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Time for Open Source Think Tank 2008

The third annual Open Source Think Tank hosted by the Olliance Group and DLA Piper starts tomorrow in Napa Valley, CA. This is an invitation-only event for leading open source thinkers to collaborate on ways to resolve commercial open source issues. I'm looking forward to the sessions, though I wonder if discussion will be dominated by the MySQL and Yahoo acquisitions. It's not off-topic, but I'm hoping that things stay on track for the primary topic, the future of commercial open source, rather than current mergers and acquisitions.

One problem I've seen with lots of writing about open source companies is that somehow, because it's open source, it must always be non-profit. While I personally believe there should always be a matching, freely downloadable version to what is offered under subscription, I don't think that means you can't sell closed software to supplement the open software. "Commercial" and "open source" are not opposite ends of the spectrum, they're orthogonal.

I've been seeing resistance to open source adoption above the infrastructure layer. Lots of reasons having to do with FUD, but some good valid ones too. Skillsets is a big one.

The thing is, why is skills a problem, when we find skills for other development / IT jobs? I think this is a symptom, and the real disease is the lack of finishing in OSS applications. Some are good, but many others involve several packages, and there are version incompatibilities, and you quickly run into problems that require knowing Apache + Tomcat or Jboss + perl or Java, etc. ad nauseum.

Heck, I've had that problem with using two different Business Objects products which under the hood deploy on open source technologies. It's pretty bad when even a COTS vendor is having troubles - their answer was, run these two applications on different servers because the Tomcat versions are incompatible.

Until the applications install and run as promised without worrying about dependency ugliness and conflicts, as well as polished documentation and troubleshooting manuals, I think OSS applications will stay in the underdog category.

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