Open source is a topic that raised many controversy in the last decade. Especially if you speak about enterprise software. The trajectory of open source software moved from absolute prohibition to high level of popularization. In my view, the situation is interesting in the context of PLM software. The specific characteristic of PLM is related to a very long life span of the software. PLM system developed and deployed 10-15 years ago are continue to be in active production mode by many customers. However, the question of how PLM software can leverage the value of open source software remains open.
Readwrite article Open Source Should Thank These Five Companies put an interesting perspective of the value of open source software for enterprise community. In my view, the article brings examples of software components that can be re-used by enterprise vendors. However, technology is not everything. People and culture is another important element of open source contribution. Here is my favorite passage from the article:
"To encourage excellence, you need to do things out in the open,” Kreps [Jay Kreps of LinkedIn] said. “Engineers are like everyone else—if everybody’s watching, they want to look good. Otherwise we’re building a crappy internal tool that’s just good enough to meet our immediate needs.”
I have to admit, open source initiatives didn’t start in web companies only. During the past decade we’ve seen significant contribution to open source made by major software vendors like IBM and some others specifically if you speak about massive investment in Linux projects. Another Readwrite article is trying to establish balance in open source contribution debates. However, the main conclusion remains the same – web companies these days leads the way for open and innovative technological development. I found conclusion interesting:
"…old school" companies like IBM don’t get the credit they deserve. But it is the Web companies that are building data superstructure on the Internet".
I found the comment about data superstructure important in the context of our PLM software discussion. The replacement of Windows servers and other backend infrastructure by Linux and other open source software is just a matter of time. Also, I believe this is an active process for many enterprise IT organizations these days. However, the question of data management foundation for future PLM software remains hugely open.
What is my conclusion? Open source can re-shape the landscape and future technological trajectories of PLM software. Technologies polished and contributed by web giants to open source community can provide a solid foundation to existing PLM vendors and startup companies to develop future foundation of scalable enterprise product data management solutions. Open culture combined with public quality acceptance can be another major shift that to differentiate future enterprise software developers. Just my thoughts…