How could an IT company with sales of more than US$90 billion ever be interested in software essentially available for free?, asked Adam Jollans, open source strategy manager at IBM, at a conference Tuesday. "Because we see huge business opportunities," he said.
Speaking at the Open Source Forum in Potsdam, Germany, Jollans extolled the virtues of the community approach to software development taken by open-source developers. "You may employ a lot of good people in your company," Jollans said. "But the fact is, there are still many more bright people outside your company than there are inside."
IBM has begun using the community approach -- with its peer reviews and open group participation -- to develop commercial software, in addition to open source-based products, according to Jollans. "It's very effective," he said.
Open source is a crucial part of an ever-growing "open community" of software developers, users and other partners, according to Jollans. "The industry is going this way because of the Internet," which has allowed people and businesses to connect, he said. Open source is at the center of a new era of "collaborative innovation," which the Internet has enabled.
But open source is not without its challenges. If something goes wrong, who can IT managers call? "Support is crucial," he said. "CIOs want assurances."
And who should put all the pieces together? "Integration is another big issue," Jollans added.
Yet, at the same time, support and integration also represent "business opportunities" for open-source vendors and systems integrators alike, Jollans said.
If the open-source community today is dominated by software developers in the U.S. and Europe, the next big wave of talent could come from Eastern Europe, Russia and China. "There are some very bright, young minds in these countries," Jollans said. "And they like this idea of collaboration."
The one-day Open Source Forum was hosted by the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering in Potsdam, Germany, together with IBM and Deutsche Telekom.
In addition to the institute, Hasso Plattner, the billionaire co-founder of business software maker SAP, has created a venture capitalist arm in the same city -- Hasso Plattner Ventures Management, which provides early-stage investment for software entrepreneurs.