The tip of the open source spear

The point today is that the real challenge for Linux is just now coming over the horizon, that is, the creation of something new, and profitable.

I'm going to write about this at length next week, but for now, as the press bids farewell to LinuxWorld in San Francisco, something needs to be said.

Linux and open source should not be confused with one another. Linux is open source, but so is much else.

Instead, Linux is the tip of a spear aimed, mainly, at what used to be called the "big iron" market. You could see that on the show floor, dominated as it was by booths from IBM, Oracle, AMD and Motorola.

The open source spear, in turn, is aimed not at Microsoft but at margins generally. Open source thrives wherever margins are vulnerable. It cuts margins away, in great chunks. It commoditizes anything which has, in fact, become a commodity. It forces resources toward creating something new.

This last is important, but it's often obscured. So many open source projects are based on replicating the past, on rebuilding something that has already been built by others, that critics are bound to call it somehow dishonest.

What Linux has done, within this larger movement, is to make Unix what it was meant to be, the default OS for "big iron," which we now call servers. Like Tolkien's ring, it found all the other Unixes, and bound them together, by doing what every Unix vendor feared doing on their own, compressing margins to the bone.

The point today is that the real challenge for Linux is just now coming over the horizon, that is, the creation of something new, and profitable.

There were hints of that this week. Single-stack databases. Server racks that run multiple operating systems.

For next year, more like this, please. 

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