Open Source and Its Growing Significance for Businesses

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 02, 2010

In case you missed it, Bruce Byfield has a very interesting essay posted on the history of FOSS, and it includes some interesting thoughts on where free, open source software is headed. You can find the essay here. In Byfield's essay, he provides a historical account of the growth of the open source movement, ranging from the development of infrastructure software such as Apache to the growth in sophistication of open source licenses. But it's his thoughts on how open source can increasingly mean more to businesses that are really eye-catching.

Byfield notes this:

"Business and FOSS have become increasingly close allies in the last decade, with many companies or executives becoming heavily involved in the community. Today, FOSS appeals to venture capitalists and business executives in several ways. It is now seen as a source of disruptive technologies, potentially risky investments, but ones that, if successful, can mean a greater return on investment."

"Just as importantly, by using FOSS, startup companies can reduce development time and bring products to market sooner than if they have to do all their development themselves. According to longtime FOSS venture capitalist Larry Augustin, the average time for a return on an investment is five to seven years, while for FOSS-based companies, it can be as little as three or four years."

This is an area where further research would be good to see. There are now numerous startup firms focusing on the idea that if a good idea has already been created, and a good, open source software infrastructure is freely available, then a business can take shape around those positive trends. Cloudera is building that kind of business around the open source Hadoop software framework, and Acquia is building a business around the successful open source Drupal content management system (CMS).

There will be more smart business people who see the existing value in open source platforms and frameworks that have been in development for years. By providing support, evangelism and marketing around these software frameworks, the insta-business can take shape, and it can have promise.

While Byfield's interesting essay focuses primarily on the growing importance of open source software components as productivity tools within existing businesses, there are businesses that don't even exist yet that can be built around open source frameworks. It just takes imagination.