FLOSS is essentially based on sharing code, ideas, expectations, behaviours, value, etc.. The FLOSS trend on both the industry side (offerings) and on the part of the market (demand) is supported by developer communities and business ecosystems. The question we want to answer is: "To what extent are FLOSS communities and business ecosystems sustainable?" FLOSS is not a unified, monolithic topic. We cover these issues from four perspectives: Demand, Industry, Governance and Public Environment.
- Currently: three major segments, a) those with a pro-active FLOSS strategy are early adopters, the majority of users are either b) opportunistic, i.e. they use FLOSS on a case by case basis (Apache server, Eclipse tools, chosen by rank and file IT professionals) and do not have a FLOSS strategy, or c) below-the-radar users who will not pay for software licenses, some of them never and others as long as software usage is not critical to their organizations.
- However, the extent of FLOSS usage is growing fast enough that it is now sufficiently mainstream for organizations and individuals to consider using it.
- FLOSS is growing in mass-consumer markets: for example, almost 30% of machines in Germany use Firefox to access the web; HP, Dell, and others market Ubuntu and SuSE-based netbooks, embedded FLOSS is increasingly used in consumer devices.
- There will be no software technology which will not have its FLOSS implementation. There will be no enterprise need normally addressed by software which will not be addressed by FLOSS.
- Even for the more conservative users, FLOSS will represent at least 10% of their IT spending as a protection against risks of abusive behavior by proprietary software vendors.
- FLOSS becomes well accepted if not dominant in some segments: infrastructure, development tools, scientific computing and some embedded applications.
- The vast majority of mobile phones will be built on FLOSS software.
- FLOSS demand will go to those commercial vendors having developed an OSS offering or combined FLOSS and proprietary value proposals.
- Since we have examples of commercial vendors refusing to support their software if running in a FLOSS environment, such FUD strategies could hamper FLOSS demand.
Recommendation #1: Communication-push to build widespread awareness about FLOSS in all categories of users.
Recommendation #2: Government procurement must require FLOSS alternative offering in all their calls.
Recommendation #3: Use social networks to help build FLOSS awareness in mass consumer markets.
Recommendation #4: Help develop best practices of FLOSS policies for end-users.
Recommendation #5: Develop benchmark of excellence and reference use case to promote usage of open standards and interoperable solutions.
- FLOSS is pervasive. There is no such thing as a FLOSS industry. The impact of FLOSS goes way beyond pure play open source companies; for example, virtually all of the enterprise class middleware products such as IBM Websphere, Lotus Notes, Oracle WebLogic, etc. base a significant portion of their implementations on open source components such as Apache HTTP Server and Eclipse Equinox.
- Few successful pure play open source companies, but more than 200 open source start-ups whose long-term future is somehow uncertain.
- No real pure play leaders except perhaps Red Hat. Leading open source companies are attractive to established companies: MySQL acquired by Sun, JBoss acquired by RedHat, Zimbra acquired by Yahoo.
- All software, FLOSS and proprietary, delivered as software packages or as SaaS, incorporate FLOSS code.
- FLOSS has definitively become a pervasive part of the software industry; it has a broad impact but does not radically change its business model.
- Commercial vendors play a major role in many leading non-commercial open source projects. Most commercial vendors will launch their own open source efforts.
- Many promising pure play open source companies to be acquired by commercial vendors.
- SaaS sales model is validated by leading companies such as Salesforce.com and Google and other vendors follow suit. SaaS business model has the greatest impact on the software industry.
- Many FLOSS start-ups aim at being acquired by larger companies, but will acquired companies retain their FLOSS models?
- Many vendors develop hybrid models with a proprietary offering based upon FLOSS components of a FLOSS platform. Will these models define the limitations of FLOSS, will they "poison" FLOSS?
- SaaS providers rely on FLOSS without contributing back and they could gradually kill the FLOSS software package model.
- Many FLOSS companies delivering "fake" open source will stumble; for example those marketing "crippleware", under Community/Enterprise licensing duals, which is widely not accepted as open source and therefore compared to proprietary software with all their strategic disadvantages,.
Recommendation #6: No irrational belief: foster pragmatic analysis of the relationship between FLOSS communities and the business ecosystems they enable.
Recommendation #7: Vendors must clearly identify where is their FLOSS interest (cooperating on commodity components) and where is their proprietary added value (business process and integration / customization / aggregation of FLOSS components.
- Communities can be FLOSS pure play whereas business ecosystems are necessarily based on some proprietary model or at least on a combination of FLOSS and proprietary models. Communities are enablers of business ecosystems.
- Companies get involved in open source, because FLOSS communities provide the legal, governance and process frameworks needed to create industry collaborations. What are now passive consumers of FLOSS will become participants and contributors.
- FLOSS communities keep emerging and all IT domains eventually end-up with their own FLOSS communities.
- Communities supported by IT professionals keep growing: contributing to FLOSS is good for professional career; moreover, students are more and more familiar with FLOSS and participate in FLOSS communities.
- Some FLOSS organizations prevail: Linux Foundation, Apache Foundation, Eclipse Foundation, OW2, Mozilla Foundation, and others.
- An official authority whose role is to validate FLOSS licenses is established.
- Foundations and other non-profit FLOSS organizations see their model validated. Some non-profit organizations even evaluate the opportunity of becoming "for-profit" organizations.
- As FLOSS becomes mainstream and more and more visible in the software industry, the legal relationship evolves from gentleman's agreement (few real court cases) to enforceability.
- FLOSS code is available from publicly accessible forges. Forges have become the developer's ERP and FLOSS forges become FLOSS market places. Specialized forges emerge dedicated to specific themes, technologies and companies.
- Communities should thrive, there is no particular risk because there will always be voluntary work on exciting technologies. However, employers who perceive the value of community contribution are still a minority and the risk of conflict between voluntary work and employers remains real.
- As the number of communities and non-profit organizations grow, companies will reconsider the opportunity to participate in too many organizations. Membership proliferation is not an attractive perspective.
- If license proliferation continues, the risk of incompatibilities between FLOSS licenses will be greater. These incompatibilities would be revealed by the trend toward a more brutal enforceability of FLOSS licenses, they will make some software unusable and deter CIOs.
With the proliferation of communities and organizations comes the proliferation of Forges. Forge fragmentations and incompatibility as well as proliferation of software with unproven quality might reduce confidence in FLOSS.
Recommendation #8: Develop FLOSS awareness in schools and universities.
Recommendation #9: FLOSS voluntary work should be a real plus for employers.
Recommendation #10: Encourage participation of communities in the development of FLOSS cloud computing technologies.
Recommendation #11: Help analyze the impact of SaaS on FLOSS and help develop FLOSS models compatible with the SaaS delivery and business models.
Recommendation #12: Against FLOSS license proliferation: need for a consolidation effort to be driven by a recognized body such as OSI, FSF or SFLC, for example.
Recommendation #13: Against forge fragmentation: develop inter-forge exchange standard protocols and best practices as well as best practices for software quality testing.
- Despite some recent progress, there is still limited government awareness regarding FLOSS. The commercial model is dominant and FLOSS is a cultural exception.
- Moreover, government procurement balances commercial and FLOSS solutions.
- On the education side, FLOSS is rapidly expanding in IT research and IT teaching use FLOSS more and more frequently.
- Developing countries are falling behind in their grasp of FLOSS because their IT markets are largely controlled by established proprietary vendors.
- Developing countries will start to systematically evaluate FLOSS as lever of public welfare improvement.
- Governments, increasingly lobbied by both FLOSS and proprietary interests, will be pushed to adopt FLOSS procurement policies.
- More gateways between industry, research and education as careers become less linear and IT job mobility increases.
- Broader use of FLOSS in the education and the public domain. The FLOSS model is not limited to IT, and more usage areas are involved (e.g. services, content).
Risks – Main risk factors against sustainability
- Government support for FLOSS efforts and communities reduced because of FUD and lobbying campaign by anti-FLOSS vendors.
- Confusion between business (short-term) and public research (long-term) priorities because of proprietary software vendors cutting prices and sponsoring universities to gain momentum.
- Because of confusion and lack of expertise and clear analysis, public policies will remain unclear about how to defend FLOSS, open standards and requirements for interoperability.
- Large publicly funded projects are almost inaccessible to FLOSS start-ups as they lack the necessary management resources to take part in such projects and to FLOSS communities because of their transnational nature.
Recommendation #14: Build awareness of FLOSS as socially beneficial because it helps grow expertise and added-value by local stake holders.
Recommendation #15: Redirect research/education software budgets to FLOSS.
Recommendation #16: Encourage career flexibility between private and public sectors.
Recommendation #17: Introduce FLOSS as early as possible in education, train teachers about FLOSS and teach basics of IT (and programming) to everyone at school.
Recommendation #18: Leverage FLOSS to reduce the digital divide and develop global FLOSS-based cooperation projects.
Recommendation #19: Design ad-hoc publicly-funded support programs for FLOSS start-ups and communities.