It's raining code! (Hallelujah?)

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

"I think in the back of my mind there was that thought that 'They've absolved all their responsibilities and given it to the people.'" But his fears were calmed after he saw the orderly manner in which the company handled the transition, plus the fact that CA was clearly staying in control of the project and carefully vetting any potential contributions to the source code. This provided both indemnification for any potential legal hassles and a well-known source for support services. As a result, Rahman has hopes that Ingres will be revitalized, gaining both new features and, more importantly, new prominence in the marketplace. "In the past, I'd try to recruit people and they'd say "Ingres? How do you spell Ingres?'"

Some observers see the trend of vendor-released open-source as a sign that certain parts of the software stack -- particularly those at the low end that have become ubiquitous (think operating systems and integration tools) -- simply have very little commercial value left and thus are better supported by their communities, freeing up R&D resources for high value-add products.

"Things like [Microsoft] Word and Excel have become relatively static," says Ian Campbell, president and CEO of Nucleus Research Inc. "That's why you see Linux on the desktop with the [open-source OpenOffice productivity suite] as a reasonable alternative." And, he says, as time goes on, more products will fall into the "best as open-source" category.

Lead or Get Out of the Way

Open-source advocates have their own worries, of course. One concern with open-source is the threat of the nuclear lawsuit, the legal case that could declare certain open-source licenses unconstitutional (think SCO vs. the GNU Public License) or make the burden of intellectual property protection so onerous that software communities are crushed under the weight. But observers argue that legal uncertainties are a fact of life with commercial software as well.

"Is there risk? There's probably some," says Bernard Golden, author of Succeeding with Open Source and founder and CEO of Navica, an open-source consultancy. "But you need to look at all the risks, including the risk of not doing the project."

Simply banning open-source probably isn't an option, however. As just one example, software development researcher Evans Data's numbers have shown an almost 200% increase in use of MySQL by database developers since 2001 -- from 16.4% to 48.5%. And as large open-source projects such as the Eclipse development environment gain steam, the temptation to download and use the tools -- rather than wait weeks for a purchase order to clear accounting -- will do nothing but increase.

But like anything in IT, the best way to approach open-source is with a plan, with skepticism and with the understanding that you're going to need to roll up your sleeves.

"The more you put into something, the more you get out of it," says Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. "Open-source is no different."

This story, "It's raining code! (Hallelujah?)" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon