Call yourself back to the current date, when a very interactive, fast and secure global network of computers in no more a technocrat’s dream but a rock-hard reality! Now the question is what we students have in store for us in this wide sea of opportunities! Answer is simple, “There is something for everybody in here!” In participation age, the outlook of the technologies and people associated with it has very drastically changed. Today, talent and skills are the only requirements to make it big. Amateurs can make into the team of core decision makers of mission critical projects like Linux Kernel or Mozilla Firefox. With almost every important technology, be it operating systems, RDBMS, IDEs, programming languages, business critical process support tools like ERP or productivity suits like office suits, migrating towards community driven open development model, the avenues to show-off your technical skills are almost everywhere. Not to mention, with more than 100,000 projects active on SourceForge alone, one can always find an open source project running in their own area of interest.
The opportunities are not limited to hardcore coders and programmers only. Even people from non-programming or in fact non-computer science backgrounds altogether, are very much in demand. For example, a project to develop Gene sequencing and modeling application would always need contributors from biotechnology and related areas. Right from open sourced microprocessor chips to education support tools for elementary schools, open source community is developing everything, and thus people with knowledge of non-computer fields, especially that of mechanical, electrical, electronics, biotechnology and bioinformatics, finance, languages and artwork are always sort after as consultants to the developers team.
Now the question often raised is how does this model of free and open software work? How is it profitable? Why multibillion dollar companies like Sun, IBM and Google invest so much money in these projects, which finally they don’t even own? What do contributors get in return for all their efforts? There are many answers to these interlinked questions. An open source software model generates revenues via selling professional support. Fundamentally, there are two types of users one can find in this world. First are those who can spend time to save money and there are others who can spend lots of money just to save time. Startups, small and midcap enterprise, computer geeks and educational institutions usually fall in the first group and giant enterprises, business tycoons, and many governmental institutions fall in the second category. The first set of users help in developing the technology by investing their time and skills, and the second set of users invest their money in the community so that the applications can be quickly developed. This way, both the sets of users share a relationship strongly tied by their mutual interest in each other. For example, Sun supports the Apache Foundation, the community which develops Apache web server, Tomcat application server and Apache Derby database management system, in two ways. First it invests millions of dollars in cash to support the contributors. Second it pays its own employees and engineers to contribute to the projects of Apache Foundation. This way Apache Foundation earns enough funds to continue its work, pay to its contributors and organize conferences and meetings worldwide at exotic locations! Continued financial support from companies like Sun and IBM propels the developers at Apache Foundation to come up with better product every release, and a better and free product compels enterprises and business houses to use them. These enterprises and business house which use these open source products in their mission critical applications look for professional support. And there comes companies like Sun and IBM which sell professional support to these customers. As the option of professional support on a high quality, open, free and reliable software falls to be cheaper than proprietary, closed, expensive software and support combo, IT industry has seen many big companies migrating to open technologies. This way open source communities always have money, companies selling support always have customers, and business houses always have better and custom software matching their exact needs! Everyone’s happy, everyone’s winning!!
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