Open Source Jousting

What are the rules for open source vs open source project competition?

When thinking about open source competition many people focus on the obvious such as Linux vs Windows, Apple vs Google, etc. In this blog post I am presenting something that does happen in open source but is rarely discussed, competition between open source projects. The rules defining open source competition are not as clearly defined as we see with open source vs proprietary solutions. I present two open source competitive situations to demonstrate this point.

The Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome web browser competition is the most visible open source vs open source project competition in the marketplace. A search of both projects web sites give no indication that any type of competitive activity is taking place as the focus is exclusively on the technology. Firefox does have a "Spread Firefox" portion of its community and again, I was not able to find any competitive type of information about the Google Chrome browser but I did find a page with Top 5 Reasons to switch from Microsoft IE but the main focus of the site was really how to switch and not so much as a competitive site. I was unable to find any type of competitive information on the Google project site. I did find lots of computer bloggers and media sites discussing the two browsers as competitors however I was not able to find any public attempt by either company to directly "compete" with each other. Finally, I did find a short article on how Mozilla CEO John Lilly viewed the release of Google Chrome and his conciliatory tone is what you would expect when talking about open source projects competing.

Another growing competitive battle is the Xen.org virtualization project versus the Red Hat KVM virtualization project. Xen.org is the home of the open source hypervisor which is an established solution used in many large cloud solutions (e.g. Amazon EC2) and is the virtualization platform for companies such as Oracle, Citrix, and Fujitsu. KVM is a newer open source virtualization project purchased by Red Hat from Qumranet in 2008 and now the basis of Red Hat's virtualization technology. Again, looking at both open source project websites you find something similar to that of Mozilla and Google, nothing competitive and a strong focus on the technology and future direction of the solutions. However, this competition is nothing like Mozilla and Google as Red Hat has publicly challenged Xen in an effort to discredit another open source competitive solution with Citrix responding for the Xen.org community. Some examples of this are here, here, here, here, here, etc. It is interesting to see how this open source battle is being played out in the media with quotes from corporate entities with a stake in the two projects.

So, why are these two open source competitions so different? Is it simply the difference in end-users, consumers for the web browsers and enterprise infrastructure for the virtualization hypervisors? Does it have to do with how the technology is incorproated into a companies' strategy? What are your thoughts about open source competition?

NOTE: I am the community manager for the Xen.org community and am familiar with KVM and Xen competition.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in