Enterprises grow more savvy over open source

Open source icon Stormy Peters says enterprises have embraced open software, but often need help with troubleshooting it

Open source icon Stormy Peters is co-founder of the non-profit GNOME Foundation and director of community and partner programs for OpenLogic. Peters recently discussed why enterprises don't know how much open source software they use, how newbies and non-programmers can become involved in the movement and why she thinks open source software is more secure than proprietary code.

How are the areas of integration between open source and commercial software improving? Can you name vendors that are doing good work in that area?

We find at OpenLogic that a lot of our support calls fall into either a "how do I use/integrate this?" or "why isn't this open source software project working right with my commercial or home grown software?" Our customers give us a lot of kudos for helping them figure it out. We'd like to pass those kudos on to our Expert Community. Together with the open source software committers in our OpenLogic Expert Community we are able to help our enterprise customers integrate open source software with commercial and home grown solutions.

How can a non-programmer contribute to GNOME?

Non-programmers are needed - and welcome - on most open source software projects. The most obvious way is as active users - using, testing and submitting any issues. Documentation is also usually the most sought after. As a non-programmer looking to get involved in open source, the first couple of things you should do are 1) download and use the software, 2) join the mailing list, 3) let people know you are available to help.

How do you "communitize" the "... or I'll fire you" guy? A really hopeless way to commune.

Ah - you're referring to the cartoon on my blog, I think you show them the benefit of participating in social networking and present them with a plan that includes the costs - mostly time.

Where's the "money" in open source?

It depends on who you are. If you are an enterprise, the money in open source is lower total cost of ownership (not just initial costs), more choice, better developer retention (developers like open source) ... If you are an open source company ... well most of them at the moment make money off support and services. If you're a developer, you can make money by finding a job working on open source for a company. (I think the stat is a 40 per cent pay raise!) Or you can start your own company working on open source solutions or support or services.

What kinds of help do enterprises typically need as they begin to use more open source?

At OpenLogic we usually get a couple of different types of calls. Sometimes people need help convincing their management. Sometimes they need help developing policies. Sometimes they need support for a particular open source software project. We get a lot of calls for support for projects where official enterprise support (like a number to call 24x7) is not available anywhere else.

When organizations announce that they are open-sourcing a product, the trend is that they open-source it and then roll in the contributions from the community into their own product. Is this commercialization of open-source products a de facto standard that only the big companies can adopt?

Not at all. I think "commercialization" usually means that there's a number that enterprises can call for help. I think you could create that type of commercialization for any of the open source software development models.

Do enterprises need to have open source experts on staff? Can they get away with not having anyone or only staffers with passing knowledge if they want to adopt open source?

I think enterprises need to know how they'll deal with any problems they run into whether it's problems with the open source software itself or problems integrating it into their environment. That said, their solutions can range from hiring open source software experts to contracting with a company like OpenLogic.

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