The Rise or Fall of Open Source?

Like a good organization, a dynamic portfolio of projects shows a bright future

A recent post from Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady asked an interesting question. If open source were treated as a single organization with a distinct brand, where would it be today along a typical organizational lifecycle: startup, growth, maturity, or decline?

Finding reliable metrics to evaluate the open source space has always been problematic, so any "conclusions" we draw are really just starting points for discussion. O'Grady's approach does just that. He reviews several popular open source project Google trend charts that would seem to fuel claims that open source is in decline.

But he then takes a broader view of the role open source is playing in other industry developments, including cloud computing, non-traditional data stores, and mobile, and concludes that for those areas open source is far from slowing:

Where certain projects within the open source community are seeing slowing growth and a transition to more static market positions, there are a variety of other open source projects that are seeing dramatic spikes in traction.

I'd argue another area of growth will be in open source enterprise search. Apache Lucene/Solr , an open source enterprise search project, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, becoming one of the top 15 open source projects. And I don't see that adoption slowing any time soon.

My take is that we have not nearly maxed the potential for open source and we can't anticipate where individual projects or widespread adoption might suddenly skyrocket. However, there are signs that reflect qualitative interest in top open source projects which may be one way to predict hot areas.

One such indicator is the list of projects voted into this year's Bossies, put out by one of NetworkWorld's sister publications. Among the software listed that I'm watching closely: Hadoop and the Drupal Web CMS. There is a growing circle of commercial offerings and tools for Hadoop which is encouraging and reflects growing interest in adoption. And the Drupal project intrigues me because its community is hundreds of thousands members strong, and as we all well know in the open source world, there is strength in numbers.

As with all successful companies, it's natural that old products give way to new ones. I anticipate fresh open source projects will fuel high growth for the foreseeable future because they drive costs savings and greater agility, and can solve some of businesses' most pressing problems faster than proprietary offerings.

Which projects do you see booming or busting in 2011? Share your thoughts and reasoning. 

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