Posted by Wayne Warren on February 15, 2015
|Product source code gives you the ability to modify and recreate software. Historically, this was considered intellectual property and was tightly protected. The Open Source movement was reactionary, claiming that source code should not be owned. Some Open Source products have been wildly successful, such as Linux or MySQL, seeming to prove that a community of developers can provide a greater good than a commercial corporation.
But let’s take a step back and look at the software landscape today. Linux is obviously the most visibly successful Open Source product to date. Its desktop versions are standard for many serious software developers and it is making headway as a deployment platform as well. It has versions for embedded and real-time platforms, as well as Android for mobile platforms. MySQL is the most well-known database management system, being the “M” in LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql and PHP), a standardized, Open Source stack for software system — even Cloud — deployment. Its source code is readily available, but it is the object code, the runnable software, that is most commonly used and deployed.
Here’s the common thread in the popular, highly successful and high-quality Open Source products: they are high-profile infrastructural products used by almost everyone, whether they know it or not.
A moment of honesty: most of the software written today is not Open Source because it doesn’t have the backing of a software developer community that is providing its skills for the good of humanity. There is a limited amount of “free time” available from skilled developers, and they prefer to contribute it to the high-profile products.
There is an incredible amount of special-purpose commercial software written today by other skilled software developers. It automates the work otherwise done by manual labor, increases productivity and lowers prices. It is created by those who are highly trained in vertical solutions and quality software development practices, and it has value.
If you will excuse the passion, I have this attitude toward the team I work with at Raima. Skilled developers one and all, they create source code that compiles into object code that is linked into programs that contribute value to the world’s ecosystem.
The source code created by Raima is owned by Raima and has value. However, Raima sells its copyrighted source code for an incremental cost to customers who have decided to use the basic RDM product. And I would argue that the benefit of Open Source is also available to those who purchase Raima source code.
Possessing source means that you can recreate the software module that you are using. By itself, this is useless, because you already have the compiled form available. Source code gives you three new abilities: first, to modify the existing code to fix bugs; second, to study the behavior of the source code and understand how it works and how to best use it; third, as an insurance policy if the owner of the product fails to adequately support it.
Let’s look at each of these three reasons to possess source code. First, the ability to modify existing code to fix bugs. Open Source communities normally have a procedure for you to submit your source code changes for consideration in the permanent product. Commercial corporations also welcome this, because nobody wants bugs in their product. Second, the ability to compile source code with “debug” settings and step through it in a debugger is invaluable when it comes to studying and understanding the operation of a product. Most developers don’t have on-the-job time for this, but it is essential for debugging problems, or optimizing usage. Third, the reality of corporations going out of business or not having support resources is real, and many have been burned by that in the past. The possession of source code means that there are no dependencies on other providers.
As a commercial provider of software, Raima provides source code at a reasonable cost to provide the security of bug fixes, education or lack of support. If this is compared to the equivalent costs for Open Source products, it comes out on top in many situations. There is really no free lunch, but there is value in both commercial and Open Source products.
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