As a spotty student back in 1988 I used to read the Economist while I was studying for a degree in Economics in the luxurious surrounds of Wolverhampton’s swanky Polytechnic campus. There was a superb editorial at the time entitled, “Embrace crunchiness; societies are strongest when people are clear where they stand.” The meaning of which, in those recessionary times, was that in “crunchy” times winners win and losers lose.
“Crunchiness brings wealth. Wealth leads to sogginess. Sogginess brings poverty. Poverty creates crunchiness. From this immutable cycle we know that to hang on to wealth, you must keep things crunchy. Crunchy systems are those in which small changes have big effects, leaving those affected by them in no doubt whether they are up or down, rich or broke, winning or losing, dead or alive. The going was crunchy for Captain Scott as he plodded southwards. He was either on top of the snow-crust and smiling, or floundering thigh-deep.”
Hang on, isn’t this a software blog? I didn’t order Laissez-Faire Free Market Economic Policy For Dummies did I? No you didn’t – I’ll get to the point.
Red Hat’s President and CEO Jim Whitehurst does a “State of the Union” blog (which I think should be a mandatory action for all CEOs) during which he talks about the company’s double-digit growth rates for both revenue and headcount throughout the course of the recession. Open source appears to have thrived in during the downturn (whether we are out of it or not) and I think that might just be because open source likes the going to be crunchy.
If you had to ascribe the terms ‘wealth and sogginess’ and ‘crunchy and on the edge’ to a) proprietary software systems and b) open source software – which way round would you put them? See what I mean? Open source is all about survival of the fittest rather than survival of the fattest. Now of course that’s doing proprietary vendors a huge disservice, but I am trying to make a point.
Whitehurst goes on to draw more parallels between economics (ok it was government) and the IT industry, “Just one day after taking office, Obama issued a transparency memo to all department heads. This memo was followed by several announcements surrounding open source and government,” he writes.
Yes this conversation then moves to the cloud, yes this conversation then moves to the advantages of virtualisation, yes this conversation then moves to the point of almost becoming a socio-economic debate. Did you see what I did there by using the Neil Kinnock style three-point emphasis style? Joking aside, it’s compelling to think that software systems as hugely influenced as they are now by “enterprise open source”, have been swayed by this technology throughout the recession.
Whitehurst’s blog is only dated yesterday and you can read the whole thing at the link I have provided above. Hopefully, you will also think about the relationship that the IT (and perhaps particularly the software industry) has with economics during these crunchy times and draw a few parallels for yourself.