Open Source Future

opensource_logoOpen source sounds alturistic. If its promise is true the world will accept dumping the heavy profit making sources.

The Times of India interviews Jonathan Schwartz (22 June 2009)

The CPM has long supported the free software movement and launched a poll website based on such software. The BJP’s L K Advani recently threw his 
weight behind open source technologies. Jonathan Schwartz , CEO of Sun Microsystems, tells Sujit John that open source indeed is the future:

Is the rate of adoption of open source technologies growing?

It’s accelerating rapidly. And with economic pressures mounting, free enterprise software is looking more and more compelling. Open office, our free office productivity suite, is now downloaded 1,00,000 times a day. A year ago, it was half that. Downloads of Glassfish, our open source application server, has also doubled in the last one year, and that of MySQL, the open source database, has increased 30 per cent. This is partly because of our awareness campaigns, but more because of the IT budget cuts, which push you to look for the best free software available to run your business systems.

Where do you see the fastest adoptions?

The fastest adoptions are in places where there’s rapid economic expansion, good bandwidth and large student populations. We have seen some of the highest adoptions in India because of the first and third reasons. Universities are major seeding grounds for open source innovations. And when these students join the workforce or start their own companies, they disproportionately tend to select free software. We did a poll of 2,000 university students and found that less than 6 per cent knew Oracle database, but more than 90 per cent knew MySQL.

How are big companies and governments looking at it?

Hundred per cent of Fortune 500 companies are now using free software. Ten years ago that was barely 10 per cent. We see household names like Google, Yahoo, Sun being built entirely on free software. Governments have been amongst the most aggressive endorsers and users of open source software. Governments in developing countries especially have decided that they do not want to architect into their society a dependence on an American proprietary software company. For instance, governments are adopting open office as a means of escaping Microsoft Office. If every Indian citizen had to pay $500 for an Office suite, that’s good for Microsoft but not for India. We have seen this in India, Brazil, across Africa, the British government recently standardised on open source software.

How much is the overall cost advantage?

The initial cost of putting in free software, including service and support fees, will be just 15 to 20 per cent of proprietary software. A mid-size enterprise may run Oracle and pay $10 million a year for a database software. For an equivalent licence from Sun, they will pay $7,50,000 to $1 million. For application servers, we tend to be even less expensive. There’s a roughly 10:1 price advantage. And this year, we are at a point where we will achieve feature parity equivalent scale, quality and functionality with proprietary peers. Open source is generally more stable and better supported.

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