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Any CIO not using open source "should be fired": a conversation with CIOs

Open source changes much in the way a CIO operates. Those who don't listen should be fired, a recent panel found.

I'm reading through the transcript from an excellent CIO event, the CIO Survival Guide for Web 2.0, which was co-hosted by WaveMaker and BSG Alliance (Tuesday, November 6 at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco). Speakers included: Jim Sutter, former CIO of Xerox and Rockwell International; Steve Douty, President of BSG On-Demand Applications; Andrew Aitken, founding partner of the Olliance Group; Lila Tretikov, CIO of SugarCRM; Larry Singer, former CIO of the State of Georgia; Max Rayner, former CIO of SurfControl; and (Moderator) Raven Zachary, Open Source Research, The 451 Group.

The conversation is wide-ranging and insightful. Here are a few of the gems as they relate to open source:

Steve Douty stirred the pot a little with this comment:

So, this is about CIO-safety. I would say that any CIO that doesn't work open source into their near-term plans or future plans should be fired, and that's because he's misappropriating his own resources. If somebody inside of his company -- if his scarce resources of these programs that are all going to retire in 15 years, and if these people are writing code that's out there in an open source, that, to me, is negligence. Yes, there is some maturity to go, but I would tell you that the pace of maturity of open source is going to double and triple over the next coming months, I think if we come back here again in nine months -- in six months -- it would change dramatically from where it is even now.

Max Rayner:

I'd point to a connection. Often open source trivializes the question to just the realm of software. It may be more interesting to look at community-contributed value -- looking at sugar as a competitor, when I was at SalesForce. It was interesting to observe that they made very rapid progress in catching up with features. That rapid progress cost them very little, because there was a lot of community contribution. There is some gold in those hills. In that sense, making it open source, not so you can brag to your friends at a cocktail party, but making it open source because you realize that it's a prerequisite to involving a community that then continues. That makes some sense to me.

Lila Tretikov:

To that point, also, I think what we saw over the last decade is that what we knew open source being -- as potentially buggy, not supported -- you really had to have the right staff who could manage the software, who could really dig into it, and fix the bugs when those bugs arose. Now, it's getting to the point where it's completely on par with commercial software, and, more often than not, it will have a company that stands behind it, and can support it when you need it, as long as you are willing to pay a few bucks for it. On the maturity scale, it gets to the point where, from the perspective of the user, it's really there in terms of stability, and in terms of support. That's where it's becoming really important, and that's where, also, I guess, differentiation from commercial open source comes in, versus the kid in Romania who wrote some application, and your developers need to become competent enough to figure out to fix.

Jim Sutter on a perceived lack of support in open source:

I didn't say it was boring. It's hair-raising. I can tell you. No, it's not easy. The one thing that I would have to say is that open source, probably, is less overhyped and overstated than all the commercial promotion surrounding commercial-licensed software, which CIOs, for the most part, realize that there's less there than is advertised. Most of these software companies that produce this aren't adhering to some of their own principles about adherence to standards, and compliance, and so on. Open source doesn't scare them. What scares them, I think, is wondering who to go to, and if they can rely on the who-do-I-go-to in the middle of Labor Day weekend, and will they be there -- I think.

Great stuff. Open source is changing the way we think about software, and our interactions with it. This is particularly true if you're a CIO.