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So Much Work To Do!

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Few weeks ago I was invited to a dinner in Manchester with a group of CIOs. It was the occasion to talk about Open Source and the use of Open Source Software in the Enterprise.

The conversation went on for quite a while on what is OSS, why OSS is relevant for an Enterprise and how a relatively large organisation can get benefit from OSS. To me, it was time for a sanity check.

When you work in the OSS world, as many of us do, you tend to forget the fears, the doubts and all in all the deep differences between companies who have embraced OSS and others who have not. I am not referring to Linux as a server platform here, since Linux distributions are nowadays recognised as a great server environment and people tend to forget it is OSS. I refer to OSS in general and to the way OSS is used by developers, IT professionals and end users.

Back to my original subject, i.e. the dinner with the CIOs, I will skip the details of a good Brit meal enjoyed by an Italian who is quite fussy when it is a matter of good cuisine, adding the fact that he is a vegetarian. Sticking to the main point, the conversation went on for quite a while on some basic topics. So, the first question I asked the audience was regarding their experience with OSS. Some CIOs mentioned Firefox, some others Linux, others had in mind the last version of a famous media player that could play any kind of media file, contrary to other closed source products.

My main question to the attendees was: what are your feelings about OSS? Well, many attendees were scared by OSS. They relate open source to some blokes in a garage or to a nerd seated all day (after school) in front of a computer in his bedroom. Too much television and blockbusters, I would say. So, where is quality? Where is the stability and robustness of the code?

I tried to lead the attendees to a ground that could be well understood. Take Microsoft for example. I used the Microsoft vs Mozilla classical comparison: which one is more stable, more secure? Would you say that Internet Explorer is more advanced than Firefox? Does it provide a better usability or compatibility? It was easy to find an agreement here and many people revealed that Firefox is their favourite browser, but they did not consider it as an Open Source Software.

There were some other obvious examples, like the stability, performance and scalability provided by Windows Servers vs Linux. “Would you be scared to install a Linux server in your data centre today?”, that was the question. “No, not anymore”, was the answer in unison. So, from the browser, to the server, you can easily move to a more suitable ground, at least for me, which is MySQL. We have estimated 12M+ MySQL server installations and 16 of the 20 most visited web sites use MySQL as their main relational database, probably generating more transactions than the 16 most important banks in the world. Would you be scare to use MySQL as a relational database? The attendees were still not convinced, but at least I instilled some interest.

Another interesting point was raised when we talked about the lifecycle of OSS. Some attendees believed that OSS is more likely to disappear after few months or years, whilst closed source software is more likely to stay around to longer time. So, here is another question for my audience: “have you ever used products like Vignette, Broadvision, Interwoven or Bluemartini?”. Sad faces stared the empty plates, trying to remember the last time they saw the announcement of a new version of what’s left from these famous brands. Then I asked if they heard about projects running on Apache, JBoss, Drupal or Hibernate in their organisations. A mix of different answers revolted the sad faces to cautious smiles. The message was clear: no matter if the software is open or not, the more the software is used, the more it is likely to stay and be adopted for a long time.

At the end of this experience that I wanted to share, one might wonder what is the lesson to learn here. Well, it is pretty simple.

There is so much to do!

This is the reason why I am [still] so excited to work with MySQL. We have an incredible Community, with amazingly skilled contributors. But in my opinion there is a gap, a broken link between OSS and the Enterprise. This gap is particularly visible with MySQL. This is my main focus and where I want to be. Educate the Enterprise to the use of OSS, with focus on MySQL, of course. The more we attract the Enterprise in a virtuous circle, the more this circle can expand and everybody can benefit from this expansion.

So, enjoy the ride, there is more to come!

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Written by Ivan Zoratti

26 August 2010 at 6:29 pm