November 17, 2009

Bridging Open Source Enterprise and Community Collaboration

Open source software alone is not a magic wand for business. Organizations need to apply open technologies, processes, community participation, and innovative business models in order to get real change and positive results.

This is the theme of "The Changing Role of the Enterprise in the Open Source Community," a talk given by Tim Golden, Open Source Software Infrastructure Strategist at Bank of America during last week's End User Collaboration Summit. The Summit, hosted by the Linux Foundation, gathered high-level Linux maintainers and Linux developers to collaborate with senior IT leaders from the largest and most dynamic Linux users in the world.

Golden's presentation focused on the current adoption curve to open source software for end-user companies and community participation scenarios; various methods that end user companies can utilize to participate as community members and offensive strategies that end users can adopt to prepare for larger, more active roles in the Linux community.

In this post-event interview, Golden reviews the highlights of his talk, and weighs in on the End User Summit.

What are your primary responsibilities as Bank of America's Open Source Software infrastructure strategist?

I lead the Open Source Product Management team. This team of five full-time employees is responsible for ensuring that the open source software products used by Bank of America enjoy a level of management and support that is commensurate to proprietary software. Additionally, we vet OSS technology, ensure OSS standards are created [and maintained], we participate in OSS design and proof of concept evolutions, we are responsible for maintaining the Bank's OSS policy, and we have oversight for OSS vendor, compliance, and management processes.

What are the most important strategies to use when implementing open source in a business?

Don't assume that the fact that the software is open source is interesting in and of itself. It is only when the open source aspects of the software represent a quantifiable benefit to a developer or end user that you can be assured of a positive adoption or go to market experience.

Would-be OSS developers and end users can't be successful if they do not have in-depth knowledge of the tenants under which the open source model and community functions. Companies whose open source practices do not enable direct interaction with the community will operate as sub-par community members and ultimately fail to meet their longer-term OSS objectives.

What are the biggest challenges for open source in business and have those challenges evolved over time?

Helping partners understand the risk associated with OSS use has always been challenging. Initially, when understanding these nuances was knowledge only held by a precious few, risk was viewed as absolute in almost all circumstances. Over time, and as end user companies have evolved their level of knowledge and understanding of how the open source business model works, risk decisions are slowly transitioning to an analysis based upon relative risk.

What are your impressions of the End User Summit event this year?

I was very encouraged to see the sheer number of end user companies that were in attendance. I also noticed that direct interactions between community members and end users occurred in the spirit of camaraderie. It is highly encouraging to see that end users are finally learning to state their company's goals and requirements in a community-friendly dialect.

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