Linux: The Quickening

The computer software industry is best explained by comparing it to science fiction.
Perhaps I’m a serious nerd, but sometimes I think the computer software industry is best explained by comparing it to science fiction.
Previously, I said that Linux should take a page from Senator Palpatine in Star Wars: Let’s kill off all the Jedi — the rogue projects, the superfluous open source licenses, and anything else that distracts us from accomplishing our mission — and form the Linux Empire in the name of standardization to finally realize the dream of Total World Domination. (See http://www.linux-mag.com/content/view/2210/48/1/1/.)
Or then again, with companies like Oracle and Red Hat now in major league acquisition-mode, I’m reminded of something like Highlander II, before we enter a period of full-blown Star Wars Episode III. Yeah, the former was a horrendously bad movie, especially before they edited out all that Planet Zeist crap and re-released the film, but bear with me.
If we take what Sean Connery’s swashbuckling character “Rodriguez” says at face value, that in the end, “There can only be one” (okay, maybe two or three), then the current state of the Linux software industry is currently someplace between Highlander and Highlander II. In comparison, three or four years ago, we were more like Dune, where all the Great Houses were vying for power and attention.
But many of the Great Houses have now been killed off, and we’re left with the two or three major Linux vendors and a few other minor players that remain to be swallowed by the deep pockets of the Spacing Guild, CHOAM, and other Great Houses of the Landsraad (IBM, Oracle, EMC, HP, Sun, Dell, etc.), so that we finally have a strong, cohesive, united multi-faceted force to finally take out the Borg. Okay, I’m mixing up my Frank Herbert with Star Trek, but you get the picture.
See, with all the major Open Source and Linux companies getting acquired or being singled-out as acquisition targets, the Open Source software industry is heading towards major consolidation. Now, those of you who are more community-oriented might see this as a bad thing, and might even posit that perhaps too much co-opting of the community by corporate interests is downright evil. But I say to those of you, fear not my younglings, happy times are ahead. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what we’ve been working so hard to achieve.
With big companies like Oracle eating up Linux companies like Jabba the Hutt at an all-you-can eat seafood buffet — and even medium-sized companies like Red Hat buying up players like JBOSS— we finally get to see lots of people who have long contributed to Open Source projects in their free time finally able to make a living as dedicated Open Source programmers, system integrators, technical support specialists, and salespeople. While academia and Open Source moonlighters are important to the ongoing development and maintaining the “Force” of the community, at the end of the day, people need to be able to pay their bills. Otherwise in the end, the Borg eventually rears its ugly head and wins simply as a result of attrition. The last thing the Borg wants is a healthy, highly-skilled, well-paid, employed workforce among the Linux faithful, and employed at actually working on Linux and Open Source-related stuff.
There is a flip side to all of this, however. While we want the Spacing Guild and CHOAM to pay lots of employees to work on Open Source, we also don’t want to get into a situation where, for example, the Spacing Guild buys House Corrino (lets say, something like a MySQL AB) and CHOAM buys House Atreides (lets say, Novell), and then the Guild and CHOAM refuse to honor prior Atreides and Corrino partnerships and ongoing Open Source development cooperation. Worse, CHOAM and the Spacing Guild becoming competitors could lead to the severing or severe curtailing of Corrino’s and Atreides’s historical partnerships and participation with say, other important entities, like House Ix (IBM?), the Ordos (HP?), or the Tleilaxu (Sun?) for the same reasons. Not only would that suck for the community and Open Source projects, but that’s exactly the kind of thing the Borg and its minions are hoping for.
So, I say, acquire away, Great Houses. Just remember, at the end of the day, to maintain the community ties. Because the Borg is sitting, hovering out there in the blackness of space, ready to pounce when we stop working with each other and show any sign of weakness.

Jason Perlow thinks the Spice Girls are characters in Frank Herbert’s classic series. You can reach Jason at class="emailaddress">jperlow@linux-mag.com.

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