Subject: Re: Open Source Developer (Economics)
From: "Benjamin J. Tilly " <>
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003 22:27:29 +0500

"Julius Steyn" <> wrote:
> Hi gentlemen,

Some of us peons don't deserve to be addressed as
"gentlemen". :-)

[ ... bio skipped ...]
> The discussion I wish to initiate is based on various published reports that
> indicate the lack of OSS with respect to "business critical" or "Mission
> Critical" software that can effectively compete with SAP, ORACLE finance,
> ORACLE HR, SIEBEL,  to name a few examples.
> Why is it that OSS seems to focus mainly on server environments, web
> applications and firewalls? It appears from many reports that there is a
> potential demand in the business world for OSS to participate in these
> market segments with the intent to reduce the TCO of the companies.

Everyone has an opinion on that. ;-)

One of the commonly cited factors is the question of who
you sue.  Decision makers often need to address the
potential fears of what they do if things do not work as
promised.  With OSS nobody wants to make legal promises,
our assurances work through community dynamics that are
unfamiliar to businesses.

Another factor is that it is very helpful for decision
makers and potential funders of OSS projects to be the
same person, or at least be close.  Note that the most
common way of funding is to volunteer your time to do the
development.  For servers, development environments, and
firewalls we have supplies of potential decision makers
who might be inclined to contribute.  But "enterprise
software" decisions tend to be made by non-programming
management.  Until enough people from this group of
people sees OSS in a way which encourages them to
participate in OSS projects, you can't expect the open
source dynamic to take off.

And there is also a time factor.  OSS is constantly
gaining credibility, but it takes time to build
toolsets and mature projects.  And even after there are
viable attempts at an open source project, it takes time
for that project to become sufficiently feature-rich and
some of the rough edges to be smoothed enough that
people will use it.

> Could possible reasons be related to; Licensing, OSS Legacy environment,
> lack of appropriate skills, or an industry "norm" to avoid these market
> segments?
> If there is an opportunity for OSS to enter this market segment are there
> any specific aspects that we need to take into consideration that could
> either prevent, hamper, frustrate a possible entry
> Are we aware of any such initiatives (real quality) that are currently
> active that require assistance albeit financial, marketing, strategy or
> other

The biggest thing I would point to is that it is
important for a company or a few companies that would
benefit from the project to actually be the ones funding
development.  For reasons that have been discussed
before, it is unlikely that speculative revenues from a
service model will fund expensive development projects,
which is why it is important to get customers who see
great savings in their future to do so.

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