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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Open Source, The 3 C’s, and a New Beginning

It starts with an idea … as always. Although I’ve commented extensively on other’s blogs and been quoted quite a bit in the press for what I’ve been doing around Open Source, it’s time to put together a new model for such “communication”. One in which my perspectives and insights can be shared, discussed, and debated directly without the other “noise”. But, perhaps even more importantly, a communication model in which I can get honest feedback from the global community and help drive our shared passions forward.

Why do this? In the words of the great essayist Emerson, “If we are related, we shall meet.”

I am passionate about a lot of things, and one of them is Open Source. Not just because it’s such a disruptive technology and is turning the software world upside down, although I do think that is cool. Not just because it affords businesses tremendous cost savings and flexibility improvements, although that’s precisely what our solutions at Unisys do. But because the open source development model fosters what I call the 3 C’s: community, collaboration, and components. People from all around the world, coming together to design, build, test, release, and support standards-based modules in an open-forum environment. But, for me, it’s much more than “just software” (or “free software”, although that’s a topic for another posting) … it’s a development model that is revolutionizing the way people build solutions to problems.

By leveraging like-minded souls across the globe who share a common interest and passion, solutions can be built much more quickly and efficiently than “typical” development projects. A perfect example comes from the Goldcorp gold mining corporation that needed a way to improve their success at locating gold in their mines. By sharing their geological data on the internet and hosting a contest to offer a large sum of money to the team that could process that data and find the right spots to mine, Goldcorp became hugely successful. Mind you, a mining company’s geological data is the key to the kingdom. Imagine the fortitude it took for Goldcorp’s CEO, Rob McEwen, to take that bold step. Rob credits his idea to the Linux development model he had recently learned about from a seminar at MIT. Sure enough, people from around the world competed, and some teams developed new methods for processing the geological information (including new methods for drilling) that Goldcorp’s team had never even imagined. An Australian team from half-way around the world from Goldcorp’s headquarters in Ontario won the big prize, and they never even saw the gold mine. Check out the article Don Tapscott wrote on Goldcorp last year.
As an aside, I met Don Tapscott at Gartner’s Open Source Summit a month ago in Phoenix. His visionary insight into technology trends and evolution are superb, which he’s translated into many books worth reading.

So, as the person who started and runs the Open Source business in Unisys, I can assure you that the development model I just described works equally well in giant corporations like ours (think 33,000+ employees, think over 100 countries around the world, think over $5.7B in revenues … starts to give a sense as to the magnitude). But certainly not without challenges. There is a lot of education required to create such an environment, and a really good governance model in place to make it work well. However, with the right focus and leadership, it can pay off immensely (as it has for us and others like Goldcorp).

In essence, open source is successful and will continue to revolutionize the industry because it leverages the collective genius of the community and helps them collaborate more effectively thus resulting in globally reusable, high-quality components that they can continue to build upon as a community. That development model is here to stay and will expand into new territories. It’s great fun to be a part of this journey, and thanks for joining me on the ride.

So, back to Emerson, if we are related and it’s time for us to meet, I can be reached at anthony dot gold at unisys dot com or privately at apgold at yahoo dot com. I promise to respond to every email message as well as read every comment in this blog. I look forward to making your acquaintance.

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