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Software’s Great Divide

By Alan Radding | Published 11/1/2005 | Consulting magazine © 2009 BNA Subsidiaries, LLC.

In the land of open source computing, some consultants see only trees where a forest now grows.

Small IT consulting firms get it and have gotten it from the start. A few of the large IT consulting firms get it, too, and have grabbed leadership roles. The rest missed it initially and are scrambling to catch up. Some, maybe, still don’t get it.

“It,” in this case, is the open source software movement, often synonymous with Linux but encompassing far more than just Linux. Open source refers to not only operating systems like Linux but also open source application and infrastructure software, databases, and middleware. It also refers to the open source community and collaborative processes for development and governance. The open source movement has the potential to radically alter the way software is created, maintained, marketed, deployed, and supported. In the process, it will generate a host of new applications deployment, support, and integration opportunities for IT consulting companies.

Many consultants are scooping up these opportunities as fast as they can. “We are three years ahead of where we expected to be at this time,” reports Robert Whetsel, CEO and founder of Ravensong Open Technologies, Inc., Frederick, MD, a consulting firm focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on open source technology. Whetsel began focusing on open source technology in 1997, not long after Linux was introduced. Since then, Ravensong has attracted a steadily growing list of clients that includes government agencies, biotech firms, the military, and more. Adopting the open source community model for its own consulting practice, Ravensong is poised to introduce an open business collaborative framework to help its own staff and participating consultants grow even faster.

Still, the large, conventional IT consulting firms were slow to recognize Linux and open source as something other than an interesting variation of Unix for the PC. Others dismissed it as some utopian approach to software development with a go-to-market strategy on the extreme periphery of mainstream business. They certainly didn’t understand the community-oriented open source process.

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