Infrastructure

The difference between open source and open governance

Share this post:

Open source open governanceWhen Sun and then Oracle bought MySQL AB, the company behind the original development, MySQL open source database development governance gradually closed. Now, only Oracle writes updates. Updates from other sources — individuals or other companies — are ignored. MySQL is still open source, but it has a closed governance.

MySQL is one of the most popular databases in the world. Every WordPress and Drupal website runs on top of MySQL, as well as the majority of generic Ruby, Django, Flask and PHP apps which have MySQL as their database of choice.

When an open source project becomes this popular and essential, we say it is gaining momentum. MySQL is so popular that it is bigger than its creators. In practical terms, that means its creators can disappear and the community will take over the project and continue its evolution. It also means the software is solid, support is abundant and local, sometimes a commodity or even free.

In the case of MySQL, the source code was forked by the community, and the MariaDB project started from there. Nowadays, when somebody says he is “using MySQL”, he is in fact probably using MariaDB, which has evolved from where MySQL stopped in time.

Open source vs. open governance

Open source software’s momentum serves as a powerful insurance policy for the investment of time and resources an individual or enterprise user will put into it. This is the true benefit behind Linux as an operating system, Samba as a file server, Apache HTTPD as a web server, Hadoop, Docker, MongoDB, PHP, Python, JQuery, Bootstrap and other hyper-essential open source projects, each on its own level of the stack. Open source momentum is the safe antidote to technology lock-in. Having learned that lesson over the last decade, enterprises are now looking for the new functionalities that are gaining momentum: cloud management software, big data, analytics, integration middleware and application frameworks.

On the open domain, the only two non-functional things that matter in the long term are whether it is open source and if it has attained momentum in the community and industry. None of this is related to how the software is being written, but this is exactly what open governance is concerned with: the how.

Open source governance is the policy that promotes a democratic approach to participating in the development and strategic direction of a specific open source project. It is an effective strategy to attract developers and IT industry players to a single open source project with the objective of attaining momentum faster. It looks to avoid community fragmentation and ensure the commitment of  IT industry players.

The value of momentum

Open governance alone does not guarantee that the software will be good, popular or useful (though formal open governance only happens on projects that have already captured some attention of IT industry leaders). A few examples of open source projects that have formal open governance are CloudFoundry, OpenStack, JQuery and all the projects under the Apache Software Foundation umbrella.

For users, the indirect benefit of open governance is only related to the speed the open source project reaches momentum and high popularity.

Open governance is important only for the people looking to govern or contribute. If you just want to use, open source momentum is far more important.

IBM Cloud is open by design. Find out more.

Add Comment
One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *


Dan Anders

@Avi, great article and distinction, which is too often not made. I do feel the 2nd to last sentence implies that open source governance is not important to OSS consumers (non-contributors/non-governors), though this was somewhat de-emphasized in the final sentence. Without open governance, a consumer of OSS can have no confidence that the OSS is being matured in-line with the interests of the community of consumers.

Reply
More Infrastructure stories

Accelerate and streamline AI and HPC workloads with new NVIDIA GPUs on IBM Cloud

Each day, data scientists around the world are using artificial intelligence (AI) and high performance computing (HPC) to solve complex challenges and create new business value from data. Whether they are training a chatbot to provide better customer service, creating reservoir simulations for new oil fields or teaching autonomous cars to mind the rules of […]

Continue reading

Connect with IBM Cloud Managed Application Services at Think 2018

Are you ready for something new? On 19 – 22 March, great minds in technologies ranging from blockchain, AI, data and cloud to IT infrastructure, Internet of Things (IoT) and security will come together in Las Vegas to share their knowledge in hundreds of sessions, demonstrations and face-to-face conversations. The event is called Think 2018, […]

Continue reading

10 of the top IBM Cloud news stories of 2017

If you were to boil down the news of 2017 into a single, pithy slogan, you might make it, “Expect the unexpected.” That sentiment was true for IBM Cloud, with exciting new client announcements, big leaps forward in technologies such as containers, and partnerships that continue to drive cloud adoption around the world. Yet all […]

Continue reading