I was at the OSS Watch conference on Thursday and very interesting if at times above my head it was. David Plans Casal who is a part of the Apache Foundation gave an illuminating presentation on Open Source Software. Davidâ€™s experience dated back to at least the mid 1990â€™s and as such his historic perspective was particularly interesting in its analysis of the social processes surrounding the Apache Foundation. Back in the 90â€™s OSS was perceived to be the Wild West of software development inhabited by communist vegan activists (sorry for the mixed metaphors) whereas the past couple of years have seen it transformed into the to the sharp suited mainstream. Although not quite, as although many large multinationals such as finance houses use OSS they are reluctant to say so because of the impact that this has on their share prices as they are seen to be a â€˜riskyâ€™ company.
David identified recent trends:
David explained that for his own company, the change in the understanding of OSS in the wider community was illustrated by the different nature of phone calls they receive. 4 years ago, people would phone up expecting free advice and support for Apache and were quite upset when the fact was explained that although the software was free, clearly there had to be financial compensation for individuals involved in offering support!
The Apache Foundation is an interesting case study of a developers â€˜familyâ€™ that has evolved a strong community around a common enterprise sharing practices. David was passionate as this community model of learning and how it could transform individuals who participated in it. Anyone who turns up is welcomed and helped be they a novice or an experienced practitioner.
No one was suggesting that OS would replace proprietary software â€“ it wonâ€™t! However, the competition appears to be hotting up and the playing field levelling out.