The hen, the egg and the open source

By Jean-Pierre on 27/05/2014 18:29:00

The times we are coding or debugging or what else, we can feel the open source as an old fellow. It is true as the open source was born a few decades ago, but only a few. On the other hand, the proprietary softwares have a longer life because they were supported from the beginning by the companies which they belong to. The open source has a completely different state of mind, it is a shared effort between individuals and companies to make the effort lighter for each participant and more efficient for all.

But the companies have to make business even with the open source and here comes a dilemma : should companies have a part of their software as proprietay, or only open source and sell services, or both ? Keeping a part of the code as proprietary implies that you should maintain this part compatible at each release with the open source part. That means people involved in the development, the tests, the validation, the support and so on, and it has a cost. Staying full open source makes it easier to upgrade from one release to the other and the resources can be set on the development of the common code, the services and the support of the customers.

OpenStack is an interesting example because releases come twice a year and each new version brings new functionnalities, so new code, and also an important refactoring of the previous version. So if you keep a part of the code as yours, you have to make a lot of efforts to keep it functional with the open part. On the contrary, if you stay in the common track, you can focus your efforts developing some parts you are interested in in the common code. In the end choosing to have a code full open source or not can be seen as not so important.

The point is that using open source makes you an actor of the community, and the spirit of the open source is that when you use it, it is fair to contribute to it. Companies which do not play that way are not only unfair to the community but they are also ineffective because they do not maintain their expertise.

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