may be different, if more complicated.
Disclaimer: IBM is a client and paid my T&E for Impact.