Just because open source is winning in the enterprise, that doesn’t mean that the proprietary folks have given up their old tricks.
Do you think the operating system and software on your little laptop is important? It is to you, but when it comes to big business, what’s going on in the cloud is what counts, even though it’s invisible to most people.
For several decades, gargantuan software vendors including Oracle, IBM, and a host of others dominated mega-corp server rooms. As said mega-corps moved into the cloud, a movement that is still going on, the software behemoths went with them. They used the same sales pitch they had always used: “Hire us to manage your critical operation, and you’ll only need to pay a single bill every month, and we’ll give you a special telephone number you can call and get immediate help with any problem you run into.”
Do corporations have noses?
If corporations have noses, they are paying through them for all-in-one proprietary solutions. They may only get one bill a month, but it’s a monster. And, while you may not have noticed this, retailers are in trouble and are desperately trying to cut their IT expenses (and everything else) as they just as desperately try to become online retailers instead of people who own only physical stores.
So a whole slew of consultants have popped up that package, modify, and maintain open source software for big companies that have gotten tired of paying those giant all-in-one software maintenance bills.
DISCLOSURE: I am a paid editorial consultant for Grid Dynamics, which is one of these companies — and one of the fastest-growing ones, I might add.
So on one side, you have — to pick a name out of thin air — Oracle, which has dominated the multinational-scale retail and e-commerce market, with Microsoft, IBM, HP and a whole bunch of others close behind. If you look at their ads and read their brochures, after a while they blur together. Except that now, a new phrase is starting to creep into proprietary software vendors’ vocabularies:
Based on Open Source
Those are four pernicious words. They’re not saying their software products are open source, just that they may have an Apache-licensed something-or-other like Solr buried under their proprietary software layers.
Do you know what good that little bit of “based on” open source does you, as a corporate client? Absolutely none. You are still dependent on the proprietary parts of the vendor’s platform, and if you want to leave their warm embrace, you are in for a world of hurt because the software you are using is theirs, not yours, and if you stop forking over your licensing and maintenance fees, you can’t use it any more.
Oracle actually offers Linux — real, free-to-use Linux — and they have (very) no-free support contracts available for Linux, and will happily build you an entire application stack based on Linux. Will some or a lot of it be proprietary? That depends on what you want and what kind of solution they come up with for you. But it’s Oracle, and their CEO didn’t get the money for fighter jets (and many, many other expensive toys) by giving it away.
There is light all through the tunnel
I have been privy to several enterprise-scale bidding wars between open source consultants and proprietary software vendors. The open source consultants have won a majority of these battles — and battles they are, with tooth and claw and endless promises thrown like lightning bolts. I can’t go into detail due to NDAs and the fact that in some cases I know more than I’m supposed to. But the war is on, although hidden from public view, and the good guys are winning most of the battles, so I think it’s safe to predict that open source software will soon achieve (nearly) complete domination over the world’s biggest enterprise computing operations.
And now, the question of the day: What effect does this have on the desktop OS marketplace?
Should the Linux Foundation be making efforts to advance the cause of desktop Linux?
Total Voters: 76
Answer: Apparently none. When I look at the computers used by the enterprise open source people, I see a lot of Mac screens, with only a scattering of Linux and…. what’s that other operating system? Oh, right. Windows. Yep, It’s still out there, and there are people using it to develop enterprise-level open source applications.
And here’s question number two, which I’ll leave up to you to answer: Are Red Hat and The Linux Foundation doing the right thing by concentrating on Linux in the enterprise or are they abandoning their traditional user base and strongest supporters, a move that will spell eventual doom for them?
Robin “Roblimo” Miller is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief at Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned SourceForge, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, ThinkGeek and Slashdot, and until recently served as a video editor at Slashdot. Now he’s mostly retired, but still works part-time as an editorial consultant for Grid Dynamics, and (obviously) writes for FOSS Force.