Dave Neary and colleagues recently started a podcast on open source in business. There are already two episodes out, the first one on product management in commercial open source, and the second one on open source and the cloud. Check them out!
Even better yet, yours truly will be on the podcast for the third episode, talking about the labor economics of open source. I first thought we’d be discussing our article on the open source software developer career. However, Dave has much more in store, so don’t miss it and register right away! It will air on September 29th, 2020, at 4pm CEST/11am EDT/8am PDT with a Europe friendly timezone! The episode is live so you can ask questions.
I just presented 15 min. of my thoughts on the product management challenge of open source and the role of cloud computing at O4B, the European commercial open source forum. You can watch the video below (local video copy, slide download).
I also make few remarks on the public funding ecosystem for high-tech startups in Germany (hint: it is fabulous). More on this later.
I’m glad to report that we will have a new open source conference in Europe, focused on commercial open source. I’ll be a speaker and panelist and helped initiate the event. It is not the first of its kind, but I’m very happy that we have a new one with hopefully more staying power than previous attempts.
An important benefit of an open source project is that it is long-lived and can’t go out of business. Unlike a closed source supplier, which can go bankrupt, your usage and update rights to an open source software can’t suddenly disappear.
From working with customers I know very well that the manufacturers of (comparatively) expensive machines like cars, trains, and planes have long warmed up to open source and appreciate that open source projects will stick around when (some) closed source suppliers are long gone or killed their products.
A week ago I asked the Twitterverse how to call community open source projects that are not hosted by a foundation. By saying community open source I excluded both commercial open source and corporately-run open source. The options were plain, plain old, traditional, and ungoverned. Ungoverned won with a small margin at 34% of the 111 votes. But this is only a part of the story.
Here, I want to focus on why people, most notably cloud providers, care. I will ignore sensibilities (broken promises or not) and focus on the business perspective. As I wrote before, of the three projects given to the OUC, the heat is on Istio, a (micro-)services mesh software. Angular and Gerrit may be important projects in general, but don’t matter much to Google’s revenue. So, what is it about Istio?
Yesterday, the Open Usage Commons (OUC) foundation announced itself. It is a non-profit which wants to ensure free and fair trademark use of the open source projects under its guidance. My Twitter feed was quick to denounce the OUC as a vanity foundation. It certainly is not. A vanity foundation serves to aggrandize its creators, and a name like “The Great Company Open Source Foundation” would then be apt. This is not the case here. Rather the OUC makes specific statements about trademark enforcement, so it has a purpose that is not vanity. Just what is that purpose, and why did existing foundations not fit the bill?
Most open source these days, certainly the most widely used open source, is developed by companies. Open source, by definition, is competitively non-differentiating, so companies can join forces in its development. To so do peacefully, however, they need good governance that preempts conflicts among the participating companies. Such governance is usually provided under the auspices of an open source foundation, of which the big three are the Apache Software Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, and the Linux Foundation. Despite these existing foundations, many companies interested in developing a new open source software keep opting to create their own consortium.
A main reason why I became a professor is to create and guide student startups, in general, and from my research projects in particular. It has been a bumpy ride, to say the least, but I guess, every learning curve is. Data points (startups) are still not plenty, but I can nevertheless discern some learnings. Without further ado, the usual bullet list of insights:
Learning is by person. Large companies can talk about organizational memory and capabilities building all they want, in a startup, knowledge walks in the door (and out) by person. A new person basically starts over and makes all the same mistakes the person they replace also made… two years later. So, avoid losing good people.