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Open Source Projects Must Work Together to Survive

Open Source Projects Must Work Together to Survive

Open source software is in danger of being beaten at its own game by upstart services that are tightly integrated, less complex, and easier to use. That message was at the heart of the cautionary tale told by Stephen O’Grady in his keynote at this year’s ApacheCon North America in May.

O’Grady, Principal Analyst & Cofounder of RedMonk, recalled his years as a systems integrator, pointing out that open source software took a big bite out of the enterprise software market when it became more accessible and easier to use.

“When you’re competing against the traditional (software) companies … you’re competing against something that is complex,” O’Grady said. “What if your competition isn’t complex anymore? What if the new competition is even simpler, easier to use, and faster to pick up than you are? What does that mean? To me, it means that you’re essentially at risk of being divided and conquered.”

O’Grady pointed to Amazon Web Services and the platform’s tight integration and easy to use interface for developers as areas where open source’s competition has an edge.

The problem open source faces, he said, is that the projects are often fragmented and competing, and integration points with other projects aren’t often considered early in their lifecycle. It’s a vast and complex landscape, even just at Apache, and it can be difficult for potential users and customers to know where to start. Too much choice can be bad thing.

“Back in 1998 (pre-open source), my hardest choice was: which product (am I going to buy?),” O’Grady said. “When I look at things today, when I look at the (open source software) market today, I can’t even get to the product or project yet, I have to figure out what my approach is going to be. What is my architecture going to look like and what are the components of that architecture. These are hard questions. They’re hard questions for developers, and they’re even harder for businesses.”

The solution is to start to think about logical groupings for different projects, things that might turn into a reliable technology stack, O’Grady said. He pointed to the LAMP web application stack — Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP as an example.

“People rarely use just one Apache project,” O’Grady said. “As all of you move forward, how can (you) create connection points? How do I ease the burden on the user? You have to make friends. You need to join together, or you might die.”

Watch the complete presentation below: