Open Source for Business – Really

Mike Herrick calls attention to a recent article about Pay Pal and their use of open source to run their business.

Among the more interesting aspects of the article is that Scott Thompson was working for Visa prior to taking the CTO job at Pay Pal. Visa apparently would not have considered using an open source platform for processing transactions. Of course, Visa started out a long time ago.

This is as clear an example as you can get of the difference between pre-Web and post-Web IT architectures. Pre-Web transaction processing was all about mainframes, and middleware systems that tried to duplicate the mainframe environment in a distributed world. Open source seems foreign since it didn’t really grow up as part of the traditional environnment. Post-Web transaction processing is all about scaling up and partitioning out using racks of commodity hardware and open source.

Web sites often started small, using any resource at hand (i.e. free open source software) and then needed to grow and grow to unprecendented volumes, and still maintain reasonable cost control. And traditional solutions designed to support the scale of a single enterprise did not meet the requirements of the Web environment – certainly not at a sustainable cost.

Running a business on open source? Sure, we see it every day. And with our new release of Fuse we are likely to see it more and more. Even customers who traditionally would not consider open source for the “family jewels” are starting to use it in some projects, including mission-critical applications. The Internet businesses are really seen as leading the way here.

The open source trend is not stopping at the operating system, either. That should be clear by now. Open source middleware, databases, service enablement, and routing/mediation engines are continuing to grow in popularity.

The industry has seen hardware go thorugh a commoditization cycle, in which the cheapest solutions are constructed of the best standard parts from various sources. Competition at the component level –CPU, disk, display, etc. — helped drive down prices.

Now we are beginning to see the commoditization of enterprise software, with Linux probably the big break through. Again, in the spirit of competition, it has helped drive down prices. And as the TPC has known for years, it’s not only how many transactions you can process that’s important, it’s also the cost per transaction.

It is natural now to “move up the stack” to open source middleware, database management systems, messaging systems, service enablement, routing & mediation…

And the post-Web IT architectures such as those successfully deployed at Pay Pal,, Google, eBay, and others are more and more being looked at as examples of how to drive down cost, improve performance and availability, and sustain constant change.

More on open source and the new Fuse release from Guillaume and James and Hiram.


One response to “Open Source for Business – Really

  1. Take the next step. “[whoever] apparently would not have considered using an open source platform for processing transactions.” In the general case, they wouldn’t consider hiring anyone who knows post-Web architecture either.

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