Open Source, the beginning
This is the first real post in the Open Source category of my blog, but one of many in the blog as a whole, and one of many to come on Open Source. If you have read my blog from the beginning you will know that much of my recent experience is with Enterprise Infrastructures, and that has to a large extent involved software from IBM/LOTUS and Microsoft. Integration with Unix systems being through well defined and mature interfaces like NFS, X-Windows and DNS. This means that I have a lot of familiarity with Microsoft and I am open about the fact that there are things to admire about Microsoft, (and many things to not admire of course), however I have a long held low tolerance for Zealotry which I have talked about previously, but want to expand on here.
When I say I dislike Zealotry, I am not talking about passion, I am talking about taking a stance for or against something that can not be defended by rational argument. This causes me a problem, because as an enterprise architect, I spend my life having to defend the decisions I take with rational argument, and for me, ‘I hate Microsoft’ or ‘I hate Unix’, just does not pass the test. Second as an architect I have to recognise real world constraints such as legacy applications, investment prioritisation, application compatibility, cultural aversion to change or risk etc in my solutions. These two factors have shaped most of my thinking around the Linux/Windows and previously Unix/Windows debate.
However that is changing, and this blog will chart that change. However before I dive into that I want to provide two of the main reasons why Open Source has become important to me personally and also professionally.
Reason 1: Credibility
I have noticed an increasing number of well respected Microsoft employees or expert system integrators either migrating to Linux or becoming expert in both Windows and Linux. These individuals seem to have maintained a rational view of the world and are able to develop solutions recognising the strengths and weaknesses of both platforms. It’s also interesting to see this happening in other areas, a good example being the .NET/Mono community who talk of the elegance of the .NET framework, whilst at the same time criticising Microsoft for lacking the vision to provide cross platform support. I want to ensure that I am more than credible as an architect, open to, and conversant with the benefits of Open and Closed Source alternatives and their respective merits.
Reason 2: Concern
I have become increasingly concerned about the prospect of the worlds infrastructure being run by the proprietary technology of a single supplier. I increasingly feel that the world’s IT infrastructure needs to be owned by the world, or at least the standards should be owned by the world. That’s not to say that I am confident that the mechanisms are in place for this to happen naturally with Open Source as it is delivered today, but more of that in later articles.
Professionally I find myself increasingly being asked to provide advice on Open Source alternatives and to develop solutions based on them.