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Open Source as Business Strategy

Making a public open-source project successful takes more than a press release and putting some code outside the firewall. Open source is a development methodology, but companies whose thinking stops there will find the experience disappointing. Open source is sometimes called a lifestyle, which means that successful open-source projects operate under a set of cultural conventions that may be foreign or difficult for some companies to accept. Public-open source is not a cost-saving mechanism, and it takes a careful business analysis to justify using it.

This book focuses on what a company needs to do to make open source a part of its business. This starts with understanding the business reasons for using open source and goes on to the details of day-to-day project activities. Included are examples of how companies such as Sun, IBM, HP, and Cisco Systems have successfully benefited from their use of open source.

Our examples tend to be drawn from Sun projects. The reason for this is that we have had the opportunity to observe not only the reaction of the community and pundits to company-sponsored open-source projects and the reports of people working on the inside on these projects, but also the internal discussions, pro and con, good and bad, of the decision makers. We were able to see what advice was taken and not taken, and what the results were. Sun is neither the best practitioner of open source as a business strategy nor the worst. Sun's record is spotty with some good successes and several embarrassments; the company embraces some of the fundamental tenets of openness and working with a community that are required for a successful use of open source as a strategy, but it often fails to embrace them thoroughly enough to realize all the benefits.

We do not advocate using open source blindly as a strategy, and we are not die-hard promoters of open source. We hope this book is a balanced look at the pros and cons of open source, along with tested advice on how to succeed once open source has been chosen as a part of a company's strategy.

Innovation Happens Elsewhere
Ron Goldman & Richard P. Gabriel
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