Future of FLOSS

A survey about FLOSS usage in business finds things are looking bright for FLOSS on the mobile devices, databases and operating systems but the survey shows the least impact will be on “office productivity”, ERP/CRM, and business intelligence. This seems somewhat counter-intuitive in that the former group of opportunities are both on the client and server and the latter are both done on client and server. Perhaps the distinction is “back-end” versus “front-end”.

I don’t see that. When an IT system provides the end-user something on his screen that comes from a back-end service, the end-user sees the same thing whether the application with which he/she is interacting is on the client or the server. It’s virtual and transparent. Now, particular applications like Office may seem to be essential to business but that’s the same sort of FUD we used to see about FLOSS on the back-end:

  • FLOSS is low-quality hacker-stuff,
  • FLOSS is viral; be very afraid,
  • FLOSS costs more, and
  • FLOSS will lower productivity somehow (hand-waving…).

All of that FUD was not true and the same can be said about the surviving FUD about software for clients. The same advantages that have been obvious on servers for more than a decade are also available for FLOSS on clients, particularly when used as thin clients, something that is mainstream these days.

I guess it will take a bit more time, but folks who don’t bat an eye at using Facebook or Google all day long to do important stuff still see applications from M$ and partners running on clients as more important than applications running on the server that are FLOSS or applications running on the client that are FLOSS. This is an untenable position unsupported by facts. It is not even FUD to a large extent, just inertia.

The prime tool for overcoming inertia is the wide acceptance of mobile devices which people are more commonly accepting as client devices even on their desks (the client I use is a notebook that rarely moves, just because it is tiny). Office and other dinosaurs of monopoly don’t run those tiny gadgets very well and provide no real advantage.

The good news from the survey is that lots of the FUD about FLOSS has died after a decade of damage to IT, and that FLOSS has plenty of growth remaining on the back-end. It is obvious to me that the whole atmosphere of suspicion around FLOSS has changed. The remaining FUD that there is not enough expertise/support for FLOSS is obviously false and will die in a shorter period of time than a decade, probably just a year or two. It is interesting that the study had M$ as a “collaborator”… In fact, the professional IT guys I have met in the last few years all are comfortable with FLOSS but their PHBs (Pointy-Headed Boss) are not. Fortunately many of those old guys are soon to retire and younger folks with new ideas will take over. That has happened to a large degree already. It is just a matter of time to complete the process. Android/Linux on smart thingies will push Linux onto clients one way or another this year.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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2 Responses to Future of FLOSS

  1. Fortunately FLOSS has lots of tools that can be combined rather easily into powerful BI tools:

    the LAMP stack,
    databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL,
    search engines like Swish-e, and Xapian,
    scalable filing solutions like Hadoop, and
    tons of easy to use programming languages to connect everything together to provide all the information anyone can handle in a neat manner.

    I have used a tiny subset of these tools in schools and it is amazing what can be done. In a few hours even a single server can become the embodiment of knowledge for the whole organization accessible instantly. We had 100gB of data fully indexed and plugged into the organization so it could grow as we grew.

  2. Dan Serban says:

    The business intelligence aspect is interesting.
    As someone who is involved in the field of BI, I’m glad to be noticing increasing volumes of “buzz” about open BI solutions like Pentaho and Jaspersoft.
    Unfortunately the companies behind those projects have chosen an “open core” model, e.g. although the community version of Pentaho BI is open-source and a very capable piece of software, you need to register before you download, so that Pentaho can then keep bugging you about upgrading to the enterprise version.
    I believe the topic of “open core” has been covered ad-nauseam before, but this is the current state of open-source BI.

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