Thursday, June 14, 2007

Visible Source Software

I spent the last three days at Gartner's Application Architecture, Development, and Integration (AADI) Summit in Nashville. I had attended the AIWS conference in December and many of the themes were similar but there was some new information and predictions made that was great to hear.

I also had a chance to talk with several analysts, one of which, Mark Driver, has open source software as one of his focus areas. Something we talked about and he subsequently presented on is that many companies are positioning themselves as building open source software but that it isn't always the case that it is really open source. In fact, he says that Gartner will be changing their identification of some from open source to something else. This is because companies are using open source licenses that aren't truly open, either through not being able to use and extend the code or not being able to contribute back in any way.

Mark liked to think of this as accessible source software (doesn't result in a good acronym, although perhaps appropriate) and I suggested we talk about this kind of software as visible source software. In his presentation he talked about this as gated source software.

I like visible source as I think it properly distinguishes between those companies that are truly open, have a community, and opportunity for "outsiders" to join the community and contribute, and those that simply make their source available and try to benefit from the open source label but don't really allow for anyone to directly participate or become a contributor or committer. For all intents and purposes, the software is simply "visible" to others.

At Sun, we clearly believe in true open source software and this is evidenced by the contributors and committers in Project Open ESB. There are 7 companies listed as Community Partners, many of which are building components for the platform and several of those in open source with commit rights to the project, plus a growing number of individuals with commit rights that are building and contributing to components being developed in the project and community.

If you are interested in joining a truly open source community, come join Project Open ESB.