Open Source in the Enterprise: Safely Boring

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Yesterday I popped into part of the London Open Source Forum. This was a laudable effort organised by Red Hat in conjunction with some of its partners to corrupt young and innocent minds – well, senior managers, at least – and convince them about the immanent wonderfulness of open source. To that end, they wheeled out some of the big names in the enterprise free software world like Matt Asay, Simon Phipps and Jan Wildeboer.

I'd not met Wildeboer before, although we had interacted on Twitter and through this blog. In a fairly forceful comment on one of my posts, Wildeboer described himself as

Red Hat EMEA Evangelist, organiser of various demonstrations against software patents, known for his famous Karlsruhe happening with programmers wearing prisoner suits.

No prisoner suits yesterday, although he was sporting his canonical red hat during a fluent talk that, amongst other things, reported on his recent meeting with Dutch government ministers. They seem to have seen the light about open source, open data and open content: this means that going forward they should provide a very handy case-study in how to apply free software to government for others to study and learn from.

Someone else who often used to turn up in the Red Hat, er, red hat, was Alan Cox, who left at the end of last year. Wildeboer confirmed my suspicion back then that he decided to part company with Red Hat because the latter had moved too far up the open source stack for his low-level liking.

And that, really, was the central message of the forum: that open source has moved on from its hacker roots, that it is mainstream, robust, and that everyone's using it. Or, to put it bluntly, that business should regard open source as safely boring – in the nicest possible way.

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