Amen, Nat – Preach it, Chris

Today has been an interesting day for me. For quite awhile now I’ve been crusading against using the term “open source” as a marketing strategy. The phrase has an exact meaning, and just making the source available does not make it open. Historically there have always been ways to get access to commercial source code with the right team of lawyers and the right contracts (i.e. money), but that is a far cry from being able to change it and distribute the derivative work – two pillars of the open source philosophy.

Well today a site called Datamation published “Ten Leading Open Source Innovators” which included a large number of companies that are neither open source nor innovators.

The one that caught my eye was Zenoss. As was reported at Infoworld Zenoss is based on Nagios. I have a hard time understanding how building a product on a five year old application achieves the definition of “innovative”. Nagios was innovative, we have yet to see if Zenoss can be.

But may day was made when I saw that this article made the usually peaceful Chris Dibona irate. Chris, as the open source guru at Google, has the second best job on the planet, and he has probably forgotten more about open source than I’ll ever know. “My outage is quite present” had me shouting alleluias in the hotel lobby.

“Damn kids. Get off my damn lawn.”

Heh. Priceless.

But then when Nat Torkington over at O’Reilly jumped into the fray, I started to get my hopes up that this might be the start of a trend of really questioning those companies who claim to be open source but aren’t.

Now listen – I don’t believe that software has to be open source to be good. I doubt that Blizzard would get any benefit from making World of Warcraft open source. I own several Macs, so I pay a premium price on hardware and often pay for both closed and open software. All I care about is using the best tool for the job. My goal with OpenNMS is to create the de facto platform for both open and closed management software, and the best way to do that is by nurturing the community that builds it.

So don’t think I’m trying to disrespect SugarCRM. We use the free version, and if it works for you, great. But let’s not call it open source.

Oh, I’m in California for the second week in a row, but will be heading home tomorrow. I promise to blog next week on more OpenNMS-centric things.