Lately I’ve come to the realization, that we are to blame for our own inability to promote Open Source and the adaptation of Open Source proficiency. Being an Open Source evangelist and consultant, this is very weird to be said by one like myself, however, this is my realization – and I will explain.
In the early days of Open Source adaptations (late 90’s, early 2000), Open Source software was a somewhat magical solution that meant: pay nothing, get more. Software packages like Linux, Apache, mySQL, PostgreSQL and programming languages like PERL and PHP had lowered the bar on the adaptation of new technologies, and enabled a prolific number of solutions and services.
I still remember the early days, when a Windows based Mail Relay would cost anything between 800$ to 1200$, and I would come in with a Linux based solution that would do the same thing for FREE – amazing. As time progressed, so did the technology and the penetration of Open Source into new fields. CRM, ERP, Telecoms, management – all of these now enjoy a diverse number of Open Source solutions. However, the original concept of ‘Open Source = Magical FREE Solution’ had still remained in the minds of managers and business people.
Today we are confronted with ‘would-be’ Open Source solution experts, which adopt and develop upon Open Source products and project various applications. In example, let’s take a look at Asterisk. Asterisk has a multitude of Open Source solutions, ranging from PBX system, Prepaid calling cards, Wholesale routing platforms, Attendance system, Presence systems – and even a plant watering solution. The problem with this ever growing number of solutions is that Asterisk is immediately considered to be: “A magical solution” capable of solving any problem – when it’s not even remotely related to Asterisk. For example, a friend of mine had been asked to develop an Asterisk based solution, that would support a total of 250 concurrent call initiations and up-to 3000 concurrent calls on the system. Any Asterisk developer would take a look at this, and would immediately say: “Hmmm…. this requires several servers, but hey, what about the application itself? that would also have an impact”. Now, the customer of the project has a ‘would-be’ Asterisk tech in his company which said: “I was able to initiate 200 concurrent SIP invites to Asterisk via SIPP, no problem’ – HELLO! STUPID! where’s the application? where’s the database? where’s the user information flow? comm’on, are you listening to yourself speak? or simply are filled with the gasses coming out of your ass that are affecting your brain?
Now, once the customer learns that Asterisk is most probably not the right solution for the problem, he becomes angry. Why? because he now learns that he needs to spend about 10 times more money than he anticipated for the creation of this tool – well, that’s life when you have no idea what you are doing/saying, and you believe in magical solutions. However, we – “The Open Source Community – is the one to blame for this scenario, because we got the world accustomed to the idea that Open Source is like magic – flip the Linux magic wand, and the rest will solve itself.
I’d like to open the floor for discussion on this, as I believe most of you will have something to say about this.