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Technology has been evolving so fast that when we started this programme in 2008, we had no idea whether our Roadmap (see Figure 1) for Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) until 2020 and our predictions / recommendations (see Table 1) would still be accurate some months later. Today, we can report that the trends we anticipated are still relevant.
Figure 1: 2020 FLOSS Roadmap
Table 1: Predictions and Recommandations
Seven predictions for FLOSS in 2020
1: Global Digital Divide reduced thanks to FLOSS
2: FLOSS is now mainstream
3 : FLOSS Communities are enablers of Business Ecosystems
4: Cloud Computing is ubiquitous
5: The IT industry is the champion of eco-responsibility
6: FLOSS is a strategic tool for Enterprise IT 3.0, i.e. Open IT
7: 40% of jobs in IT are FLOSS related
1: Define a stable, clear and neutral legal context
2: Invest in FLOSS R&D for strategic technologies and services
3: Develop FLOSS education, skill and employment
4: Create Open Platforms based on Open Standards and Open Services
5: Establish Openness as a standard for Innovation and Business
6: Promote FLOSS adoption and usage
7: Encourage FLOSS users to contribute to FLOSS
8: Develop inter-actions between FLOSS Communities
From a technological point of view, the 2020 Floss Roadmap is in perfect synchronization with today's trends:
Strong adoption of FLOSS virtualization [VIRT] by the industry confirms the maturity of the technologies
FLOSS alternatives for microblogging [BLOG] and social networking [NET] mean that open platforms can now be offered to Micro Social Networks.
Plus, open service interfaces are flourishing [OKI] while an open service definition still needs to be unanimously adopted by the Cloud industry [OSSD].
Nevertheless, we must also concede that everything is moving faster than we thought, and so just a few months later, we are realising we need to look at our conclusions again, and more closely....
This is particularly true in the case of Cloud Computing. While the offering itself is becoming more organized (from public to private clouds, from Infrastructure as a Service, to Platform as a Service and Software as a Service) and specialized trade shows are flourishing worldwide [SHOWS], what is interesting to note is that for every proprietary solution, a FLOSS project offering an alternative [CLOUD] can already be found. According to Gartner “Through 2013, 90% of market-leading, cloud-computing providers will depend on OSS to deliver products and services" [GARTNER].
On the specific topic of the openness of Cloud Computing to which the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap pronounced at length, the state of the art has also significantly evolved. And the debate is wide open, and will need to mature before we can really see Open Clouds operating on a daily basis. The Association Software Livre [ASL], for instance, a well-respected FLOSS association in Brazil, is quoting Google as a key FLOSS player, while this remains a highly contentious issue in Europe.
It is worth noting that there are several quite well-established positions on this topic these days: from R. Stallman who argues that “Cloud computing is 'stupidity'” [STALLMAN1] to FFII's Total Information Outsourcing [TIO] that recognizes the inherent interest of Cloud Computing, but also its limitations. The ideas of open standards and open services are also making progress, and win over well-structured supporters with more or less clear agendas. Among these supporters, we can cite the Open Knowledge Foundation [OKF], Open Cloud Manifesto [OCF], and the Open Cloud Consortium [OCC].
With the massive investments major players such as Google, Yahoo, or Amazon are now making in huge Data Centers or server farms [GOOG], we might ask ourselves if there is still room for other smaller players or for alternative platforms? And what influence Green IT will have on the way these huge consumers of energy evolve?
While we can report that many of the predictions in the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap are proving correct, we must also note that there are contradictory evolutions: the penetration of FLOSS continues apace, but at the political level there are still barriers.
In spite of FLOSS being recognized by “intellectuals” such as the lobbyists from Open Source for America [OSA], the alliance between security and proprietary is even stronger than it was, and has delayed the evolution of lawful environments. FLOSS and Internet are clearly associated in people's minds as polar opposites: Internet as a threat versus Internet as an opportunity. The tension between those two positions is high and may influence penetration of FLOSS.
In terms of public policies, Brazil [BRAZIL], the United Kingdom [UK] and the Netherlands [NEDERLAND] are making very significant progress. But the sizeable overhead of public tenders slows down the establishment of a structured and viable offer from FLOSS vendors of variable sizes.
In general, public industrial policies are not focusing on IT services - and even less on FLOSS - but on traditional industries (the automotive industry, for example). Even though here in Europe we have a declaration of intent from EC Commissioner Viviane Redding [REDDING], we have not found any significant plan to invest in IT. The exception to this is in the USA, where IT accounts for $37bn of the $825bn in the stimulus package of Obama's recovery plan [OBAMA]. What needs to be clarified is what proportion of this budget will be for FLOSS? In the future it will be interesting to see what stance Vivek Kundra, Obama's newly-appointed CIO [KUNDRA] will adopt in relation to Cloud Computing, Google, open platforms and Open Source.
Also, FLOSS business models, and the sustainability of FLOSS are still questioned by a large number of people in government. Certainly there is still room for improvement in communication about the qualities of FLOSS and the potential it offers for business and society. But despite the extensive literature already in circulation, we can say that the information exists, but communication is not yet fully established. Is this due to reluctance to change, or fear of change? Despite the efficiency and speed of transmission, ideas have to be understood, and this understanding then shared by a majority of people.
While on this subject, we would all appreciate it if Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva - one of the most talented and influential FLOSS advocate of the year [LULA] - could explain to his G-20 colleagues why FLOSS is considered strategic for Brazil. He would at least have some chance of inspiring most - if not all! - of them.
Because FLOSS also upholds new ideas of a societal nature, it really ought to be taken seriously into consideration in the context of public policies. FLOSS enables two notions which are generally not associated, to work together in harmony: technology and solidarity. On this subject - which correspond to the first prediction of the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap (see Table 1) - President Lula is in full agreement with R.Stallman who described Free Software as a social necessity [STALLMAN2] when he talks of FLOSS (and Internet) as being key to Digital Inclusion.
During this year's debates, two issues were raised by contributors, and these new issues with their potential impact on the evolution of FLOSS will need to be explored in the coming months.
“Proprietary hardware favors closed source”. This statement highlights the fact that platforms such as Apple's IPhone for example, which is very popular and efficient for distributing applications, is also totally closed and proprietary. While a standard platform such as x86 for computers facilitated the birth of Linux, BSD and all FLOSS running on these systems, could we expect the same kind of evolutionary potential from a closed platform?
Data needs to be considered as a key element in the efficiency of our Roadmap. Software is not only about programs, and in most cases software includes data. And if proprietary, data may create critical lock-in for FLOSS progression. This means that our vision of content and copyright law may have to be revised due to the Internet and new practices: the Pirate Bay case has been exemplary on this point [PIRATE] and Google's Digital Library [LIBRARY] is at the other end of the spectrum. Maybe, as suggested by Lawrence Lessig in “Remix” [LESSIG], we should be inspired by the 'mix' culture of modern music (e.g. DJ's who are considered to be artists nowadays) and modern art (e.g. the work of surrealist artists such as Marcel Duchamp with ready-made, or Max Ernst with collage).
Beyond the fact that the global crisis has impacted most activities in 2009, it was difficult to predict whether this crisis represented an opportunity or a threat. There are slightly different answers to this question depending on the type of business model.
For the service based business model, in general large systems integrators (SI) are less affected by the crisis (including the effect on pricing) than small specialized service vendors. Large SIs work on functional business related software for their customers, whereas more specialized, smaller service vendors provide expertise, and have difficulty accessing big deals. What is specific to FLOSS in this crisis is the fact that CIOs have clearly identified FLOSS as an opportunity to lower costs and to bargain on prices. But this is not the only issue. Since business activity is much reduced, large SI are giving priority to internal staff training (as opposed to outsourcing expertise to small specialized vendors) and these (human) resources are, as a consequence, acquiring more expertise on topics which used to be the domains of small specialist FLOSS vendors. Finally, customers' staff are also gaining in expertise, so reducing the overall need for specialized consultants. All this clearly represents a risk of impoverishment and loss of competences for service suppliers.
When it comes to software based business models, i.e. businesses where revenue is made up of 50-60% subscriptions and 40-50% services (including training, expertise, etc.), here we can see significant growth. Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat explains "Budgets remain tight and we don't see an end in sight for this. In relative terms, this is pretty good for us." And the kind of growth shown by Red Hat's figures [RH] are emulated by most Open Source vendors.
When it comes to Cloud Computing based business models, while the transfer of some applications to Cloud is being serious considered by a majority of CIOs, and while the future of SaaS is pretty rosy, we can already report a large growth in hosting [HOSTING] despite, or because of , the current economic climate.
It was interesting to evaluate the impact that the news of the acquisition of Sun by Oracle [SUN1] had on the FLOSS world. This event was considered by most contributors to be a major one, and to include a potential risk of the FLOSS landscape being redefined. While Sun was known to be a strong sponsor of FLOSS, Oracle was not renowned for this. What is the future of Sun's projects such as MySQL, Glassfish, Open Office, Netbeans, Java...? The reaction of the European Commission on this subject is significant [SUN2].
Along with the issue of the decreasing number of significant Industry players this acquisition also raised the question of leadership in FLOSS Business. Is there an emerging leader i.e. a kind of FLOSS SAP? While there is no doubt that Red Hat has demonstrated the viability of its business model, is Red Hat (with 2,500 employees and valued at 4 billion dollars i.e. less than the amount of money that Oracle put on the table to acquire Sun) powerful enough to be considered as an industry leader?
In fact this question of leadership may not be relevant when it comes to FLOSS: FLOSS is not an industry, nor a business model but a software development process. While it is true that vendors have had a unique role to play in being responsible for contributing critical code that enables projects to be put into production (as well as providing critical certification and testing), currently no one from Sun, Red Hat, Google, Canonical, Oracle or IBM will try to claim to be the leader or the largest FLOSS contributor when compared to the huge population of thousands of FLOSS developers. And because they want to benefit from these dynamics, they will actively contribute to projects of direct interest to them. The figures brought by the recent study on Linux development show perfectly the quality of this co-development model [LINUX]. Even if you can write thousands lines of code in-house, what does this represent as compared to the millions of lines of code developed by all the other contributors around the world? This exemplifies the “Dynamics of Open-Source Contributors” [DYN] theory. But what is the definition of a contribution: is it just about adding some lines of code (and what is the value of one line of code as compared to another?). This might be the right moment to start extending this definition to include more types of added values, like non-code contribution and promotion, and finding ways of measuring these kinds of input.
Another development that is interesting to observe - also highlighted by Sun's acquisition - is that while the number of significant IT players is decreasing, the number of small and medium-size FLOSS companies is growing fast [CORP]. And this movement is clearly structured around technology communities, but also business activities. This is also a significant change from the legendary “pure” FLOSS community of the first generation “à la Linux”.
And this brings us to the difficulty of establishing a “pure” Open Source model: FLOSS communities used to function on a non-profit / non-commercial basis, but as soon as it comes to business, the model may become hybrid (a mix of FLOSS and proprietary models ranging from “freemium” to “Open Core” [HYBRID]). This hybridization may be due to the dual nature of “Open Source vendor”: is “Open Source vendor” an oxymoron? Here we recommend reading "The Opposable Mind" by Roger Martin about how to integrate contradictions in building business strategies [MARTIN].
The 2009 Synthesis puts forward this analogy to make it easier to understand the complexity of FLOSS by using a simple and rich image.
FLOSS is comparable to a forest. Just as a forest and its canopy hosts rich biodiversity and diverse ecosystems (see Forest Ecology and Forestry [FOREST]), FLOSS diversity is complex and has multiple layers and branches, both in term of technology and creation of wealth.
FLOSS brings oxygen to the industry by adding dynamics, and enabling innovative start-ups and new business models to exist. It generates new blood with a new generation of developers, and new organizational models (cf. communities) involving new practices such as open collaboration and generally renewing the relationship between customers and suppliers, producers and consumers. Just as forests contributed to human history in terms of providing both health and wealth, FLOSS is helping transform our society.
What is interesting with this analogy is that it takes into account the organic and self-organized aspects of FLOSS: in a favorable environment, FLOSS grows by itself, organically. Moreover, like forests, FLOSS has a collective and common representation in everyone's mind the world over.
But there is a crucial flaw in this analogy: whereas you can destroy a forest, you cannot destroy a software. True: software is immaterial. Software does not wear out. But when we consider FLOSS, on the contrary widespread usage endorses its value (see 'network effect'). But we consider this criticism to be wrong because in actual fact a software can die: a software which is not maintained or which does not evolve is dying through obsolescence (even if the agonizing death-throes can be quite long). So we may also say that taking advantage of FLOSS without contributing to its sustainability is like logging without managing the forest.
Now let's look at another question: which business model corresponds to a forest system? Let us answer this by asking two other questions:
- Can you measure the value of the forests in terms of revenue to IKEA?
- What would IKEA's revenue be if/when these same forests eventually disappear?
In the context of our analysis, in FLOSS, we can identify different kinds of forests just as we can in nature:
From this point of view, trustworthy FLOSS software vendors and FLOSS specialized systems integrators would be comparable to foresters working on the basis of sustainable forestry [SFM] as opposed to to intensive (and destructive) forestry. And 'Open Source vendor' would no longer be an oxymoron, but a well-known and protected activity.
But one question may remain: What are the Yosemite National Parks of FLOSS? Here we would recommend that public authorities put all the necessary resources in place to enable these FLOSS National Parks to exist and to flourish. This will help people to enjoy FLOSS not just for entertainment or tourism but for education and science.
Moreover we recommend that public authorities and citizens generally take care of FLOSS just as they take care of civil rights and the environment as described in France's own constitution, for example [CONSTITUTION].
There is no doubt that everybody is happy about paying less and getting more. But why should they give anything back? This is the trickiest question when it comes to describing the FLOSS model to entrepreneurs, businessmen, investors and even governments in charge of looking after public money and the way it is spent.
The answer to this question might be found in J S Mill's definition of ego-altruism [MILL] or our ability to act in the interest of others only if this can be of maximum benefit to oneself. Literally, we only help when it is of benefit to ourselves.
Thanks to IT and FLOSS, companies and governments are well integrated within the global system of exchanges i.e. global society. To participate and contribute to FLOSS means not only upholding this system, but also these companies and governments maintaining their own presence in this system. Companies and governments should adjust their procurement guidelines in such a way as to nurture FLOSS ecosystems, so they are supported well enough to encourage successful outcomes to tenders.
Thanks to FLOSS, citizens are empowered as cyber-citizens in a fair and transparent manner. Thanks to FLOSS we can all have full and free access to all technologies, and communicate on a global level. To make sure we will always have access to these powerful tools, and that they will always be able to satisfy our needs in term of global communication, it is up to all of us to support and participate in the sustainability of FLOSS. This participation can take any form and can be something convenient for the contributor. But we must do it, because in the same way as in a democracy, if you don't use your right to vote, it is lost forever since no-one else can use it.
To reinforce these ideas of fairness and transparency of technology, contributors to the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap added to the existing list of recommendations:
Acknowledge the intrinsic value of FLOSS infrastructure for essential applications as a public knowledge asset (or as 'knowledge commons'), and consider new means to ensure its sustainable development.
[ASL] Associação Software Livre http://softwarelivre.org/
[BLOG] Examples of FLOSS Microblogging
[BRAZIL] Portal of Free Software in Government of Brazil http://www.softwarelivre.gov.br/
[CLOUD] Examples of FLOSS for Cloud
Globus Nimbus http://workspace.globus.org/
Open Nebula http://www.opennebula.org/doku.php
Elastic Grid http://elastic-grid.ow2.org/
Nifty Name http://www.niftyname.org/
[CONSTITUTION] Extracts of FRANCE'S CONSTITUTION
DECLARATION OF HUMAN AND CIVIC RIGHTS OF 26 AUGUST 1789 (Extracts)
Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be based only on considerations of the common good.
The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of Man. These rights are Liberty, Property, Safety and Resistance to Oppression.
The principle of any Sovereignty lies primarily in the Nation. No corporate body, no individual may exercise any authority that does not expressly emanate from it.
Liberty consists in being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man has no bounds other than those that ensure to the other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights. These bounds may be determined only by Law.
CHARTER FOR ENVIRONMENT OF 2004 (Extracts)
Each one has the right to life in a balanced environment and respectful of health.
Any person has the duty to take share with the safeguarding and the improvement of the environment.
The public policies must promote a sustainable development. For this purpose, they reconcile protection and development of the environment, economic development and social progress.
Research and the innovation must assist in the safeguarding and the development of the environment.
[CORP] Some Floss companies:
ActiveGrid, ActiveState, Alfresco, BitRock, Black Duck, CollabNet, Collax, Compiere, Covalent, DB4O, Digium, Exadel, eXo Platform, eZ Systems, Fonality, Funambol, Groundwork, Hyperic, Ingres, Interface21, JasperSoft, Joomla, LaszloSystems, Medsphere, Mozilla Corp, MuleSource, Nexedi, Nuxeo, OpenBravo,OpenLogic, Open-Xchange, OTRS,Palamida, Pentaho, rPath, SnapLogic, Sourcelabs, Spikesource, SQLite, WebYog, SugarCRM, Talend, Terracotta, Ubuntu / Canonical, Vyatta, WSO2, Zenoss, Zimbra, Zmanda, etc.
[DYN] The Dynamics of Open-Source Contributors by JOSH LERNER,PARAG A. PATHAK, AND JEAN TIROLE http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/3023
[FOREST] Forest Ecology http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_ecology
[FOUNDATION] The recent creation of the CodePlex Foundation demonstrates how powerful this model is considered by Industry players such as Microsoft http://codeplex.org/index.aspx
[GARTNER] Predicts 2009: The Evolving Open-Source Software Model http://mediaproducts.gartner.com/reprints/microsoft/164057.html
[GOOG] In its earnings reports, Google reported $1.9 billion in spending on data centers in 2006 and $2.4 billion in 2007. http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/google-data-center-faq-part-2/
[HOSTING] Some examples of growth in hosting for 2009:
Host Europe GmbH Reports Continued Growth http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/071309_Host_Europe_Reports_Continued_Growth
NetBenefit reports growth of 28% http://www.netbenefit.com/netbenefit/about-us/press-room/2009/NetBenefitinterimresults
iWeb Internet Hosting Provider Reports 75% Revenue Growth http://hostingword.com/web-hosting-news/iweb-internet-hosting-provider-reports-75-revenue-growth/
[HYBRID] Freemium http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemium
Example of Open Core http://opsview-blog.opsera.com/dotorg/2009/08/opsview-and-the-open-core-model.html
[KUNDRA] President Obama Names Vivek Kundra Chief Information Officer http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Names-Vivek-Kundra-Chief-Information-Officer/
[LESSIG] Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy by Professor Lawrence Lessig http://remix.lessig.org/
[LIBRARY] The Google digital library row explained http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/sep/08/google-digital-library-row-explained
[LINUX] Linux Foundation Updates Study on Linux Development Statistics: Who Writes Linux and Who Supports It http://www.linuxfoundation.org/news-media/announcements/2009/08/linux-foundation-updates-study-linux-development-statistics-who-wri
[LULA] Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva talks about the importance of Free Software and the Internet at the 10th Free Software Internacional Forum, in Porto Alegre, Brazil - June 26th 2009, 2009 http://dotsub.com/view/40fd8f9c-fcb0-462f-b44c-ca6c38acdd9c
[MARTIN] The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto121920071524569238&page=2
[MILL] John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) who was an influential liberal thinker of the 19th century and an exponent of utilitarianism, has defined the term ego-altruism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stuart_Mill
[NEDERLAND] Ranking of Ministeries following the “Open Source / Open Standards plan” of Dutch in the House of Commons http://www.noiv.nl/noiv_ranking
[NET] Examples of FLOSS for Social Networking
[OBAMA] Obama's recovery plan:
US Recovery Bill http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/RecoveryBill01-15-09.pdf
US stimulus bill smiles on IT http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/16/us_house_stimulus_bill/
IT questions Obama's IT stimulus http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2009/02/04/comptia_stimulus_advice/
[OCC] The Open Cloud Consortium http://www.opencloudconsortium.org/
[OCF] Open Cloud Manifesto dedicated to the belief that the cloud should be open http://www.opencloudmanifesto.org/
[OKF] The Open Knowledge Foundation promoting Open Knowledge in a Digital Age http://www.okfn.org/
[OKI] OKI Project http://www.okiproject.org/
[OSA] A good example of intellectual recognition might be Open Source for America: http://opensourceforamerica.org/
[OSSD] One example of Open Service Definition http://opendefinition.org/ossd
[PIRATE] The Pirate Bay trial http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pirate_Bay_trial
[REDDING] Viviane Redding EU Commissioner for Telecoms and Media Digital Europe – Europe's Fast Track to Economic Recovery The Ludwig Erhard Lecture 2009 Lisbon Council, Brussels, 9 July 2009
[RH] Red Hat announced fiscal first-quarter  revenue of $174 million, up 11 percent from the prior year. Subscription revenue was up 14 percent year over year to $148.8 million. The company's total deferred revenue balance is now $567.3 million, an increase of 15 percent on a year-over-year basis. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10272310-16.html
[SUN1] Oracle to Buy Sun for $7.4 Billion as IBM Talks End http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087
[SUN2] European Commission may delay Sun-Oracle merger http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-10331809-92.html
[SFM] Sustainable Forest Management is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forest management uses very broad social, economic and environmental goals. http://www.mcpfe.org/www-mcpfe/publications/pdf
[SHOWS] examples of Cloud Computing Tradeshows
Cloud World http://www.idg.com/www/IDGProducts.nsf/0/C13AEB914832BEEE852575AF0074250A
Cloud Computing Conference and Expo http://cloudcomputingexpo.com/
Cloud Computing Conference http://www.it360.ca/index.cfm?pagepath=Cloud/Attend&id=14704
[STALLMAN1] Stallman: Cloud computing is 'stupidity' http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-10054253-92.html
[STALLMAN2] “Software livre é uma necessidade social”, afirma Stallman http://www.consegi.gov.br/2009/informativos-1/copy_of_201csoftware-livre-esta-alem-de-uma-questao-economica-e-uma-necessidade-social201d-afirma-stallman
[TIO] FFII TIO Workgroup Releases Guidelines to Protect Freedom and Competition in the Cloud http://press.ffii.org/Press%20releases/FFII%20TIO%20Workgroup%20Releases%20Guidelines%20to%20Protect%20Freedom%20and%20Competition%20in%20the%20Cloud
[UK] Cabinet Office: Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use: Government Action Plan http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/government_it/open_source/policy.aspx
[VIRT] Xen http://www.xen.org/