Secrecy, OpenSource, Efficiency and Business Models

I was recently visiting a software group at another company in the area and at some point we ended talking about how information flows in our companies. Their company keeps information flow very tightly controlled; even within the company a group often does not know what other groups are doing. By contrast, I pointed out that I often get my information from Blogs.Sun.Com.

The secrecy or free flow of information is a reflection of the underlying business model: the traditional for-fee Right-to-Use license (which may or not include support) versus the new model based on free Right-to-Use plus optional for-fee support. In the new model the penalty for making most information public is very limited, while the efficiencies of the free flow of information are huge: agility, reusability, connectivity to the customers, architectural review, etc.

There are a few specific cases where it makes business sense to keep some information confidential, like some performance benchmarks, and in some cases privacy may even be mandated, like in pre-released SPEC results, but otherwise, the benefits of public information greatly outweight the disadvantages. Blogs in particular have been extremely useful in addressing large Time-Zone distances and in providing a practical virtual alternative to the water cooler.

Here is another example of the impact of the business model: in the traditional model preannouncing a release might kill substantial revenue but in a subscription-based model there should be no negative impact and actually the opposite may be true! We have often seen sales happen because the future roadmap can help sell the current release.

The move to Open Source has deep implications for the software industry; in more ways that one We are not in Kansas anymore! The next few years will be fun!

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