James Dixon’s Blog

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

Free/Open Source Software Global Maturity Matrix (FOSS GloMM)

with 2 comments

I have stated a few times that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its advocates don’t have a vision of the future that I find viable. I have read statements that the best custodians of FOSS are tiny consulting companies, and that Microsoft and Oracle should be barred from participating in FOSS. I don’t see how the software needs of the world can be met by tiny services companies, or how we can magically make the existing market players disappear. But I can’t complain about their vision without providing any vision of my own. So here it is.

The Vision

I subscribe to the theory that a vision is a dream + a plan.

The Dream

Twenty years from now, across the globe, every individual, business, organization, and government entity will have FOSS suitable for all their needs. That is not to say there there is no proprietary software any more – their certainly will be for the next 20 years – just that any and all normal requirements can be met with FOSS.

In this future the notion of intellectual property will still exist, as will software patents (unfortunately). In this future, any software or services company, of any size, whether local or global has the opportunity to participate in the FOSS realm.

We will reach this goal incrementally via an evolution of FOSS software, an evolution of the existing market players, and the creation of new market players.

The Plan

1 – Establish Metrics

Here is my proposal for assessing the state of the dream. By country, we score each software domain in terms of how well FOSS provides suitable solutions that are:

  • OSI approved.
  • Localized.
  • Compliant with all local regulations (accessibility, domain-specific legal requirements etc).
  • Stable, usable, and documented.
  • Available on multiple platforms (at least 2).
  • Available from 3 separate projects (different code-bases), failing that 3 different distros.

Any software under an OSI license is eligible for inclusion – no matter the size of the project, or the business model of provider.

We also score the software with regards to how well it supports all the needs (including support, training, and professional services) of:

  • Micro organizations (1-9 people)
  • Small organizations (10-99 people)
  • Medium organizations (100-250 people)
  • Large organizations (> 250 people)

The domains assessed could be (I’m sure there are many more we can add):

Operating System and Middleware
1.    Operating System (OS)
2.    Database (RDBMS)
3.    HTTP and Application Servers
4.    Network Management and Monitoring
5.    Enterprise service bus (ESB), message queue (MQ)
6.    Email
7.    Instant messaging
8.    Calendaring
Horizontal Applications
9.    Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
10.    Locally-compliant Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
11.    Content Management Systems (CMS), knowledge base
12.    Call center, case tracking
13.    Ecommerce
14.    Online meeting and conferencing
15.    Voice over IP (VoiP)
16.    Collaboration – forums, wiki etc
17.    Reporting, analysis and Business Intelligence (BI)
18.    Online training
19.    Financial, Budgeting and Planning, including public sector
20.    Distribution
Desktop Applications
21.    Word processing
22.    Spreadsheet
23.    Presentation
24.    Graphics editors
25.    Printing tools
26.    Software and web tools (compilers, editors etc)
Vertical Applications
27.    Healthcare
28.    Education
29.    Government
30.    Agriculture
31.    Insurance
32.    Retail, including Point of Sale
33.    Telecoms
34.    Petrochemical
35.    Pharmaceutical
36.    Travel and hospitality
37.    Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction
38.    Textiles
Obviously, within each of these vertical domains there are multiple applications. Scoring here will be tricky.

System Integrators
39. The local availability of systems integrators that can implement FOSS stacks and solutions.

Scoring is done per country and per domain and is scored from 0 to 9. A score of 0 indicates there is no FOSS option for that domain and geography. A score of 9 indicates the existence of three different FOSS options that meet the needs of large organizations. We can color code by range, red=2 or less, yellow=3 to 6, green=7 or more

2 – Census

We need to find out how close we are to achieving the dream. Volunteer organizations and sponsoring organizations score each domain for a single country, providing notes about the FOSS packages assessed and any services options assessed. The results of the census are publicly available at all times. Academia and analysts could provide much of this data.

3 – Close Gaps

Based on the results of the census, sponsoring organizations provide resources and guidance to help close the gaps. Sponsoring organizations will have many different motivations:

  • Wanting a larger local and global market for their services and support offerings.
  • Wanting software that is more accessible.
  • Wanting more FOSS options in their country or domain.
  • Wanting to sell add-ons and extensions.

Or we just allow the natural progress of FOSS to gradually populate the GloMM in a natural  – ‘Game of Life’ / Brownian motion – kind of a way.

4 – Repeat Steps 2 and 3

As time goes by and we repeat steps 2 and 3. The Matrix flushes out gradually, and becomes greener and greener.


5 – Declare Victory

In my opinion FOSS has won when, and only when, the entire sheet (7000-8000 cells) is lit up in green. At this point the value of FOSS will be clear to everyone. Maybe attitudes towards intellectual property will change then. But we can’t expect them to change before we get close to this point.


As this gradual global evolution occurs, the existing market players will have to adapt to new market conditions. What they do, and how well they do it, is up to them – but they are welcome to participate. Just because Oracle is now the ultimate custodian of MySQL, does not mean that MySQL should not be listed as one of the FOSS databases. Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle should be accepted into this evolution – whether they survive it is up to them and the global and local markets, not up to anything else.

Any organization that produces FOSS, or localizations, or documentation, or provides services or support for FOSS is deemed to be a friend of GloMM – no matter what their size, history, or business model.

So that’s my vision. I have a defined goal, a way of measuring progress, mechanisms for getting there, and ways for existing market players to participate. I claim it to be reasonable, rational, and viable.

I have no resources at my disposal to execute on any of this. Its just a vision. If only I had a dream + a plan + resources 🙂


Written by James

April 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] is sad to find posts like this one from defeatists who are promoting “open core” and other such ideas (while occasionally […]

    • It all depends on your perspective. To an optimist, a realist appears pessimistic.

      You say ‘defeatist’, I say ‘pragmatic’.

      You also almost entirely fail to understand my post. I am not saying I like software patents. I do not. The patent system is badly broken.

      I’m just saying, for the sake of making practical progress in the advancement of open source, that trying to get the world to accept that intellectual property is a bad thing is pretty futile.



      April 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

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