I’m in the process (with the team I work with) of trying to figure out what would be most useful to you, the community and its members in which we all work. Whether you’re a coder, working toward being a coder, programmer, engineer, or whatever it is that you aim for we want to know what would help you out? I myself produce a ton of material that I personally find entertaining and fun to produce myself, and hope it’s useful for people. So – if you would, take a moment and answer these few questions. Thanks and cheers!
Open Source Software (OSS), Why Some Fail At It
OSS has won the war. It has been over for years now. Microsoft has ceded, Oracle, VMware and many others have stepped up and attempted to embrace the open source community. Sometimes they’ve been successful, sometimes they haven’t. They’re slowly changing their models to play well with that of the open source software model. Sure, some software is kept closed, but that software in large part is becoming more and more irrelevant while open source efforts are becoming the forefront of technological progress.
What exactly is open source, besides just the opening up of code for others to download? Open source covers a vastly larger ideal than merely providing code for download. A case in point, has been the learning phase Microsoft has gone through. Microsoft, as a company, used to attempt to dictate to its consumer & developer base standards and practices that the company had deemed necessary or in some cases merely a good idea.
Microsoft failed at this miserably over the last decade. Time and time again an open source project would start and Microsoft would create a duplicate library – sometimes directly taking the OSS Project exactly functionality, sometimes they’d merely duplicate it with a basic understanding. Everything from Entity Framework duplicating the functionality of the dozens of ORMs before it. Basically stabbing those efforts in the back instead of being part of the community, Microsoft would remove itself and attempt to subjugate the community efforts.
It back fired over and over and over…
Oracle did something different, yet still blindly stupid. They purchased entire OSS Projects from mySQL to Java. In each case they’ve tainted the efforts significantly by attempting to make these products encourage an unspoken lock in to their proprietary tooling all while litigating (re suing). Their attempt to patent (another issue we can discuss later) the most absurd features and functionality, akin to patenting the breathing process in people! In addition they’ve tried to set legal precedent for things as simple as a URI end point and other notions. Again, something that hasn’t gone over well in the software development world. With the current result being a growing backlash against Oracle. To top all that off, their patent cases have been far worse than even Apple’s Samsung debacle. Oracle, has taken the crown for stabbing the development community, and especially the OSS Community in the back. Multiple wounds too, not just once. They’re doing it over and over as I write this.
Others have continued to make this mistake. They’re starting to suffer for it, and well justified that they do. To stab the community is more than just merely disrespecting one or two developers. It is desecrating the entire community’s efforts, the individuals and their thoughts, ideas, creations and more. It is a slap in the face in so many ways.
Some are starting to do it right, albeit slowly…
Some companies have started to get their act together. One company that is learning right now, slowly but steadily and confidently (they have a good team working on this) is VMware. With their introduction of Cloud Foundry, some could argue this, but they have generally and are trying diligently to open up and be inclusive in the community around their Cloud Foundry Product. Yes, I might have a slightly biased view since I build products for Cloud Foundry with the Iron Foundry Organization at Tier 3, I talk to the teams & individuals at VMware and they, with all their might, intend and do the best they can. As in almost all cases, as long as management keeps everything in their heads clear, they’ll maintain a great project and the future is bright.
Microsoft is another company, with tons of closed things, many attempts at opening products, and is finally starting to get it. They’re starting to be part of the community instead of trying to dictate to it. The windows azure team directly involves itself with jQuery, Node.js and other projects these days. They actively put forth a good foot and have opened up Web API and other web application frameworks and pieces, allowing for pull requests and openly having conversations int he public for full view and inclusion with the community.
So What Really Is Open Source?
Open source software itself, just the code, is simple. But it is assumed and written into the all legal licenses that are included to protect the software from theft and closing by errant companies & individuals. Open source software is code, used as examples or as production web sites is software that is available freely to others to learn from, fix, change, or otherwise modify. It often excludes sharing and using the code with closed source environments or redistributing with closed source products – because OSS efforts do not want to encourage the bad behavior and errant ideals in closed source software by contributing to it.
Building OSS includes a very specific idealism. One doesn’t just throw something into the code, one encourages and builds a culture of openness and being free in thought when working with and contributing to the code bases. The OSS Community is about sharing ideals between individuals to accelerate learning, expand the capabilities of the community as a whole, and push forward progress and development. To summarize with a standard quote, “open source software is about freedom”, and it truly is.
So far, it’s working in a huge way. Some simple successes that have been massive…
Linux & FreeBSD pretty much hosts the Internet. From Facebook to Google to Amazon they all use some type of Linux variants. Estimates range from 60% to 93% of the Internet & Super Computing is hosted on UNIX machines of the Linux or FreeBSD variety. The notorious Microsoft Windows Server only claims 0.4% of the super computer space and about 30-37% of the Internet Server space. Summarized, the Internet runs on UNIX and specifically on variances of Linux.
When it comes to the web, not only is the majority of the web hosted on systems built by the open source community, but the web applications hosted and run on those systems are open source. The most widely used framework in the world is PHP. One of the biggest up and comers for serving websites and providing interactive web applications is Node.js, with Ruby on Rails being a stalwart for speedy prototyping and production application for thousands of businesses.
Mysql & postgresql round out two of the most heavily utilized databases in existence. Postgresql has grown from zero code to a massively capable database, regularly one-upping the stalwarts at Oracle, Microsoft or other database makers. Mysql has become the go to database for those starting a website or collecting 60 billion rows of data a day, such as New Relic. Many successful businesses have turned these databases into absolutely powerhouses that truly eclipse the need to expend the revenue on databases like SQL Server or Oracles Databases.
NoSQL has come into existence and exists today because of the community. Not everyone has a big data problem and a need for a NoSQL database, or what is sometimes called Not Only SQL these days. The open source community stepped up to build out solutions where relational databases and their history of vertically scaling falls down for modern web applications that run at larger than normal scale. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and others have helped to bring people into this fold and bring more great minds developing the open source that powers these things. This entire movement has been a huge win for the Internet and increased functionality – and the mere ability for many of the large sites to continue to exist at scale (think LinkedIn, Netflix, Facebook, etc)
O’Reilly Books is a company that does a number of things, two of which are run conferences and publish books. They’re a well respected company that encourages open source software and learning through its books, conferences and is heavily involved in supporting the individuals and community around open source software. Even though they don’t create open source software, they provide a massive boost to the ability of developers to write and create open source software by mere involvement. This is a perfect example of example from outside of software development that gains value and adds value back to the community as a whole.
That’s just a few. So really, there’s no reason to resist the freedom of open source. Ignoring or turning away from open source is like turning your back on your family, your community and those around you. There’s no reason to believe the nonsense about TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) that’s been wielded as a weapon against open source solutions. There’s no reason to listen to the FUD about “will it survive” or “what happens when X happens to the project”. There are many companies out there that will help you understand these solutions further, so the TCO argument is dead on arrival. The only path here is toward more software freedoms, preventing large companies from limiting our development options (re: Oracle suing to control API end point pathing, etc). When you do development these days, your first option and thought should be to open source “all the things”. It will help you as a developer, it will be better for you company and those that are leading the way, and it will be better for the community as a whole.
Stay relevant. Write code, individually contribute and be part of your community.
I was speaking with Krishan Subramanian (@krishnan) and Adam Seligman (@adamse) today. I love talking to these guys. They’re both smart, intelligent and upbeat guys. They see the positive things we’re all working toward and accomplishing in the technology space, specifically around PaaS, Cloud Computing and around the cultural implications of stronger technology communities, involvement of individuals. We all can see the positives, of how the industry is moving forward so that corporations aren’t the only enablers that are juxtaposed against developers or consumers but instead act to serve consumers based on the progress that individuals make themselves. There’s so much to do and so much progress to be made, the venders can simply follow the community and step up to provide points of leadership.
Absolutely great talking with these guys…
On that topic, what is it that we discussed that has me so motivated? Well there’s a few things that I’m done with and I’m going to make every effort to just throw away the trash. Here’s a few of these things that we discussed and I challenge everybody out there, drop the trash talk and let’s move forward because there is a LOT of awesome things to accomplish. Here’s the two things I’m just dropping… cold. No reason to discuss them anymore.
- Toss the language and framework religious wars. It is far simpler than it is sometimes perceived. We have a polyglot industry now where we can easily use the right tool for the job, the right framework, or the language that handles our particular domain the best. There is literally no reason to argue about this anymore. Of course we can talk semantics, debate best use cases, and of course we’ll talk accomplishments and what various things do well. That’s exactly what the focus should be on, not the harping on my X is better than your Y nonsense.
- The culture war is basically over. Sure there are the hold outs that haven’t gotten a clue yet. But it’s an open source world at this point. Even the dreaded and horrible Oracle has generally conceded this and is frantically waving its marketing arms around trying to get attention. But at the core, mysql, java and the other things that they’ve purchased they’re keeping alive. They’re active participants in the community now, albeit in a somewhat strange way. Considering that even Oracle, Microsoft, Apple and so many others contribute back to the open source community in massive ways, that war can be considered won. Victory, the community and every individual in that community!
- Lockin is basically dead. The technological reasons to lock in are gone, seriously. There’s some issues around data gravity that are to be overcome, but that’s where a solid architecture (see below) comes in. Anything you need can be contributed to and derived from the development community. Get involved and figure out how technology can be a major piece of your business in a positive way. If you design something poorly, lock in becomes a huge issue. Use the rights tools, don’t get into binding contracts, because in the polyglot world we’re in now there’s no reason to be permanently locked in to anything. Be flexible, be where you need to be, and make those decisions based on the community, your support systems, and your business partners. Don’t tie yourself to vendors unless there is mutual reasons to do exactly that. Lock in is a dead conversation, just don’t, time to move on.
So what are the key conversations today?
- Ecosystem Architecture – If you’re deploying to AWS, Heroku, Tier 3, AppFog or Windows Azure it all boils down to something very specific that will make or break you. Your architecture. This is where the real value add in the cloud & respective systems are, but there are many discussions and many elements of the technology to understand. This is a fundamentally key conversation topic in the industry today. Pick this one up and drop the other trash.
- Movement & Data Gravity – How do you access your data, how do you store it, where and how do you derive insight from that data? This is one of the topics that came up in our discusssion and it is huge. The entire computer industry basically exists for the reason of insight. What should we eat today, how do I shift my investments, how is my development team doing, what’s the status of my house being built, where is my family today and can I contact them! All of these things are insights we derive from computer systems. These are the fundamental core reason that computers exist. As an industry we’re finally getting to a point were we can get some pretty solid insightful, intelligent and useful information from our systems. The conversation however continues, there is so much more we can still achieve. So again, drop the wasteful convo and jump on board the conversations about data, information and insights!
- Community Involvement – I’ve left the key topic for last. This is huge, companies have to be involved today. Companies aren’t dictating progress but instead the community is leading as it should. The community is providing a path for companies to follow or lead, but the community, the individuals are the ones that are seen and known to be innovating. This is so simple it’s wild that it is only now becoming a known reality – companies don’t innovate, people do. Companies don’t involve, people do. Individuals are the drivers of companies, the drivers of Governments, they’re the ones driving innovation and progress. The focus should now and should have always been on the individuals and what they’re working toward to accomplish. So get involved, get the companies involved as a whole and keep the semantic ideal of individuals and the progress they can make core to the way you think of communities. The idea of the “company” innovating is silly, let’s talk and build community with the people that are working around and innovating with these technologies.
Of course there are more, I’d love to hear your take on what the conversations of today should be about. What do we need to resolve? How do we improve our lives, our work and the efforts we’re working toward on a day to day basis?
Today and yesterday I specifically aimed to meet and interview a number of sponsors and companies attending OSCON. My big quest I’d assigned myself was to determine who was doing what, where, when, and why in the Open Source Community. Of course I wasn’t going to get to every company, but I was going to try. Here’s what I got accomplished:
The big news from the HP Crew, in addition to the other zillion open source efforts they have going on, is that they’ve signed on as a partner with OpenStack! So more great news for that effort and bringing a standardized software stack to cloud computing! Getting HP signed on is one more big step toward this goal.
Even though I’ve mentioned HP first, I’m actually going to have a follow up dedicated entirely to HPs efforts in open source software. Stay tuned for that this weekend!
Heroku was there handing out the swag, which won them the much coveted space on my laptop! I spoke with the team there, and there are rumblings of some great things, additional tooling stacks, and other ideas. Keep an eye on Heroku, not to much to mention right now but they have some awesome things coming in the near future.
After speaking with HP I was introduced to the Open Source for America attendees. The Open Source for America, or OSFA, is setup to advocate, educate, and encourage open source software use within Government. They have the very important goal of educating political leaders and decisions makers that open source, not closed source, is much more aligned to providing their mission of liberty, freedom, and return for the citizens of the United States. The ideas, free market of software, and parallels of knowledge transfer within this software industry more closely meet the values that are intended within most civil representative Governments, which I agree totally, in this groups efforts!
While talking to the OSFA Team I was also introduced to Simon Phipps, who writes for Computer World UK, tweets as @webmink, blogs as webmink, works as CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) at ForgeRock, for full creds check out his LinkedIn Profile, and as he identifies himself, “Software freedom activist, transparency activist, blogger, photographer, writer”. I only spoke to Simon for a few minutes, but we covered some good ground, and must say Simon is one interesting character and a good person to know!
ForgeRock, being a company I’ll admit I knew nothing about until Simon told me about them, is doing some absolutely great work. Their lines include:
- OpenAM – OpenAM is the market leading open source Authentication, Authorization, Entitlement and Federation product. ForgeRock provides the community with a new home for Sun Microsystems’ OpenSSO product.
- OpenDJ – OpenDJ is a new LDAPv3 compliant directory service, developed for the Java platform, providing a high performance, highly available and secure store for the identities managed by enterprises.
- OpenIDM – OpenIDM is an open standards based Identity Management, Provisioning and Compliance solution.
I’m headed down to Portland, Oregon today for OS Bridge. OS Bridge is a conference for the open source community, by the community. The conference is one of the premier events to learn how open source really works, learn from others, and meet people that are also learning about and involved in the open source community.
The OS Bridge Conference, like almost all of the conferences that I attend these days, is all volunteers. There are no major sponsors shoving some message or product down your throat. There is no overhanging air of elitism (even though I’ll admit, for newcomers it is sometimes intimidating, but don’t worry we don’t bite ;)). It is simply about the community and about the software that individuals of the open source community work together to create.
- Business – This focus will be around open source as a business, how to work with and interact with open source entities, pick licensing models, and other related facets.
- Chemistry – The chemistry of open source revolves around setting up environments, infrastructure, and assuring the systems we build are working the way we expect. This track embodies getting your fingers dirty with a good hands on chemistry set. 🙂
- Cooking – Recipes are essential to cooking. Keeping well organized recipes for system administration, software development and deployment, and other courses is key to a good meal of software development.
- Culture – Within the open source community are individuals of many alignments, but one thing that really connects people in the community is the culture of learning, building, and working together to create things that are greater than their individual parts.
- Hacks – Experiments. Nuff’ Said. 😉
Why Am I Going?
Over the years I’ve written a ton of software. As anyone in this industry might relate with, some has been thrown away and some is used currently. I’ve saved companies thousands, hundreds, even millions of dollars. I’ve been saddened by some software I’ve built and euphoric with other projects of software I’ve built. The things I have been consistently throughout my career is that I love to learn and am proud of what I do.
Over the last few years, because I like to learn and am proud of what I do. I have wanted to improve my development practices. The more I work toward improving and using new and better ways to do development I keep working with the open source community. There are a number of reasons;
- The open source community is focused on learning and creating.
- Open source software does not close or hide information, knowledge, or actual software.
- The community is often the first to try something, often first to market, and is almost always pushing new ways to develop things.
- Open source software bridges all technology stacks, even the once resistant Microsoft Stack has active and ongoing contributions to open source software now.
There is also one other fact that really pulls everything together. Just as we breath air, software developers share ideas and information. Regardless of legal obfuscations or otherwise all software developers, in some way, are involved with learning and furthering our trade. In the end, to do that, we work with each other and freely share information all the time.
That’s just a few reasons why I’m going, I could go on. Over the next few days I hope to put a few more blog entries about my experiences. I hope my insights are useful, Enjoy!