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The new face of open source

Open source today is eminently respectable as a corporate citizen. We've come a long way, baby.

To get a glimpse of the changing face of open source, look no further than InfoWorld's "Future of Open Source" roundtable. Some of the thoughts expressed by various leaders in the open-source community are insightful, but that's not the real story.

No, the real story is who InfoWorld chose to profile.

Sure, you get the obligatory Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond call-outs, because these are two of the guys that formed the foundation of open source upon which the rest of us build. But they're the only throwbacks to the "good ol' days" of open source, back when open source was suspiciously anti-corporate (until Raymond and an elite group dubbed "free software" "open source").

Today? Nearly everyone on InfoWorld's list is corporate.

The companies represented include big companies (IBM, Microsoft, Google), small companies (Alfresco, Digium, Hyperic, EnterpriseDB), and in-between companies (MySQL/Sun).

It's perhaps this last one that demonstrates the profound change open source has made over the past three to four years. MySQL was and is a community favorite, but at a cost of $1 billion it has demonstrated the corporate value of open source and, indeed, has begun to alter its business model to ensure that it balances its free (developer) community with its paid (enterprise) community.

Dave Rosenberg writes that 2009 will be the year when open source becomes paid software, but I think we're already there. We've been there for at least two years, in fact. We just didn't know it.

InfoWorld's roundtable, however, makes it abundantly clear: open source is corporate, and that's a compliment, not a slight.