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Microsoft investment means open source is now a movement not a community

Embrace Microsoft says Drupal founder

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For many years now, developers around the world have celebrated and promoted the numerous benefits that open source has to offer IT and business communities.

Despite the flare for technology innovation and bringing new offerings to market, the real value of the open source community is the culture of the people that represent it. A shared ethos, coupled with a collaborative working model and mutual respect has delivered and will continue to deliver cutting edge software offerings that are increasingly competing with traditional proprietary vendors.

But open source has moved beyond simply being a novelty or hobby, as its potential for huge cost reductions and delivering significant savings to the bottom line have become recognised by hard pressed businesses around the globe. Implementations of open source projects can also now be found in many countries in the public sector, with the UK, US and France being notable examples. Only recently, it was announced that Iceland was shifting over to an open source model to help make savings and reduce the deficit.

For those of us working in the community, the only surprise with these headline-grabbing public sector implementations was that they weren’t happening faster. But with an imbedded culture of mega vendor contracts acting as a roadblock to open source adoption, it’s easy to see why the public sector has often found itself way behind businesses when it comes to making those much needed software savings.

When making the case for open source, despite the numerous benefits on offer, it’s vital that providers demonstrate they have the same structure and ecosystems you would expect from a major proprietary software vendor. In this context, open source offerings need to be appropriately packaged up with hosting, consultancy and the support network that many IT decision-makers consider to be a necessity for implementation.

That’s why I founded Acquia, which serves as a commercial vehicle for enabling Drupal open source adoption into enterprise-size organisations, offering support and service level agreements that enterprise users expect.

But the open source community has recently seen two major developments that have fundamentally changed the perception of everything we have to offer. The first being Red Hat reaching the $1billion dollar revenue mark, which provided a huge confidence boost to open source developers that their business model is profitable and can be successful. This landmark achievement will open the floodgates to more developer-focused organisations achieving unprecedented success and puts further pressure on the traditional proprietary vendors that have dominated the IT landscape for so long.

Another landmark announcement is that Microsoft has chosen to move into the open source space, a signal of just how seriously the value of community development has become. Some expected this news to be met with a negative reaction, but the open source community should celebrate the fact that a large proprietary software organisation is investing in open source and extend a warm welcome to Microsoft.

With businesses looking for IT solutions that can deliver both innovation and cost savings, there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in open source.

With open source businesses reaching the $1billion dollar revenue mark and leading proprietary firms opening up new subsidiaries to invest in open source, the open source community should feel that the best days are still yet to come. Once a fast growing self-contained community, open source is now recognised as a genuine alternative to proprietary software with a serious offering that will empower businesses across the globe.

Dries Buytaert, Founder Drupall

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