by March 1, 2008 0 comments



Many ideas contributed to the success of Open Source and free software. Where
does it go from here? There are several other technologies and trends that will
truly revolutionize this space in the future. Here are a few ideas that we feel
will really pick up in the near future.

Developer IDEs will become more professional
Developing an open source product? Or, Writing an open source based
application ? Why pay for the IDE ? Open source development has traditionally
lacked an intuitive IDE and RAD (Rapid Application Development) tool, like MS
Visual Studio, which is also open source or free. But then, there are so many
programming languages, platforms, frameworks and libraries in the open source
world. Can a single IDE cater to all ? If yes, can that IDE still support RAD,
architectural features (like UML), development tools (like refactoring and
debugging) and in-built testing (like unit testing) for all the languages and
frameworks? The answer is yes. The examples are Netbeans and Eclipse. Both these
IDEs have been supporting multiple languages like C, C++, Perl, PHP, Ruby and
delivering de-facto development tools like UML designers, refactoring, debugging
and unit testing. Both are free and open source and the good news is, both are
backed by commercial companies like IBM and Sun. Without a debate, there is a
learning curve in using the IDE itself. With so many open source languages and
frameworks, imagine having to use a different IDE for each. Perhaps this is one
of the reasons why Eclipse and Netbeans have become so popular. What’s more,
these IDE can be used to develop applications for desktop, web and even mobiles.
Netbeans and Eclipse have surely made their mark in the area of open source
development and will continue to do so in the coming years. They have marked a
shift in paradigm, from one “IDE for each” to “one IDE for all”. Recently, when
Google released Android (a Mobile platform), it chose to release an extension/plugin
for Eclipse, rather than a new IDE for Android. That is, applications for
Android can be developed in Eclipse.

Hypervisor/virtualization
Virtualization technology abstracts hardware from software, so that a single
hardware with all its resources appears as multiple logical resources to the
software. This way, one server can run multiple OS (called virtual machines)
simultaneously in complete isolation. The h/w will appear to be available
exclusively for each virtual machine. Hypervisors use virtualization technology,
and Open Source world has lots of them, for eg Xen Hypervisor, VirtualBox, and
VMware ESX Server 3.x Open Source edition. You can virtualize just about
everything: your network, storage, or even applications. Some of the well-known
hypervisor brands have been acquired by bigger companies, for instance, Citrix
acquired XenSource and Sun has acquired Innotek, the creators of VirtualBox.
Many Closed Source vendors are also acquiring virtualization companies like
there’s no tomorrow. This obviously implies that you’ll see lots of exciting
virtualization solutions in the coming year.

Linux at desktop
Over the past few years Linux vendors have worked on making desktop OS more
user friendly. Now many Linux distros are easy to install. They are getting
flashier with tools like Compiz-fusion. Vendors are also looking to make their
Linux desktops compatible with other OS apps, for eg SUSE desktop supports MS
Word 2007. Linux distros also support the latest technologies, eg for
virtualization most of the distros have support for Xen. Features like Synaptic
Package Manager and CNR, make it very easy to install new software. A lot of
popular games, like Unreal Tournament, are now available for Linux. All this
makes shifting to Linux at the desktop a good choice.

Open Source business apps will flourish
For a long time, Open Source software was considered to be excellent for
basic IT infrastructure, eg network monitoring, email, Internet gateway and the
like. Whenever it came to a serious business application, Open Source is
generally not even considered. But all that is likely to change in the near
future. To give an example, just go through any Open Source community software
portal, like sourceforge.net and look under ‘enterprise offerings.’ You’ll be
surprised at the list of business application projects that are in the making.
ERP, CRM, workflow, project management, business intelligence, are just a few
categories that come to mind. As of now, Open Source business applications have
not reached a level where they can directly compete with their commercial
counterparts. For instance, when it comes to ERP, one can easily recall names
like SAP, Oracle, etc. But one can’t recall an equivalent name in the Open
Source world. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of interest in this area, so one
should see something emerge from it.

Virtual appliances instead of apps
A spin-off from virtualization, this has really picked up over the past two
years. Unlike virtualization, where you have to go through the headache of
installing the OS and application at least once, virtual appliances do away even
with that. They come pre-configured with the OS and application. This is a big
boon for Open Source applications, because by and large configuring them is no
bed of roses. Simply drag the virtual appliance on top of the virtualization
layer. There are tons of virtual appliances available in Open Source and
millions have already downloaded them. They’re available on many platforms,
which include VMWare, Xen, Virtual Box and many others. All these platforms have
their versions available in the public domain.

Web Content management
Portals today are powered by content management systems and Open Source
provides a lot of choice, be it a Web content management, a knowledge base using
Wiki or blogs. While, content management is essential for most organizations, it
may cost millions to implement. This is where Open Source comes to rescue. Pick
up an open source and free content management system and evaluate it for your
needs. Popular examples are Drupal, Joomla, Typo3 and Plone. Most of these
support Blogs and Wikis as an add-on or extension. Else, if you are interested
in a standalone Blog or Wiki, the popular ones are WordPress and MediaWiki. Many
of these, can be installed on Linux as well as Windows. But there are systems
specific to Windows too, like DotNetNuke and Umbraco.

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