Don't Let Enterprise Software Go Postal


I posted earlier my fear of attempts toEuropeanize enterprise software. The only thing worse would be to let the U.S. government get too involved in manipulating the software market.


Unfortunately, with all the emphasis on government spending vs. private-sector spending as a means to dig out of the current recession, it is likely that "the government" (in all countries, not just the U.S. and UK) will have a major impact on your IT and enterprise software choices over the next few years. And that works against you two ways:


  • Government spending will skew the market just by the rules of the marketplace; suppliers cater to the guy with the bucks.
  • But the government can also skew the market via regulation and legislation that unfairly tilts the playing field, eliminating your choices in IT and enterprise software.


That's what makes the idea of U.S. and European Union (EU) bureaucrats' finagling with things under the banner of Open This and Open That so threatening. The blog post cited above gives an example related to how and why the EU wants to consciously tilt the playing field. The flip side is the ignorance likely to be found among U.S. government bureaucrats to the extent that they depend on sources such as a non-IT site called ohmygov.com for IT and enterprise software information.


In an article titled "Will the U.S. follow UK into the open source market?," a blogger or journalist repeats six of the leading EU canards about open source Ts&Cs without any apparent attempt to check the facts.The article says:


  • "It seems our colonial cousins from across the great pond have taken quite a liking to open source technology -- an action that they claim will boost the UK's uptake in public services and innovation, and reduce costs and risks." - Forgetting the fact that the UK was not a cousin in pre-independence America but the master in a master/slave relationship, the ohmygov article repeats the fallacy that open source anything is a technology. Open source is 95 percent a set of license terms and conditions (Ts&Cs). To a lesser extent, it is a software development culture, kind of the last gasp of the propeller heads before all software development becomes robotic. Open soruce is in no way a technology.
  • a Brit, Tom Watson, minister of something called Digital Engagement (George Orwell, phone home; England needs you), believes that open source is a great example of how people working together can come up with products to "rival and sometimes beat those of giant corporations."-I don't doubt the quote's accuracy but it ignores the fact that both open source development and resulting marketing efforts are totally dominated by "giant corporations." IBM, Sun (maybe soon to be one company), HP and so forth are the leaders in open source business. These same companies plus Google, Amazon and others -- including even Microsoft -- fund all of the leading open source consortia. Open source is already totally dominated by giant corporations.
  • according to a Forrester Research survey of 2,200 IT executives in the UK, France, Germany, the US and Canada, "some 46 percent of businesses have implemented open source software, or plan to pilot it this year."-That number is probably low because most companies don't know when they are using open source licensed software; they think they are using software from IBM, Sun, HP (see above). And the same survey also finds that the UK is lagging in the adoption of open source licensed software, kind of negating the whole thrust of the article.
  • "The main motivation to move to open source is cost savings, according to 56 percent of respondents."-Actually it is misleading to call anything the main motivation to move to open source Ts&Cs because most IT users don't know they are doing it (see above). But to the extent that open source Ts&Cs are consciously chosen, the main motivation is to achieve perpetual access to source code (hence the name).
  • "the planned implementation or expansion of open source software in business is higher than that of any other technology, including business process management (BPM), application lifecycle management (ALM) and enterprise service buses (ESB)".-Since no source is provided for this misleading gem, it is hard to analyze it. But - more important - remember that open source is not a technology. There are BPM, ALM and ESB products available with and without open source Ts&Cs so the ohmygov sentence is nonsensical. In addition, the author chose some odd product areas as examples because no open-source-licensed products are anywhere near leadership in these categories (the leaders being IBM, probably IBM, and either Progress or TIBCO depending on your definition of ESB, respectively). The major successes for open source licensed products are the multiple Linux distributions and the Apache HTTP Web server.
  • And finally there is the coup de grace: "Because of the growing popularity of open sourcing, many vendors have been quick to show their support of the UK government's plans, including open source veteran Sun Microsystems." -- To call the faltering Sun an "open source veteran," is high on my list of the most inaccurate statements to appear on the Web this year. And that's competing with Timothy Geithner claiming TurboTax made him do it.


Of course, there is one other problem with the article. The U.S. government is probably already the leading user of open source licensed software in the world.