For those who may not have believed it, the last two weeks we've seen proof that open source truly is a disruptive technology. How is it disruptive? It challenges the incumbents of closed source software, especially traditional enterprise infrastructure vendors. That doesn't mean that closed source software is going away overnight, but the growth rates are slowing, license revenues are stagnant or declining and, most importantly, new applications are being built on open source.
So not surprisingly, Oracle and now Microsoft, by their recent actions have proven that open source is disrupting their businesses. Consider the following:
- Oracle announced they will fork Red Hat Linux, promoting a full stack
- Microsoft announced they are optimizing PHP for the Windows platform
- Microsoft announced they will work with Novell to promote Linux
When Sun open sourced Solaris last year, that was the first dramatic acknowledgement that the game had changed. You can argue whether OpenSolaris was too little too late or whether they should have done this five years earlier. At this point it may be too late for anyone to slow down Linux's growth rate. But to their credit, Sun made a bold move and it's helped them get their business back on track.
While some people have speculated that Microsoft's actions are a reaction to Oracle's moves, I don't think that's the case. Microsoft typically does not respond to the day-to-day competitive actions in Silicon Valley. And being as large as they are, they're not able to respond quickly even if they want to. It takes Microsoft months to even get a press release approved and with 71,000 employees, everything takes time.
So what this means is Microsoft has come to the conclusion over the last year that Linux is eating away at their business and that unless they do something, they'll wake up one day and the next generation of applications and application developers will have passed them by. The hot areas today are Web 2.0, LAMP, Software as a Service and hosted applications. Right now Microsoft is effectively absent from this space.
So while Oracle and Microsoft have acknowledged that the world is changing, it's interesting to see that some of the other companies are still on the sidelines. But at some point when a technology is disruptive, everyone is affected.