Open Source Business Conference - Day One Wrap-Up

by Kevin Shockey

For many in attendance at the conference, the themes discussed and the excitement of the event are nothing new. However for me, amidst a whirlwind afternoon, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the relationships that tie everything together; Especially so soon after experiencing them.

Certainly low hanging fruit for my experience is the influence of open source software in commoditizing the software industry. Starting with Kim Polese's keynote speech, "Coping with commodities in the new IT Marketplace", or as she summarized in her conclusion: "Coping with great opportunity." Kim offered up an interesting comparison of the construction industry as an analogy for what she sees happening in IT. As Robert Lefkowitz would later comment in his presentation, she completed her obligation by quoting Doc Searls for drawing her attention to the use of construction related titles in the software like builder, developer, and architect.

She follows the analogy through to illustrate the commoditization of building materials, and how ultimately this enabled the creation of the largest industry in the world. So the inference is that this should happen as well with software.

If nothing else, listening to the speakers today leaves one with a great sense of optimism for open source and the software industry. Something Kim offered early in her speech was the prediction that there would be more money made because of open source than from it. This is certainly true for Google and similar web sites running a mostly open source stack of software.

I truly enjoyed Kim's choice of using the work of Hugh MacLeod from the Gaping Void to illustrate her slide deck. I really enjoyed the graphics, and I think it complemented her optimistic message.

After this session I caught Robert Lefkowitz and his discussion of the "The paradox of choice." Robert is an extremely polished speaker with an even more polished set of ideas, relationships, and conclusions. It goes without saying that his presentation was thought provoking, if a little confusing. I'm sure he knew that some in the audience would get lost in the twisting loops of his thought process and in typical style used that to prove his point.

I'm thankful for Robert for taking questions. He answered one that has been bugging me for a while. I wanted to know how software could become a commodity in the same way as other commodities like orange juice. He offered that it was not the actual software that was becoming interchangeable but the providers of the software. This clears up what I believe most people are referring to when they discuss software commoditization however it is contradictory to Kim's construction industry analogy. I think that there is a little of both going on, and maybe SpikeSource will help on the software side. Then again, maybe Tim O'Reilly's vision of web services holds the ultimate view of what software commoditization holds. When I no longer care how functionality is provided to me then I'll accept that software is interchangeable.

Finishing the day was the long anticipated presentation of Geoffery Moore about why he believes open source has crossed the technology chasm. I'll have to get some sleep before I think I can give a good review of his speech. He offered some great perspectives that I hope to share tomorrow.

Finally I attended the SpikeSource Town Hall Meeting. My many thanks to Robyn Forman for the invitation. This was another very deep discussion which needs special coverage. The meeting was aimed at the many CIO's in attendance and included a lively exchange of experiences and straight from the hip comments. I believe that most in attendance came away with a sense of some of the issues facing CIO's in the enterprise market.

Do you share the sense of optimism?