In an earlier post, I argued that Open Source had devolved into a brand name for low cost software because the vast majority of users never touched the source code or contributed code back to the project.
However, Billy Marshall, the CEO of rPath, rightly pointed out to me that there is a second segment of companies using Open Source who do modify the source code – ISVs. The traditional paradigm of developing commercial software products is to build and test the product on multiple, specific hardware and software configurations. That approach is now changing as virtualization technology matures. With virtualization, ISVs now have the option of writing and testing their software on a single configuration and then wrapping their code in a container that can be seamlessly deployed on a wide variety of hardware and software platforms. Using this alternative approach, ISVs can redeploy a large portion of their engineering resources from porting and testing to building value-added features.
One of the offshoots of the virtualization is that the end user is isolated from the infrastructure decisions of the ISV. If an ISV decides to deploy their solution on customized versions of Open Source packages that are optimized for their specific needs, it has no impact on the end user. All the end users see is the virtual container. This ability for ISVs to customize the infrastructure is what creates this second segment of Open Source users.
When you start considering the business opportunities that will be created by the emergence of ISVs using customized Open Source products, it quickly becomes clear that the beneficiaries will not be companies using the standard model of commercial Open Source like RedHat. Those companies’ businesses are built on standardization – supporting very specific configurations across a large number of users. In contrast, this second segment is defined by variety – each ISV customizing Open Source products to meet their specific needs.
In our view, this creates the opportunity for a new set of companies to emerge who offer ISVs solutions for handling the complexity of managing and deploying software built on customized infrastructure. If you know any companies that fit that bill, this would be a good time to invest.