The Two Faces of Open Source: ECT News Roundtable, Episode 5
The open supply software program motion has advanced dramatically over the previous twenty years. Many companies that after thought of open supply a menace now acknowledge its worth.
On the opposite hand, in spite of elevated enthusiasm amongst enterprises, shopper curiosity by and huge has not materialized.
With giant firms more and more embracing open supply, what does it imply to be an element of the free and open supply software program, or FOSS, “community”?
Why have customers been so sluggish to undertake open supply software program?
Our roundtable of trade insiders tackled these questions throughout their prolonged digital dialog on know-how tendencies.
Participants within the dialogue had been Rob Enderle, principal analyst on the Enderle Group; Ed Moyle, associate at
SecurityCurve; Denis Pombriant, managing principal on the Beagle Research Group; and Jonathan Terrasi, a
tech journalist who focuses on pc safety, encryption, open supply, politics and present affairs.
A Chaotic Community
For enterprises, adoption of open supply “means better control and understanding of the code they use and how it is progressing,” mentioned Rob Enderle. “In effect, it lowers their operational risk IF they properly fund the effort. If they don’t, it results in a bigger exposure due to the misuse of these tools.”
“Big companies have taken on fully commoditized infrastructure tech. That’s normal and it will continue,” mentioned Denis Pombriant.
Being half of the FOSS group “really just means providing value back to others in whatever way you’re able,” supplied Ed Moyle. “This can be as a developer but also as a user, tester or financial supporter. Anyone providing value back — small or large — is part of the community.”
The freedom in adapting open supply to 1’s personal specific wants — one of the hallmark ideas of the FOSS motion — can pose issues for a group that’s at finest loosely knit.
“Considering the degree to which bigger tech companies with traditionally proprietary models are incorporating open source projects, the FOSS community looks to be on course for a schism,” warned Jonathan Terrasi.
“The Linux Foundations and the Red Hats of the community will likely keep progressing in the direction they’re headed, while smaller scrappier projects with more ideological grounding in FOSS will eschew those projects and go their own way,” he predicted.
“With each set on their own course, their challenges will be different,” Terrasi continued.
“In the former case — that of the standouts in FOSS, like Linux — their job will increasingly center on balancing the demands of very different clients, such as Microsoft and Google in Linux’s case,” he mentioned.
“For the latter case, the obstacles are less foreseeable, but will probably have to do with keeping from getting starved for oxygen when their larger cousins scoop up most of the corporate investment,” Terrasi speculated.
Those cautionary notes apart, “now is a really exciting time in open source,” maintained Moyle.
“Everything DevOps is open source: Source control (git), CI/CD (jenkins, ansible), containers (docker, rkt), orchestration (kubernetes). Desktop Linux is more viable than it’s ever been, and Linux is the primary cloud platform, by a wide margin. That’s the positive side, and it’s tremendously exciting,” he mentioned.
“The less positive side, though, is that there’s a trend of ‘faux-pen source’ projects out there that seem to be increasing in prevalence,” noticed Moyle.
“By this I mean one of two things: 1) projects that claim to be open source and are marketed or hyped that way, but that have bogus — that is non-free — licenses; or 2) where the source is technically open, but the functionality is broken in some fundamental way unless you pay someone money,” he defined.
“I have NO problem with someone wanting to make a buck for their work,” Moyle emphasised.
“For example, a company charging for support, charging for additional data and services — in the security world, for example, charging for signatures/rules, etc. These are all reasonable to me,” he mentioned.
“But it does really irritate me when something is released as ‘open source,’ seemingly for marketing purposes, but in order for it to do anything useful you need to pay someone money. While such an offering might adhere to a strict reading of a free license, it’s hard to argue that it’s in keeping with the ‘free and open’ community-based nature of open source. It seems disingenuous to me,” Moyle mentioned.
“I had never heard of the ‘faux-pen source’ moniker, but it is a pithy term for a real phenomenon,” Terrasi responded.
“I wholly agree that people should be paid for their work, but as Ed put it, it is disingenuous to lean on the goodwill that open source communities strive to engender as a way of deriving revenue,” he added.
“There is no doubt that open source software enjoys better representation now than it ever has — even the Linux desktop — but this may owe partly to the exploitation of FOSS’ conspicuous weaknesses of being free and open,” Terrasi urged.
“Because they are open, they invite any code contribution of sufficient merit, and because developers need to eat, they invite any monetary contribution whenever feasible,” he identified.
“However, bigger firms exploit this to swoop in, colonize the code and/or funding base, after which take management of the mission from inside. A latest
article about Twitter’s Bluesky project quoted specialists who warned of precisely that phenomenon,” Terrasi said. “The problem going ahead can be for FOSS tasks to reconcile persevering with to exist with preserving the integrity of their mission.”
There’s a easy cause for low shopper curiosity in open supply software program, urged Enderle.
“They aren’t coders,” he mentioned.
Open supply is “mostly infrastructure,” famous Pombriant.
“Customers still need service, and therefore adhere to brands and their support. Open source is problematic from a business model approach and from a customer service one,” he maintained.
“As far as the open source revolution has come, there are still pervasive misconceptions surrounding it,” mentioned Terrasi.
“There is still the unfounded but stubborn perception on the part of the consumer that open source software is insecure, that because it’s ‘free’ the quality is inferior — in the vein of the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ — and that it’s not as flashy or glossy,” he continued.
“I think most developers know better than to buy into these myths, but because their customers don’t, they’re not going to try to deliver open source products over their customers’ objections,” Terrasi reasoned.
“Frankly, there have been, and still are, significant barriers to entry for many FOSS tools,” Moyle identified.
“For example, I use Linux as my primary platform and it’s a nonstop PITA — I say this lovingly,” he mentioned.
“The ongoing challenges are legion. For example, the integrated fingerprint scanner on my laptop doesn’t work — no drivers. I’ve had to tweak the BIOS to get it to run appropriately. I’ve had to write code to get dual monitors to work, make changes to support HDMI audio output, etc.,” Moyle mentioned.
“For many orgs, the hassle factor of having to deal with these tweaks yourself — not just in Linux, but in any FOSS that is primarily community driven — is more expensive than paying a vendor for a COTS alternative. This is why you see such an uptick in open source that has industry backing: docker, SaltStack, Kubernetes, etc. — because that minimizes the hassle,” he defined.
“For me it still comes down to consumers not having, and not wanting to develop, the needed skills,” Enderle mentioned.
“Working on things is becoming a lost art. I’ve had kids ask me what an air cleaner on a car is. To the younger generations, much of what they get is kind of like magic. It just works, and they don’t really care how until it doesn’t — and then they only want someone else to fix it. Granted, with some of the newer complex technical products that is probably the safer path,” he added.
“My Linux use has very seldom required anything so drastic as what Ed has encountered, but I know that it can definitely break down like that,” mentioned Terrasi.
“Linux has come a long way, and there are definitely distros that are as stable as any consumer would expect their operating system to be, but the bad press from Linux’s Wild West days has taken its toll,” he famous.
“Also, at least with open source OSes — namely Linux — I think there’s just a real apprehension about changing one’s system that fundamentally. There’s this idea many users have that the developers who made the device know best and have your best interests at heart, so you shouldn’t contravene them by installing your own OS,” Terrasi noticed.
“It’s this deference to authority — in a specific context — that is weirdly dissonant with a social climate right now where perceived ‘elites’ are distrusted in favor of the expressed will of the community of non-elites, but it’s a real thing and you see it every day like in the way people flock to the Apple Genius Bar and unconditionally trust the intentions of a roughly (US)$1 trillion company,” he identified.
“Open source on the whole, and Linux in particular, are never going to enjoy any home consumer market share to speak of until that misconception is overcome,” Terrasi maintained.
Aside from the technical difficulties customers could encounter with open supply, there’s the difficulty of visibility. Many customers could not even be aware of the time period, a lot much less with what it means.
“It’s difficult for open source projects to market and advertise the same way that closed-source technology vendors do,” famous Moyle.
“It’s also difficult for them to use the same techniques to gain marketshare — for example, establishing VAR arrangements or channel partnerships,” he mentioned.
“From an end-user point of view, the support experience is a whole different ballgame. If a commercial product doesn’t work or has an issue, you can work with someone directly to solve the problem,” Moyle mentioned.
“In the open source world, the onus is on you in many cases to solve your own problem with support from the broader community. This can be a tall hill to climb for someone with little or no technical expertise,” he identified.
“I concede that the lack of support is a a genuine and understandable barrier,” mentioned Terrasi.
“I do not see Canonical establishing ‘Einstein Lounges’ anytime quickly. I do take some solace in the truth that we stay in an age the place nobody makes a purchase order with out studying quite a few on-line opinions and, collectively, in the truth that some of the beginner-friendly Linux distros have welcoming and educated communities who need newcomers to stay round,” he added.
“I’m not proclaiming the Year of the Linux desktop anytime soon,” Terrasi mentioned, “but taking Linux as an example, there are some things that open source projects are doing right to attract users from the mainstream consumer base.”