The emergence of super-communities --vertically-driven open source communities -- is ongoing and will be a key trend in 2012, the Olliance Group contends.
In a recently published report outlining key trends and challenges for the open source community, Olliance's Andrew Aitken notes that the emergence of vertically oriented super communities such as Polarsys, for the aerospace community, and financial-industry led OpenMama, are not only indicative of the maturing of the the open source industry but the evolution of open source supply chains serving industries which share significant economies of scale, regulatory overhead, technological requirements and standards.
Polarsys was created at the Eclipse Foundation and OpenMama is hosted by the Linux Foundation.
Olliance identified four examples of emerging super-communities emerging:
- Polarsys, an aerospace community launched by Airbus and hosted by the Eclipse Foundation
- New York Stock Exchange-led OpenMama project, hosted by the Linux Foundation
- The GENIVI Alliance, a consortium of automotive OEMs and suppliers building an open source in-vehicle-infotainment platform
- OSEHRA, an open source community focused around electronic health care records management seeded by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
These super-communities allow various players in the industries including OEMs, developers and service providers to share code and learnings, thus increasing efficiencies and profits.
Here's Aiken's take on the advent of super-communities:
"One of the common fictions about open source software projects is that they are not started for financial gain. That may have been true a decade ago, but it is hardly the norm today," wrote Aitken, whose Olliance Group is now owned by Black Duck Software. " These industry super communities, with the exception of OSEHRA, are started almost exclusively for financial gain. By reducing the overhead of non-differentiated software and developing shared industry support models, the participating organizations expect to reduce software maintenance overhead, allowing them to invest more resources in developing innovative solutions that help them compete in their markets."
Aitken also points out that a "potential negative" is possible fragmentation if vendors in these open source supply chains "restrict their developers to contributing to narrow, vertically-oriented open source solutions.
But he's not super worried. The maturity and complexity of the open source community -- and solutions to fragmentation issued arrived at by the Eclipse Foundation and Apache -- demonstrate a broad understanding and acceptance of openness as a key requirement within each community.
"Unlike Polarsys, OSEHRA and OpenMama, which were initially launched by a single or very small group of closed source vendors to promote an open source technology and standard, the GENIVI Alliance is a broad industry-specific coalition of automotive OEMs and their supply chain, dedicated to developing an open source automotive in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) platform," Aitken noted.
The model for these super-communities will likely be a blend of open source and supply chain methodologies, he added.
"It will be interesting to see how the structure and governance of these communities evolve. Will they embrace the open source ethos of collaboration, meritocracy and transparency or will they stay wedded to the hierarchical structures typical of highly-regulated industries? Will we see a harmonic convergence of two distinct models? Or a flexible structure that adheres to industry requirements while allowing competitors and partners to contribute together and share the common denominator software while driving innovation on top?"