There’s a widely held misconception about open source software (OSS). It’s commonly believed that OSS is primarily developed by amateur hackers sporting beards and sandals, coding late into the night and contributing random lines of code of variable quality to disparate projects as their prejudices and whims dictate.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Linux is a great example of how open source is developed. The Linux Foundation, in their 2015 “Who Writes Linux” report suggested that a conservative figure for the number of people who are paid to make contributions to the kernel was 80%.
Linux is probably the most deployed operating system in the world. From mission-critical servers for the world’s largest corporations to Android on mobile phones. It’s widely used because it’s cheaper, more secure, more stable and more performant. In the web server market, OSS operating systems dominate at around 70% and growing. In mobile, Android (Linux) has over 70% share and growing. In the application server market Microsoft in 2012 plummeted below 20%. It has since recovered to around 30% although commentators speculate that it’s Microsoft’s own servers that have led the recovery (the servers they use for their web applications) rather than the mass market consuming Windows in larger quantities.
In effect, OSS that is free to acquire, deploy and modify, is built and maintained by people who do it for a living. And the software they write dominates the markets they operate in. These highly talented, well-paid people mostly work for large corporations. The biggest contributors to Linux included IBM, Intel, Google and Samsung. How long before we see Microsoft in that list? That’s not a trick question.
Now that open source is mainstream in the infrastructure world of servers and networks, it is emerging as a considerable force in business applications, especially in the Business Intelligence, ERP and CRM sectors.
Traditionally these have been dominated by giants: Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP. But the winds of change are blowing for these behemoths.
The SuiteCRM project is engaged with large corporates on three continents for globally scaled, strategic projects. We have competed against some of the best and most highly remunerated sales teams on the planet. We have prevailed against SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce and, ironically, SugarCRM.
The dynamics that apply in the infrastructure world are starting to be applied to the SuiteCRM project. As we engage with the enterprise, as fast as they develop new SuiteCRM functionality for their own business needs, they are giving back software that contributes to the common good. Typically this is generic functionality that does not impinge on their competitive advantage. It is functionality that is sufficiently generic that everyone might benefit from it. We’re not talking about hundreds or thousands of lines of code. We’re looking at hundreds of thousands of lines of new code coming to us.
Enterprises do not attain and maintain their scale and success because they are dumb. They employ very smart people. The very smart people in these enterprises understand that what is good for the SuiteCRM project is good for them. The aphorism “we all float higher on a rising tide” applies. By donating code to the project, the project gets stronger, the product improves, the functional surface expands, the number of new users it attracts grows. It’s a virtuous circle.
The core team of developers who maintain and extend SuiteCRM is now dwarfed by the number of externally paid, full-time professional software engineering contributors. The task of the core team is increasingly one of managing contributions rather than writing code.
Don’t expect any of that code to emerge in the next six months. We’re busy shaping the future of SuiteCRM. It’s going to be ground-breaking. We’ll be giving some insights into what it’s going to be over the next couple of quarters.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual. We’re still innovating. We’re still doing quarterly releases. We’re still fixing bugs. We have plans for a new front-end. We have plans to address some of the legacy issues from the old SugarCRM code. Particularly in the areas of search and email. We’re still focused on our mission:
Making SuiteCRM the world’s best CRM application and keeping every line of code free and open source.
If you want to help, then maybe getting a job with one of the large corporates innovating on the platform might be the best route.