Business Value of Open Source Software – Mark Shuttleworth

I was at the Enterprise Ireland ‘The Business Value of Open Source Software’ event yesterday. The speakers included:

  • Simon Phipps (Open Source Initiative)
  • Tim Willoughby and Tom Mackey (Limerick City Council)
  • Ronan Kirby (Red Hat)
  • David Coallier (Open Source Programmer)
  • Mark Shuttleworth (Canonical/Ubuntu)

Simon Phipps provided the overview of software freedom(gratis vs libre) including the benefits of using software libre:

  • no license compliance issues
  • the extra protection of community escrow
  • open formats that do not impose a business burden
  • less procurement burdens
  • remaining business agile
  • the option to pay for added value while remaining in control

Simon also described the traditional procurement procedures carried out in the enterprise and the problems sounded familiar.

Tim and Tom spoke about bringing Open Source software into Limerick City Council including canceling their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement and rolling out OpenOffice and Ubuntu desktops on the desktop and on the server-side – Apache, Squid, OpenLDAP, MySQL, Zarafa, Postfix, Samba, Ebox. Tim also described freeing their GIS data from proprietary storage.  I spoke to Tom afterwards and was impressed at his dedication to freeing the Council’s data and standing up to the monopolists – surely of long-term benefit to the Limerick City tax payers.

Disappointingly Ronan Kirby focused on presenting a sales pitch for RHEL6. At times he touched on how Red Hat view their responsibilities for sharing and co-operation but I felt the sales pitch detracted from the good work that Red Hat do.

David Coallier was a bit zany but impressed the enthusiasm that developers have for open source projects.


The highlight was obviously Mark Shuttleworth who spoke about:

  • Cadence (the importance of rhythmical software releases e.g. scheduled LTS releases)
  • Design
  • Quality
  • Ubiquity
  • Economy

He hinted at the challenges ahead and the difficult decisions involved with becoming more mainstream, so free software advocates get your flame throwers at the ready 😉 He is a charismatic leader and reminded me of how politicians in Ireland had to prepare the ground for the uneasy change of power-sharing. He also had a slight dig at Ronan Kirby about the price of RHEL6. Hitting the point of the seminar he described the importance of smaller enterprises and start-ups in the larger open source economy. There are undoubtedly opportunities for those more courageous than me.

Well done to David Scanlon for organising the event.

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