James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

Re: What Does Open-Source Adoption Change? (CIO.com blogathon)

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In response to:

http://advice.cio.com/esther_schindler/what_does_open_source_adoption_change

What you are describing is a change in behavior needed in order for consumers of a new technology to adopt it. This pretty much describes the source of Geoffrey Moore’s famous ‘Chasm’. If open source is ‘not necessarily better or worse’ it will have a hard time crossing this chasm. In order for open source to be adopted it will have to be ‘necessarily better’ otherwise the effort needed to change behavior will not be worth it.

The commercial open source situation is that you can modify the software and support yourself if you want but you don’t have to (if you have paid for a subscription). The organic open source situation is that you can and might have to modify the software (by paying for development time). Either way you have to pay and this is why open source is ‘free as in speech’ not ‘as in beer’. At least open source gives you the choice of how you want to pay.

My experience in the last few ISVs that I worked for was that open source was downloaded and used because it was quick and easy. There was no procurement cycle, budget approval, or any other process needed to get Apache Tomcat, for example. It was partly the lack of governance that made open source attractive. When we hit problems it sometimes took significant time and effort to resolve them. This effort was ‘silently’ absorbed. Overall it was still cheaper and quicker to get the job done using open source. Essentially this was an IT department/developer-level issue and not a ‘company’ one. It was smooth and without friction but also without any auditing or control. This is where it gets awkward. If you want to manage the adoption of open source in a company you need apply some standards or governance procedures but the very act of doing this could make open source less attractive to IT developers. A careful balance needs to be set.

Written by James

June 4, 2008 at 12:45 pm

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