The State of Open Source
It seems like just yesterday that open source was the new craze that was going to sweep change and revolution into the software industry. Like all new tech trends, it was amorphous—it was everything from a methodology to tools to a social movement. It was loved and hated. And as with all tech trends, some predicted its demise, claiming that it was just another fad that would fizzle out without making a dent in the technology world. And like all predictions, the truth is never the “absolute” predicted by either the proponents or the opponents.
Not only did open source not fade away, it hasn’t finished evolving yet. Open source has become a serious and substantial component of applications, embedded systems, operating systems, and common devices that consumers use daily. It has altered software development, licensing, hardware, methodologies, and a myriad of devices used by individuals, businesses, and governments, while simultaneously impacting the lives of people across the socioeconomic scale around the world. Additionally, the evolution of open source as a business model hasn’t followed the path predicted by anyone “in the know” in the late ’90s, or in the early 2000s, for that matter. And as open source has meandered down its evolutionary path, technologists, businesses, and governments have faced new and interesting challenges—and opportunities.
This month’s Computing Now theme compiles a variety of articles that show the many current faces of open source. “Choosing an Open Source Software License in Commercial Context: A Managerial Perspective” (login required for full text) provides some useful perspectives on how an enterprise should be aware of and properly use open source licensing (for both the components it might use in developing software and the release of software it produces). “Security in Open Source Web Content Management Systems” (login required for full text) is an excellent overview (and reminder) about keeping up with plugging the known exploits in commonly used open source CMS tools. Don’t let the title of “Open Source Software Considerations for Law Enforcement” (login required for full text) stop you from discovering principles, concepts, constraints, and ultimate uses of open source that are applicable to any organization. “Open Source Data Collection in the Developing World” (login required for full text) is a wonderful article about an actual (and very influential) use of the Google Open Data Kit in saving lives in Africa. It might provide inspiration on how to solve data collection challenges you may be facing. If you’re looking for a strong overview of open source use outside of the US, “A Comparative Analysis of Open Source Software Usage in Germany, Brazil, and India” (login required for full text) will give you a solid perspective on how three leading nations are employing open source in government, business, and education. “Commodification of Industrial Software: A Case for Open Source” (login required for full text) provides some interesting theories, concepts, case studies, and visual models on how to properly value and employ open source in various business contexts. Lastly, “A Stage Model of Evolution for Open Source Software” (login required for full text) discusses the 3 generations of open source evolution through the maturity curve (IEEE login is required to view the full text of this article).
In addition to these articles, we’re providing Related Resources below with links to open source sites to extend your research and learning on open source.
While these articles provide a snapshot of the state of open source today, the only safe assessment is that more change is on the way. Be sure to monitor Computing Now, IT Professional, IEEE Software, and other IEEE publications for additional issues and articles on open source as we cover this ever-changing landscape.