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Open source, Linux set for unheralded coronation in 2010

Cloud, smart devices, services will fuel open source success

By , Network World
December 16, 2009 11:27 AM ET

Network World - Arguably the biggest prediction for 2010 around open source and Linux is that most end-users won't talk about it or even think about it. But that won't be a death knell; it's a coronation.

From the White House to (no kidding) Microsoft, open source shined in '09

Experts say no more will open source and Linux be the scruffy-bearded outsider to dressed-up packaged software. Open source is working its way into everything, functioning behind the scenes as the brains for new client access devices such as smartphones, new applications built off existing open source technology and service-based applications that live in the cloud. The focus is function and not the underlying technology.

Perhaps Mike Olson, Sleepy Cat founder and now Cloudera CEO, said it best when he told Network World earlier this year, "At Sleepy Cat, we were proud to be an open source company. At Cloudera, I think of us as an enterprise software company that happens to be built on open source software."

In addition, governments and other IT organizations in 2010 will validate open source through adoption based on set policies and begin to bring it through the front door based on feature and functionality needs, rather than sneaking it in the backdoor.

It is that recognition of the capabilities rather than the development model that contributed to IDC leaving out the term "open source" when it discussed the technology as part of its predictions for 2010.

"I think the reason why is that open source has become a standard part of the industry and it's not necessarily something we raise an eyebrow toward," says Al Gillen, program vice president for system software at IDC. "The larger trends that are happening now are in part, or in a significant way, being assisted, driven or enabled by open source. Open source under the covers is very much a component of what we are predicting to happen in 2010."

Gillen says that fact is most prominent in cloud computing.

"For anybody building a cloud service that is not a derivative of an existing installed application, there is a pretty good probability that Linux and/or open source components are going to be part of the stack that gets deployed in that cloud. Today you don't have any other options. You can't build a Windows cloud."

Microsoft in February will crank up billings for its Azure cloud platform, but the big push there is to rally developers to build the apps that people will want to consume or can't live without.

For open source, "platform" also is shaping up to be another big theme in 2010, according to insiders.

"Open source apps are consistently becoming a platform that is being built on," says Aaron Fulkerson, CEO of MindTouch. "This has surprised many open source vendors who thought they were building an application." Fulkerson says that trend could find legs in 2010 as base software packages become the foundation for new classes of applications and services. (See related story, 11 open source companies to watch.)

Jay Lyman, an analyst with the 451 Group, says open source and Linux in 2010 will find equal footing alongside proprietary software when companies evaluate new tools. He cites the Department of Defense memo in October that clarified guidance on the agency's use of open source. The memo said the technology was equal to commercial software in almost all cases and by law should be considered by the agency when making purchase decisions.

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