VMWare and the Open-Source Debate
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Between 2005 and 2010 I was an open-source vigilante.
As a blogger about open-source software for ZDNet, I naturally identified with my readers, who used open-source software and believed in it. So whenever a story crossed my desk, I looked at it from an open-source point of view.
The strength of open source lies at the bottom of the stack. The closer to the computer your software lies, the more likely it is that an open-source process will make economic sense. The closer it is to you, the user, the less likely it is.
Let me explain with an example.
But the company wants open-source help in moving "up the stack" and creating a platform as a service (PaaS) offering. So VMWare's Cloud Foundry, which it acquired with SpringSource, is now open-source, under the Apache license.
VMWare has even had Cloud Foundry adopted as an Apache project. This helps counter a Red Hat (RHT) PaaS offering called OpenShift.
Last week, VMWare moved CloudFoundry to a new .org address, Cloudfoundry.org, and added an open-source tool for deployment and lifecycle management of clouds, called BOSH, to the mix. It then referred to itself as "the Linux of the cloud."
Vigilantes took umbrage.
ITworld's Brian Proffitt blogged that CloudFoundry's moves were "more an attempt to supplant Linux's popularity than just attach themselves to the ever-rising Linux star."
VMWare responded by bragging about its business success.
Let's cut through the rhetoric.
All software is complicated, but where it sits makes a difference. A broken application hurts only the user. A broken operating system hurts all applications and users of that system.
What Linux and open source proved is that when you "give away" operating system code, there are more eyes on it when something goes wrong, more hands working to make it better.
In practice, this means the closer to the user the code is, the fewer people are affected by a problem, while the closer to the computer the code is, the more people have an incentive to get the problem solved.