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Where’s the value in open source?

Mar 25, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsOpen Source

* Chris Stone gets passionate about open source

Last week, Novell’s Chris Stone keynoted the inaugural Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) and it will be interesting to see how his remarks there match up with what he said this week at BrainShare. Since I’m writing this before BrainShare, I’ll just highlight what he said at the OSBC and next week we’ll take a look at his speech to the Novell faithful gathered in Salt Lake City.

Stone was quick to point out to the OSBC attendees that open source is about more than just Linux. In fact, it’s mostly about the stuff “further up the stack”, as he put it. It’s about the applications and services being developed under the open source model (see to learn more) to run on top of Linux, Unix, NetWare and Windows.

In Stone’s words, “The value is up the stack. That’s where the money is; it’s not in the low-level environment. And that’s what the hardware vendors have figured out, which is why they’re rushing to Linux at such a fast and furious pace. Their profit margins are going up because of their move to Linux.”

The unstated part of that equation is that hardware vendors are saving money in two ways: they aren’t licensing Windows for the hardware and they can offer Linux (with open source applications) on lower powered machines. If there’s one thing that the Novell engineers in Provo like about Linux and open source it’s the fact that they can run desktop systems that are almost as “lean and mean” as the NetWare servers they connect to.

That can all mean lower prices for you while at the same time raising profit margins for the vendors. While the main theme of the conference was that open source software is good for your business, no matter what that business is it had an undercurrent aimed squarely at mainstream hardware vendors showing that supporting open source on their platforms could be a boon to their bottom line. In a time when hardware and software sales are stagnating, that was a message people wanted to hear.

In the end, Stone’s message was that – unlike politics or religion – the choice of operating systems (and the applications that run on them) isn’t an either/or proposition. Mixing Linux, Unix, NetWare, Windows, mainframe operating systems and others on your network shouldn’t be a negative. Rather, you should use what’s best for your enterprise, what’s best for the applications and services your enterprise needs to run in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

Next week, we’ll examine the message from BrainShare.