Paul Gustafson, director of Computer Sciences Corp.‘s Leading Edge Forum, which authored the “Open Source: Open for Business” report, says open source’s influences stretches from the desktop to high-performance computing centers.
“People equate Linux with open source, and it sort of stops there,” Gustafson says. “But the open-source community has gone beyond Linux—and it’s taking aim at an entirely new market.”
At the high end, open source, he says, has become a foundation for grid computing and high-performance computing cluster projects. He cites the Globus Toolkit, open source software used for assembling grids.
On the other end of the computing spectrum, Gustafson notes the emergence of the “hybrid desktop” involving both open-source and proprietary wares. Such environments may come into play for organizations with 30,000 users and more, Gustafson says. Not every user needs “the same level of service in terms of a desktop offering,” he explains. “We do believe we can create a very low cost of ownership desktop by leveraging open source.”
The CSC report notes that the OpenOffice office software suite is growing in market share as both organizations and consumers adopt it.
One concern with hybrid environments is interoperability, and Gustafson says CSC’s Global Infrastructure group has been working on that problem. He says CSC has been delving into “a whole set of scenarios” for interoperability and will discuss its findings at an executive forum this fall.
Open source also can help unite individual desktops. Gustafson cites the example of an engineer who may use a Unix workstation for engineering chores and a Windows PC for office functions. He says organizations can use providers such as VMware to provide a virtual instance of a Windows world and Linux for “anything of an engineering nature.”
“There have been a number of cases where the world of the unified desktop has now emerged,” he said.
Despite those developments, many organizations “don’t really realize to what extent open source has already pervaded them,” Gustafson said. In addition to pure open-source developments, numerous offerings from commercial vendors have open-source components under the hood. He says customers need only peruse the licensing agreement of products such as WebSphere to see how “rich and robust it is in terms of open-source capabilities.”
This embedding, however, raises intellectual property and licensing considerations. Unless a piece of open source software is placed in the public domain, access to it is subject to stated conditions of use, the report notes.
“There is a lot of concern out there,” Gustafson says. “This is forcing developers to think about the inclusion of open source and understanding, purposefully, the licensing agreements.”
Gustafson says developers can find help in companies such as Black Duck Software, which offers information services for managing software intellectual property.
CIOs will also play a role in managing intellectual property. “They are going to be the stewards of the management of intellectual property, and they are going to be accountable for [open-source content] in their operations.”
Gustafson advises closer collaboration between an organization’s information technology side and its legal advisers. “IT departments will need to get closer to them,” he says.
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