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Open standards unlock software potential

By  , portals journalist.
Johannesburg, 15 Nov 2012

Unpacking all things open source, Red Hat’s open source evangelist for EMEA, Jan Wildeboer, stressed that open source software means increased flexibility and freedom.

During his keynote address at the Virtual Data Centres Forum, held at Montecasino this week, Wildeboer, sporting his trademark red hat, provided a brief history of the development of open source, open standards and open content.

According to Wildeboer, the trend that we now term ‘open source’ was pioneered by a man called Richard Stallman, who believed that all efficient and effective programs should be shared with others; this was the basis of free software as a philosophy, which is known today as open source software.

But open source does not necessary mean free, according to Wildeboer, who commented that, when you talk about open source and free software, they are similar, but are not exactly the same thing.

Wildeboer then mentioned the work of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man deemed the creator of the Internet. Berners-Lee, like Stallman, believed in the sharing of knowledge. “You cannot propose something as a universal space and at the same time keep control of it,” said Berners-Lee of his decision to make the Internet an open system.

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“We can have the most wonderful open source software for everything, but if we have to use proprietary formats, these are of no benefit,” said Wildeboer.

For Wildeboer, open standards are particularly necessary when talking about virtualisation and cloud computing, adding that open source is the next big thing in this space, particularly when talking about migration to another vendor. “Locking you into a solution and driving up the exit costs is what vendors do. Open source is all about zero-cost switching; what we care about is proving ourselves to you every day, and if you don’t like it, you can walk away,” said Wildeboer, adding that this kind of pressure only serves to make open source software vendors better at their jobs.

“Closed standards are really dangerous because they destroy the level playing field in the market,” said Wildeboer. Interoperability is something that open source software vendors strive towards, said Wildeboer, and this is what drives open source business. He described a lack of interoperability as a “cartel” that facilitates vendor lock-in.

Moving on to open content, Wildeboer mentioned Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, who was against copyright legislation. When talking about a lack of open content, Wildeboer said it is not uncommon to have inaccessible data because it was produced using software programs that went out of date in the 90s. “We are destroying our knowledge at an extremely fast pace. Sometimes it is even faster than we are creating new knowledge. Accessing data from the past is impossible with proprietary systems.”

According to Wildeboer, open source software has proven itself in the market, delivering more value for less money. “Eighty percent of the public cloud market is run on open source analytics, and 100% of the stock markets on this planet run on Linux,” said Wildeboer.

“Companies are wasting a lot of time and money because of things like propriety technology and interoperability. The only way to get out of this situation is to use open standards. The open source way gives you a lot of opportunities. The cloud and virtualisation market is driven by open source. If you see open source as the opportunity that it is, wonderful things can happen,” Wildeboer concluded.

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