Is the Open Standards Alliance Betraying Open Source?

Interoperability has always been at the heart of the Open Solutions Alliance. Here's what its first president, Dominic Sartorio, told me just over a year ago:

In early November, 2006, a group of leading open solutions and open source application developers got together to form an alliance dedicated to growing the market for enterprise class open business solutions. Open source development had proven itself at the operating system and middleware layers but was still in the “early adopter” stage at the application level. ISVs participating in the OSA kickoff meeting identified three important areas where collective action could be successful in accelerating adoption:

Defining and promoting guidelines and best practices for interoperability between applications.

Fostering a multi-vendor "meta community" of users, developers, and systems integrators.

Driving advocacy and drive awareness about the benefits of open solutions for business customers.

All of us agreed that none of these challenges could be readily addressed by any one vendor in isolation. Issues of awareness, interoperability and community are inherently collective in nature, such that collective action is required to address them. This led to the decision to create a trade association through which collective activity could be coordinated.

As you can see, this was all about improving the interoperability between open source solutions in order to make the overall appeal of free software to enterprises greater.

There was, it is true, a slight blurring of the focus, as reflected in the name: Open *Solutions* Alliance, not Open *Source* Alliance:

When we launched, there was some criticism of the OSA not being true to the spirit of open source because we had some members with non-OSI-compliant-licensed products. We accepted that in good faith, as we made the mistake of not being clear about what we meant by an “open solution”. So, we responded with the “open solution definition”, which is a broader definition that is inclusive of companies that may publish their source code but have commercial licences for it. Many companies who say their products are “based on open source” would probably fit this definition.

That was fair enough, and since then, the OSA has moved forward with useful work on the interoperability front.

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