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More MS, Less Talent In Open Source's Future

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the tell-me-again-why-we're-doing-this-for-nothing dept.

Linux Business 155

alphadogg writes "The open source industry in 2008 will be marked by more news out of Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and other big IT vendors, less start-up funding, more M&A activity, and an increasingly serious talent shortage, according to Raven Zachary, open source research director for The 451 Group. One example of the talent shortage will be people with expertise in the Tomcat open source Java servlet middleware from the Apache Foundation. 'There are 25 or so core contributors to that project,' Zachary said. 'Over the past four or five years that number has stayed virtually [unchanged]... but the growth of Tomcat has been astronomical.'"

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155 comments

Talent shortage? (4, Insightful)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519855)

Maybe talented coders like to get paid better.

Re:Talent shortage? (4, Funny)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519905)

u mean not all programmers like to give away their work and answer support questions for free with their open source software?

Re:Talent shortage? (2, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520239)

there's nothing in gnu saying you can't indirectly make money from software, you just can't redistribute code that is derived from gnu code in a propietary way. Canonical I hear makes about 50 million a year through support and indirect revenue sources from Ubuntu

Re:Talent shortage? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520829)

Exactly. Unfortunately, support and consulting are arguably the least desirable way to make money in this sort of industry. Ideally, you'd sell product and get only positive feedback to improve it. No support. No dumb questions. No issues.

Companies that make money from support contracts are, in my opinion, doing the least favorable work. It's certainly not sexy and for every dollar you earn, you have to work an amount directly proportional to that. There's not much concept of exponential growth. In other words, your income per hour flattens out much faster than with a product-based model.

Re:Talent shortage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21521043)

Thank you! Finally, it seems that someone understands why many of us roll our eyes whenever someone claims that the "support model" is what's going to drive open source to the top of the pile, or that it's the "future" of software. It's an extremely undesirable job (in terms of obtaining and keeping good employees), and proportional (at best) growth will never have new entrants salivating to get into the market.

Re:Talent shortage? (0, Flamebait)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521107)

it is however a sustainable model that doesn't normally alienate your user base like Microsft's business model does. You don't get bad PR from treating your user base like criminals, they jsut get to use the software as they like, you get a sustainable cash flow that doesn't require you to spend a great deal of it attacking your user base for daring to actually use your software. it is by design, favorable for that software to get copied as many times as is possible, more eyes to help improve the code and make it better over time as well as future support.

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521953)

This must be the first time I have heard somebody call the MS business model unsustainable. Sure, it isn't very nice, but unsustainable? How exactly did they end up in that dominant market position for close to the last 2 deceades, then?

Only one way. (1)

Benanov (583592) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522029)

>This must be the first time I have heard somebody call the MS business model unsustainable. Sure, it isn't very nice, but unsustainable? How exactly did they end up in that dominant market position for close to the last 2 deceades, then?

Illegally.

(Remember? Convicted Monopolist.)

Re:Only one way. (1)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522211)

Illegally
Well, that is the part where I said "not very nice" (OK, I admit I am prone to understatement ;-)

Still doesn't mean it isn't sustainable, since they have sustained it for 2 decades, and it doesn't look like they are facing any particularly dire consequences from their illegal activity any time soon. Financially they are doing well enough, even if double-digit growth rates seem to be a thing of the past. Anyways, they are doing much better than, say, General Motors, and even General Motors isn't going to go away any time soon (so it is "sustainable").

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522405)

You could have said the same thing about Apple years ago and now look at them. In Microsoft's case, their last OS was by many accounts an engineering and planning failure, only their market position saved them on this one. It is suspected that Microsft's failure in managing their code development teams is crippling their ability to actually do anything, take a look at Vista, 6 years of development for that piece of trash. Unless they start cracking on actually producing something it's going to bite them in their collective posteriors in time.

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

yason (249474) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521993)

Companies that make money from support contracts are, in my opinion, doing the least favorable work. It's certainly not sexy and for every dollar you earn, you have to work an amount directly proportional to that. There's not much concept of exponential growth. In other words, your income per hour flattens out much faster than with a product-based model.

It pays to do work that nobody else wants to do.

Further, I don't think there will be "exponential growth" (or scalable sales...) in the future software industry. It was there in the 80's or 90's but not really any longer. Even larger software systems are becoming a commodity - it started with that you can no longer just write a word processor or a spreadsheet, sell the box 10^n times and earn the money as many times. Now you can't do that even with an operating system since no O/S is special enough anymore. (Apple can, for a while, since there's more glittering design and brand than software for sale in there. Microsoft has failed for years already.)

These days you sell or give away your software to support your primary business (services, expertise, solutions like IBM, or monopoly like Microsoft) or you have some highly complex niche product like a physics modelling suite, where few copies are sold but they're worth a huge money. No exponential growth in there either. Then there are few old gamers like Adobe's Photoshop and like that have built up steam to keep rolling for a little longer because they're really good for the minority of computer users that really need a full-featured image processor.

It is getting to sound like a very good idea to, instead of writing software, take the software for free, then make it better, share it back for the next round, and sell support.

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

jackpot777 (1159971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21523897)

It pays to do work that nobody else wants to do.
...and that's why the best jobs (to borrow from comedian Stephen Lynch), are:

1 - landscaping

2 - dishwashing

3 - picking our fruit

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

KutuluWare (791333) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522531)

Clearly, the answer is to produce and support an open source product until it becomes wildly popular, then systematically introduce subtle but severe bugs that force everyone who runs your software to pay for your support contracts :)

Re:Talent shortage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21521213)

Tell that to the companies who have to ditch Linux altogether as an embedded platform because with GPL v3, corporate secrets must be given to the customer on request.

For example, a CNC machine that has a corporate secret blueprint to produce optimal engine parts that is sold to a customer. Under the GPL v3, the customer by request can get all that info, and is permitted to distribute the trade secrets as he/she sees fit.

Yes, Tivoization is bad, but all the GPL v3 did is just get people to run back to MS and other closed source providers for fear of unwarranted lawsuits, or fear of giving away hard-won corporate assets.

The nasty thing about GPL v3, if one single library is under that license (as opposed to LGPL) and is built into a project, the whole project is tainted, and is unusable for commercial entities.

Re:Talent shortage? (3, Informative)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521517)

so don't use GLPv3 . There are plenty of other open source licenses . It's not because the FSF makes a new one that you have to use that. There is no good or bad license in there , it just depends on your needs . I don't think there's a talent shortage , it's more like a shortage of new ideas . Basically , if you think of an application you could use , there's a good chance it already exists . And it's a lot more fun working on something you helped create , than on improving something someone else wrote .

Re:Talent shortage? (2, Insightful)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21523827)

there's nothing in gnu saying you can't indirectly make money from software

There's nothing in the GPL saying you can't directly make money from software.

Re:Talent shortage? (4, Funny)

RHSC (1019802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519993)

I prefer to get paid by the semicolon...just so long as I don't have to code in VB

Re:Talent shortage? (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520885)

I like to get paid by leading whitespace -- syou know, paces and tabs (with tabs counting as at least 4 spaces). But then again, I'm a Python programmer.

Re:Talent shortage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520011)

obviously that would be paid per line of code lol

Re:Talent shortage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520167)

I suspect this issue is more complex than simply pay. Younger programmers have the time to work on projects (and tend to love doing it) because they don't have families and basically "live to code". For those of us a bit older, with wives, families, kids in college, etc. there simply isn't time to donate to worth-while projects, nor is there ever enough money (see kids in college above) to donate anything.

It is truly unfortunate that programmers of my generation aren't as prone to participate because they bring a much broader and deeper experience if for no other reason than years of working in the industry.

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520371)

not all open source is derived from hobby work ya know... some of it is designed by programmers of 'your' generation because it was a part of what they did for pay.

Re:Talent shortage? (5, Insightful)

xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520993)

not all open source is derived from hobby work ya know

Perhaps, but you're missing his point. Here's another example:
  • Wake up around 6 am. Eat, get dressed, and get physched up for the fun fun hour plus drive via major congested roads to get to work by 9am. That pre-leave time also includes helping get my Son ready for School (breakfast, persistant reminders that he's running late, etc.).
  • Work 'till 5pm (usually closer to 6 pm).
  • Fun fun hour plus drive home. Home around 7 pm.
  • Eat dinner, help Son with homework, spend a bit of time with him before his bed time.
  • Spend sometime with Wife and un-wind a bit (and "un-wind", if you catch my drift...)
  • Shower, go over meeting notes, maybe catch the the earlier late news).
  • 10pm Head to bed.


Where in there am I supposed to find time to sit in front of my machine spending hours debugging code for an OSS project? I'm not saying that I don't contribute, once in a while I have sometime on weekends to submit a bug report (with some same code usually - but not always), or something small like that, but by far and large, us "older" (I'm only 34, but...), "Family Guys" simply don't have the time the younger people (in High School or College) do.

That was his point, I think.

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

Tikkun (992269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21523253)

I'm not a professional programmer, but I've been known to help out OSS in other ways. Here's my schedule:

- Wake up at 6am, eat, get dressed, drive to work.
- Work from 7:30am to 4:00pm supporting software, then go home.
- 5:00pm - 6:00pm, eat food, read some RSS feeds.

At this point all I really have to do until 11:00pm is study, code, or help out people in forums and IRC. And this doesn't even include the fun I get to have on the weekends, but YMMV.

Re:Talent shortage? (3, Insightful)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21523551)

> Where in there am I supposed to find time to sit in front of my machine spending hours debugging code for an OSS project?

"We" have the same amount of time what everyone else has. It is just how we want to spent it.

For example I moved to very close to my current work place when I started working there. It takes about 10 minutes for me to get to work and I don't even have to use a car for that. I save probably 10 hours every week compared to you. That is something like 500 hours every year (+ I save a lot of environment and money at the same time).

I like to think that my skills are too valuable to be wasted in traffic jams every day. I would ever turn down a job, if I couldn't move close enough to it. You obviously have different priorities, which are probably better than mine. But you really can't claim that you would have less time than anyone else. (I also have a wife, child, job and I spent my free time on Slashdot and with open source projects.)

Re:Talent shortage? (1)

MenTaLguY (5483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520265)

Absolutely. But Open Source gives you the freedom to do things the way you want to, and it's a good way to interact with a population of other talented coders, both of which are generally hard to get consistently in the commercial world. Both are things that talented coders care about a lot more than the folks who are just in it for the money, clocking in the hours and punching in the first code that dribbles out of their brain.

It's more a question of having the spare time for it.

Quantity != Quality (4, Insightful)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519883)

Tomcat is an excellent product and a gem of the open source community. Just because there are 'only' 25 core developers working on it doesn't make it inferior in any of the other offerings out there. I'm not sure throwing more developers at it would necessarily make it better. See, Mythical Man Month for details...

Re:Quantity != Quality (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21519997)

I beg to differ.

I tried to install Tomcat the other day for a rehosting consulting job I was tasked with.

The initial part of the install went fine, though the documentation seems to be written by someone from another planet. Very strange verb tenses, grammar, poor train of thought throughout (very jumpy).

Anyway, after I got Tomcat up and running, I realized I needed a connector to hook it into Apache. The docs were kind of sketchy on this (yes, they brought it up, but not in an organized, linear manner. It's like the docs are a stream of consciousness effort).

So I go to install the jakarta connector (after spending a half hour trying to figure out which version is the correct version, non-obsolete, appropriate for load-balancing, etc.) and the next thing I know: hot grits are down the front of my pants.

How is this a troll? (1)

Pengo (28814) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520383)


I actually agree with the AC.

I've been running Caucho's resin as an alternative to Tomcat for many years and it's been an outstanding product with none of the headaches I've had with Tomcat. Resin is GPL'd with very good documentation and optional low-cost commercial support.

Just because it's from apache doesn't mean it's the best for the job at hand. I find more often than not, people use tomcat because they believe that there are few options available, let alone easier and more elegant open source solutions.

Re:How is this a troll? (1)

LDoggg_ (659725) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520589)

The AC's post wasn't a troll, the moderator was trigger happy or misunderstood his point.

He was right, tomcat used to be a complete pain in the ass to connect to apache web server. Thankfully things have gotten much easier.
Also, on Fedora 8 you can have this all automatically working with the new open source JDK.

Re:Quantity != Quality (2, Informative)

LDoggg_ (659725) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520433)

As of apache 2.2(web server, not tomcat) mod_jk is obsolete and this has gotten a whole lot easier. Take a look at mod_proxy_ajp.

It's now just one simple proxy_ajp.conf file. Plenty of options for advanced configuration, but a simple configuration could be done in one line like "ProxyPass /examples/ ajp://localhost:8009/jsp-examples/"

What you need is *not* a *core* developper. (3, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520523)

That's the typical opensource situation where whom you need is NOT a core developer.

25 developers are a pretty good team to constantly write, re-write and improve the inner workings of tom-cat. In fact, there are a lot of commercial project that don't have that much developer 100% dedicated to the project. And as GP poster pointed out : "Mythical Man-month" explains us why this team doesn't need to grow much more because of the added inter-communication and training of newcomers overhead.

What a lot of newcomers into the OSS world fail to realise, is that there is a lot beside "writing code" that is important for an OSS project to be useful. There's, for example, a very strong need for artist to make the visuals (UI design, themes, other graphics) in order to avoid having the OSS project look like some 10 year old ass-ugly Athena interface with a cryptic UI based on a non obvious metaphor.
And, like in your case, projects also needs people with good writing skills, to write nice documentation, specification, HOW-TOs, and other guides, because frankly there are a lot of OSS projects out there that are technical marvel from a technological point of view but whose documentation consist mainly of a a big dump of code comments and function names and where, in fine, the old classic formula "Google + {error message} = posts in newsgroups" is the only way to get decent help.

People usually fail to realise it. For them Open-Source mostly remind them of complex C/C++-code and they think that GPL is only for programmer good at writing code. And thus a lot of people aren't motivated to contact a project and start helping because they think they don't have the necessary coding skills. Whereas in fact, even with no competences at all in programming, they could be critically important with their artistic, litteracy, or other skills. (Even things like helping organising appearances of the project at major Meetings and Expo can help because it bring attention to the project, and that requires skill that are neither coding nor artistic).

Yes, The Free Documentation Sucks (1)

Skjellifetti (561341) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522071)

But that is why books like this [amazon.com] exist. You'll need to buy two. I've never found a topic where a single book covers everything I needed to know about that topic. Buying three will usually put you past the point of diminishing returns.

Re:Quantity != Quality (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520259)

Not only that. More MS programmers participating on OS projects will also automatically mean more talented programmers. There is absolutely no contradiction in that.

Re:Quantity != Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21522377)

That's exactly what I was thinking!...for every MS developer that joins open source efforts, the quality goes down by about 300%. The more of "them" that enter the pool of open source contributors, the more tainted the pool becomes with people of low caliber. Though I admit MS's development tools have always been pretty good, they have actually done harm by creating a generation of "programmers" who really don't know jack about sh!t unless it can be dragged in from some "designer".

Re:Quantity != Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520307)

To be honest, a lot of people think that Tomcat sucks. Heck, there even was a slashdot story on it [slashdot.org]. Or you can search Google for more testimonials [google.com].

From what I remember of using it, it would eventually collapse on itself with enough context restarts as it was leaking perm space and fail with an OutOfMemoryError. Truly production-quality level software.

Tomcat sucks (2, Insightful)

toadlife (301863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21523141)

It's developers who slobber all over tomcat. If they actually had to look after the abomination that is tomcat every day, they might shoot themselves for subjecting their customers to such madness.

As soon as you put tomcat under any significant load, the wheels start to fall off and the tweaking sessions start. I spent a frikin month trying to figure out why the tomcat app was not releasing threads and subsequently dying after a week or so of operating. It turned out it was a tomcat bug. Since java outputs the most useless error logs in the history of computing (unless you're a java programmer!), trying to figure out what was happening was virtually impossible. The vendor in this case was equally clueless and didn';t ever realize that the version of tomcat they shipped was causing the problem.

I recently noticed that in one of the tomcat error logs on one of our servers was logging 50MB worth of errors every day. It was the same error over and over. I put in a support ticket to the vendor asking them what the error meant. They said it was "normal" and to ignore it. Translation: Since your application seems to be working, and we don't know offhand what it means, we're going to lie to you and say that it's normal. Great! So I get to sift through 20,000 lines of nothing to find actual errors, and as a bonus I get to archive 50MB of the same nothing every day.

Another tomcat app we have pukes all over itself any time the connection to the database server gets interrupted. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's annoying. Other client/server based apps don't do this. Why does tomcat? Maybe it's just the app in this case.

Tomcat sucks.

- A Sysadmin

Re:Quantity != Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520461)

I agree, what makes Tomcat great is it just works! You install it in under 5 minutes, deployments take 30 seconds, and your app is up in a container that hasn't given me any trouble at all. Please don't have 200 people with competing visions turning Tomcat into bloatware.

Re:Quantity != Quality (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21523519)

I agree, what makes Tomcat great is it just works! You install it in under 5 minutes, deployments take 30 seconds, and your app is up in a container that hasn't given me any trouble at all.
Try putting it under a heavy load.

Re:Quantity != Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21522283)

No kidding!

It must be just me, but when I read '25 core developers' and the growth has been astronomical, I see that means that they kick royal ass, and the project is running fine with no changes needed. When usage *drops*, that's when you know there's a problem.

Re:Quantity != Quality (1)

claytonjr (1142215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522329)

While I agree with your comment. Let me offer a different perspective: Would Linux be as popular if Linus was still the only developer? Your Mythical Man Month answer is not always appropriate.

Re:Quantity != Quality (1)

remmelt (837671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522365)

The entire point of OS is that it doesn't matter that there are "only" 25 developers.

If Tomcat's growth is astronomical, there will be people/businesses that want more features (or the 25 would be enough after all.) The thing is, it's open! They can hire someone to do that work. This is not feasible for most companies perhaps, but it's exactly what large corporations would (should?) do. Need better documentation? Pay someone to write it for you. Note that I'm not saying: "You can write it yourself." I'm saying that since it's open and you want the feature badly enough, you CAN pay someone to add it. This is impossible with most closed source software, unless you have some SERIOUS clout.

Here we come to the real dividing line between free and libre.

Why? (4, Insightful)

Gotung (571984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519889)

Why does an open source project magically need more programmers because it has become popular? What's wrong with the 25 guys that have obviously been doing a kick-ass job with Tomcat? Throwing more bodies at it will just lead to bloatware.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519987)

I think they were stating it's size and complexity as the rational, not the popularity.

Still, yes there are 25 core contributors to Tomcat, but what is the total contributor size in a per-mont/per-year breakdown for the server.

And what percentage of the updates are being done by the core developers? If the proporition of the development done by the core team is half of what it was the year before, at any given point, but about the same absolute amount of work - then the development on the project is still growing exponentially, even if the core team remains the same size.

Re:Why? (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520401)

25 developers is a lot. Maybe it's just me, but 25 developers would seem to be enough for most large projects. The real question is "how many developers dos it take to screw in a light bulb?"

Re:Why? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520535)

Q. How many BASIC programmers does it take to change a light bulb?

A. 10 to GOTO the hardware store, 20 to screw in the bulb.

Re:Why? (1)

dekemoose (699264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520567)

This is true. I was actually fairly surprised to find out the number of developers that my company actually has (or had before we were acquired). A few good developers is all that any good project/product seems to need. Adding more seems to simply result in more problems, not more progress.

Two but one must be the elusive female prgrmmr n/t (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21521027)

...nothing to see here

Re:Why? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21521177)

Since we're going to be working with Microsoft according to the article, the number of programmers required to change a light bulb is ZERO.

Steve Ballmer will declare Darkness(tm) to be the new standard, and throw a chair at anyone who complains.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520893)

What's wrong with the 25 guys that have obviously been doing a kick-ass job with Tomcat?

Mine is just one data point, so your experience may vary. Tomcat development is dominated by Sun employees, and there seems to be a condescending "not invented here" attitude from certain members when someone from "outside the club" reports problems. As a result, I find that I am just not all that motivated to roll up my sleeves to help out.

Good use of resources? (2, Insightful)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519917)

If you can accomplish great things with a few core programmers that is called being effecient. Adding more programmers to a project usually makes it worse rather than better. Open source allows many developers to make minor changes, as they have need to, but doesn't change the fact that only a few core programmers are needed for most projects.

I don't see the number of open source programmers shrinking at all. If anything, I expect to see many new projects taking shape and a few catching fire and shaking up the industry. It's better for many small projects to be seeded so that a few can grow into new major projects. There'd be no point in adding more and more developers to existing projects.

Growth of developers vs. growth of users (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519919)

Just because one of these groups increases in size doesn't necessarily mean the other one has to. I've worked for fairly small companies where the number of developers didn't change dramatically despite the rapid growth in end users. Sure, more developers may be hired if you start developing new products, dramatically increase the feature base of the existing product, etc. but for projects that are relatively stable and have slower growth cycles there really isn't a need for a growth in the number of developers even if everybody on the planet is using that software.

From TFA (4, Funny)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519931)

"Microsoft is still trying to work out its strategy," he said. "Ultimately, I think we'll see them embrace open source much more."
Now I'm worried.

Re:From TFA (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520649)

Don't worry. I think open source is bigger than MS and when MS will try to embrace it, it will expand and extinguish MS.

Re:From TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21521187)

Wow, how's that undeserved ego? You guys really can convince yourselves of anything, can't you?

Re:From TFA (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521001)

Ballmer didn't read the "Evil Overlord" rules very carefully. "Never try to absorb an energy field larger than your head."

Number of maintainers falls as project ages (3, Insightful)

xant (99438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21519985)

High-quality products general stay flat or lose developers over time without losing any quality. I have no idea whether tomcat is a high-quality product or not, but the core of it probably requires very little maintenance now, leaving the "core" developer circle free to work on edge features. There are an unlimited number of those for any given project, but the urgency of those edges falls off rapidly as a project ages, so it's rarely the case that a project needs to grow in developers just because it's getting older. Such projects usually split into separate projects with their own functionality core.

Also, it's ridiculous to extrapolate this process and make a statement about all open source. Developers are rarely destroyed, converting their energy into entropy. Instead, they are simply attracted to new products that need developers.

Finally, the talented open source developers pool will only grow, as it always has. If Microsoft is hiring people to work on open source, then those people will be new talented open source developers.

Re:Number of maintainers falls as project ages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520207)

I have to agree with the parent; the number of developers doesn't really correlate with the quality of the product (case in point: Microsoft has about 9000 programmers, and their software is routinely out-done by very small groups).

In any case, FOSS development seems to be speeding up, not slowing down. Whether they're doing it with more or less programmers doesn't really matter, but I find it really hard to believe that it's less.

Re:Number of maintainers falls as project ages (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520341)

A "product" like Tomcat is useful by being a platform. As such, new standards and other developments outside of the product makes a greater implact relative to, say, a game. Many Java-related projects (i.e. projects that not only are written in Java, but support other stuff in Java) went through significant changes for the 1.5 release, for example. Just keeping a project of this type and quality alive requires quite a bit of work.

Read the article (1, Interesting)

imgumbydamnit (730663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520001)

In fact, it alludes the increasing pervasiveness of open source in businesses as causing developer shortages, and the increasing role of the big players in open source projects. These are signs of the success of the open source model, folks.

There are millions of Hobbiest waiting to code. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520017)

Just because the corprations can't find coders who will make them tons of money for peanuts, doesn't mean that the "Just for Fun Folks" can't pick up the slack in the coding world if you invite them and give them a real chance. Just ask Linus.

I don't see it (3, Insightful)

Wylfing (144940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520021)

First: who the F cares about announcements from Microsoft regarding open source projects, unless they are actually contributing.

OK, that out of the way, I can't see how a shortage in one project is a shortage overall. OS is about coders scratching an itch. I have contributed to projects but only when it was something that impacted me personally, and I wanted to see it fixed in a hurry. If the number of users of a project grows astronomically, that's great, but it has no bearing on how many coders participate if nobody feels an "itch" they need to scratch. Maybe the software is good enough for end users, and they feel fine about it.

Those coders aren't "gone." They're just off scratching some other itch, is all.

Figure out how to monetize it (0, Troll)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520027)

Fact: Programmers need money to survive and are generally underpaid.
Fact: People can work only 40-60 hours a week without burning out and writing crap code.
Fact: Programmers have lives outside of the code.

For Open Source to survive, it's going to have to figure out how to compete in a market economy.
Part of that means making better code, since some OSS projects (OpenOffice) are total garbage full of bugs.
Part of it means a path by which the average OSS application can monetize itself and pay its developers.

Maybe SourceForge needs to distribute profit from its AdSense earnings, I dunno.

Re:Figure out how to monetize it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520141)

Uh, the 90's is calling and asking for their FUD back.

Re:Figure out how to monetize it (1)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520231)

Greetings, Microsoft Shill!

Fact: Programmers are not janitors.
Fact: Programmers are almost always compensated very well. (Where the shit don't they?)
Fact: Who cares about "lives of programmers outside of the code" in this context

Programmers get paid. You're a retard if you think it's all developed for free.

I don't find OpenOffice to be total garbage and full of bugs any more then the alternatives.

You put your bullshit out there like it's fact because you must be paid by Microsoft, or you must have a vested interest in closed-source.

Re:Figure out how to monetize it (2, Informative)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520399)

with an alexa rank of 152 and involved in running a site of comparable size that uses adsense i estimate sourceforge makes 2,000 -> 3,000 $ a day from adsense

Re:Figure out how to monetize it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520553)

I can't believe I'm feeding the troll; however, if you were talking anything approaching sense you're 'facts' would have applied just as well 10 years ago and there would be no open source in the first place.

Re:Figure out how to monetize it (2, Insightful)

JamesP (688957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520569)

Fact: Programmers need money to survive and are generally underpaid.
Fact: People can work only 40-60 hours a week without burning out and writing crap code.
Fact: Programmers have lives outside of the code.

For Open Source to survive, it's going to have to figure out how to compete in a market economy.
Part of that means making better code, since some OSS projects (OpenOffice) are total garbage full of bugs.
Part of it means a path by which the average OSS application can monetize itself and pay its developers.

Maybe SourceForge needs to distribute profit from its AdSense earnings, I dunno.
Funny...

Most places I see the kind of problems these 'facts' show are closed-source shops.

Oh yeah, another 'fact' for you. Open Source projects kicks closed-source projects in the groin in software best practices, construction techniques, usage of tools, etc, etc

Re:Figure out how to monetize it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21521595)

False.

F/OSS is good for some things, but there is a point where groups of people checking in code with perhaps a maintainer can't keep up.

Some examples where there is absolutely no F/OSS solution for businesses that scale:

Active Directory. Yes, there is OpenLDAP, but it takes a lot of third party plugins on various machines to get compatible with it. For large amounts of users (10,000+) scattered around geographically, there is just no other product that can do this, and that tools (like self-service password retrieval, or hooking smart cards) are available for. Pretty much every OS out there can hook into Active Directory and use it for user access. Too many user objects in one domain that it bogs down? Create a subdomain, and do trusts.

Exchange or Notes. There are just no solutions available at all to handle a medium to large company's mail, messaging and calendaring infrastructure that can scale, replicate, and cluster as well as these two commercial apps. Both also have extensive device support (cellphones, Blackberries, PDAs). Not just an available IMAP server, but a thorough client, so IT can remotely validate security requirements mandated by contracts or corporate regulations.

Databases. Yes, MySQL is great for a backend for someone with a Web page about their harmonica collection, but MySQL does not scale well to large projects. There is a reason the big boys use MS SQL server, Oracle, or DB/2.

You get what you pay for. F/OSS works for most tasks, but for stuff that just cannot fail, or is certified for use in SOX or HIPAA environments where due diligence/CYA is the difference between a successful career and a stint in a Federal prison, you just have to go commercial.

Support is an issue. All commercial products come with some sort of support. F/OSS, you are on your own. Should a business critical function go down due to come Apache/Tomcat glitch, you are SOL, and if this is a publically traded company, you have to tell shareholders why you were using a setup with no commercial support, then find a way to fast-talk them from filing shareholder lawsuits because due diligence was not followed. ASP/IIS glitch? It may bring downtime, but you can tell shareholders (and the auditors) that it was someone else's fault.

Lastly, commercial products do cost up front... but its a heck of a lot easier to get quality people who can run Windows than it is to find professional UNIX admins. The HR costs for a UNIX shop are a lot more than a Windows shop, unless the place is run by a LUG, or its in a geographic area where UNIX expertise is not a rare find.

Re:Figure out how to monetize it (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522193)

Yes, I agree with most of these examples (and I would add others as weel, esp. graphics / 3D programs), but this:

but for stuff that just cannot fail,
Guess what, I have been working in closed-source systems that, in theory, 'just cannot fail', for some time now, and let me tell you this:

I rather trust my dog than these people, because they haven't got the slightest clue of how to do it. Yes, they try, and it works, most of the time, but really don't count on it. And these are name-brand systems, costing a lot of money, that probably controls some of the infra-structure you're using right now. (yes, I'm being vague on purpose)

Of course I try to fix it, but I gave up a long time ago.

ASP/IIS glitch? It may bring downtime, but you can tell shareholders (and the auditors) that it was someone else's fault.
I'd rather use stuff that works (either open or closed), not expensive crap that doesn't work but gives me someone to blame for my incompetence (of using the BS product in the first place).

Who posts this crap... (1)

tomq123 (194265) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520089)

Some "Tech Analyst" from some "Open Source Research Group" (451 Group???) says that Open Source is on a downward trend because Tomcat only has 25 core developers. How is this news. Tomcat has done extremely well over the years with only these 25 core developers. Sounds like a very successful Open Source project to me.

Also, I think the rise in the use of Tomcat can be attributed to the move away from huge App Servers (WebSphere, Oracle, WebLogic) and rise in smaller more nimble apps using Struts and Spring, two other very successful Open Source projects.

Open Source is alive and very well.

Huh? (4, Insightful)

snoyberg (787126) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520095)

'There are 25 or so core contributors to that project,' Zachary said. 'Over the past four or five years that number has stayed virtually [unchanged]... but the growth of Tomcat has been astronomical.'"

I don't get it. There's an open source project run by 25 or so people that's had "astronomical" growth, but since they aren't bringing in new people there's a lack of talent? If they're doing well with those 25, why does the team have to grow?

25 is about 15 too many. (4, Insightful)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520427)

The assumption that a bigger team is an indicator of health is insane. Large teams in software development spend most of their time NOT WRITING CODE and NOT DEBUGGING CODE. They spend their time in meetings trying to figure out how to get 25 people or 50 people to all work together. If you have a really big job, like making a modern spreadsheet product, your best bet is to figure out how to partition it into a series of jobs that can be handled more or less independently by separate 5 person teams.

Re:Huh? (1)

Wylfing (144940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520887)

If they're doing well with those 25, why does the team have to grow?

Precisely. Raw numbers of coders don't mean anything. And now for the real reason for my reply...

In Soviet Slashdot, a beowulf cluster of Natalie Portman imagines you

Oh, please let that be true.

The number of Toyota Camry repair experts... (0)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520325)

Also remained unchanged despite a big growth in the number of cars on the road.

J2EE is J2EE and there is no reason people have to specifically learn Tomcat in order to create and deploy applications. Production websites generally do not run on Tomcat but rather on Oracle OC4J/IAS or one of other commercial application servers. Why would people become experts in something they would only use to debug some starter projects under netbeans?

I bet the number of Linux experts has significantly grown during the same time.

Talk to the Hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520381)

The open source industry in 2008 will be marked by more news out of Microsoft


A company can talk out of it's ass at any industry it wishes; doesn't mean it'll be considered news.

more bs less reality in yOUR future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21520389)

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corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
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Re:more bs less reality in yOUR future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21522719)

If you are bothered to write these tracts and post them, you obviously want people to read them.
If you want people to read them, fix your grammar and punctuation.

Write to communicate your ideas, not to obfuscate them. At the moment you are communicating in a incoherent, disordered and childish way. Either your thoughts are also in total disarray, and no amount of editing will improve matters, or you have something to say and need to do a little work before others can understand it.

Okay, time for the car anology (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520447)

How many automobile manufacturers were there at the beginning of the 20th century? How many do we have now? Since the number of manufacturers has changed little at all, or even shrunk, can we assume that even with astronomical growth in the use of automobiles, that there is something wrong with the automotive industry?

While that doesn't quite fit perfectly, I think it makes a point. If your 25 coders are putting out code good enough for astronomical use growth, then no more coders are needed. Every OSS project does NOT have to turn into a MS look alike to be successful. I think the author needs to re-evaluate their definition of success here. The hummer vehicles are successful as business goes, but there is not one in every driveway in North America yet. I have some very successful code, and there are 3 users total. It hums along nicely, 24/7 doing it's thing and all the end users are happy. It does not have astronomical growth, but it is SUCCESSFUL.

Why does F/OSS HAVE to compete with MS? That's not really rhetorical. For most of what I do, OO is absolutely great. I have no need to run and load MS Office. To me, OO is successful. I don't have to drive a Silver Ghost to have a great car. Tomcat and Apache are very successful at what they do because (IMO) MS sucked at that job and offered no real competition.

MP3 players are a successful market... not because of the superior sound quality, or because they were made by MS, but because they do their intended job very well. Some better than others, but all do the job. In the software world, it seems rare that there are more than two options for a given product precisely because of MS (not counting Mac products). If you only had a choice between an H1 hummer and a Mitsubishi Galant, or a BMW motorocycle... which would you drive?

The insistence that software must be like MS is at best absurd, and at worse, it's the worst thing that could happen to the F/OSS software industry.

Got served a WebSphere ad with this story (2, Interesting)

Graftweed (742763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520613)

Is /. using targeted ads now? I was reading this story using the RSS feed and the annoying embedded ad image proudly (and weirdly) announced:

"Using Tomcat but need to do more? Discover WebSphere Application Server."

Tomcat? (2, Insightful)

etnu (957152) | more than 6 years ago | (#21520695)

People who use Tomcat tend to be enterprisey types (which perhaps goes without saying; using Java to solve web problems is like using a chainsaw to shave), so it's no surprise that few of them are willing / able to contribute to the project. The kind of domain knowledge required to create an http server and to do the wiring necessary to make things easily configurable is pretty far removed from the typical day to day work of these engineers. I think this is kind of true for most open source projects. The free spirited "hacker" types who want to work on open source projects (write code without being paid? crazy!) tend to be the types of people more interested in algorithms and data structures than they are with worrying about the best way to implement GOF stuff.

WORK HARDER! FASTER! FOR LESS MONEY! (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521087)

For ANY programming jobs, the end objective these days is not good programming.

It's turning out servicable CRAP as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Programmers constantly under pressure to spend 80+ hours in front of a screen, and constant hints from management about outsourcing their jobs anyway, well where's the motivation to keep your intellect in programming?

This is why smart people are turning to other fields, and there will be a shortage of US programmers whether you are MicroSoft or anyone else.

Talent is not being Cultivated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21521183)

Well, talent is not being cultivated, it's being 'manufactured'.

Just look at the glut of 'programmers' and 'software engineers' out there.

Too many went in it just for the money, some java flunky that is nothing but a glorified typist, that can look up code examples on 'teh interwebs'.

Network World FTL! (2, Funny)

Jonboy X (319895) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521271)

He also said he anticipates Microsoft becoming increasingly busy in open source, since it "has a vested interest in making sure open source works well on Windows." However, he noted it could be well into the next decade before we see something as dramatic as an actual Linux distribution from Microsoft.


NetworkWorld: Your source for alarmist headlines, buzzword-compliant articles and wild speculation for over 20 years [networkworld.com]

Boomer retirement will increase open-source devs (1)

gregor-e (136142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521345)

The much-predicted talent shortage arising from the retirement of the baby boomers may, paradoxically, swell the ranks of open-source coders. Open-source folks work for coin of the spirit (which is that same thing wage-slaves work for, ultimately, as they turn their coin of the realm into stuff they like). Anyway, retired folks get itchy for something to do, and no longer need to earn a living. A lot of them will still have viable coding skills, and I expect we'll see a groundswell in open-source development of geezers looking for a rewarding part-time hobbby that will help them keep sharp.

ahem, hey stupid (1)

shareme (897587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521647)

Ahem, hey stupid Exactly how much has the SErvlet spec changed in the past 4 years for APache Tomcat to worry about increasing numbers? Not very much when compared to the specs for other parts of j2ee that govern app servers like Glassfish, JBoss, and Geronimo..Just look at the massive code changes from jboss 4 to jboss 5 that has new OSGI kernel.. Once ag9in flawed conclusions and flawed research.. Ask an expert once in a while you might get the real scoop.. Fred Grott Mobile Expert http://www.jroller.com/shareme [jroller.com]

Anyone want to give me a job then? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21521933)

In July I'll graduate with a 2.1 (or better!) masters degree in Computing from Imperial College London (which, in case you don't know, is ranked very highly for computer science). I'm currently looking for jobs based in Europe, preferably in a very large city, preferably London; free software would be excellent! :-D

Email me :-). (Or email my University! rsi at doc.ic.ac.uk is the careers person. Not enough interesting companies do this, but all the investment banks etc do -- I get at least one email a day from "rsi" about banks, and about one a week for something interesting)

What does "graduate with a 2.1" mean? (1)

KWTm (808824) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522655)

In July I'll graduate with a 2.1 (or better!) masters degree in Computing from Imperial College London
Just curious: what is a "2.1"? Is that an assessment of academic achievement, similar to the 0-100 on a report card?

Re:What does "graduate with a 2.1" mean? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21523687)

British degree classifications:

The percentage boundaries are common, but can vary between universities.
* First-Class Honours (First or 1st) (70% and above)
* Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1, 2i) (60-70%)
* Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2, 2ii) (50-60%)
* Third-Class Honours (Third or 3rd) (40-50%)
* Ordinary degree (pass)
* Fail (no degree is awarded)

Many jobs will advertise for "2:1 or above", there's a big perceived difference between a 2:1 and a 2:2.
The university makes a lot of difference too, but I'm sure that's the same everywhere (e.g. Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, etc are "best" by certain measures.)

Some places do ask for numerical scores (e.g. Google).

Since my grade is currently 69.something% I should stop posting to Slashdot and do some work ;-).

Linux (1)

claytonjr (1142215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522033)

If Linus was still the only developer for the kernel, how much less popular would it be? Your Mythical Man Month answer is not always appropriate.

some of it makes sense (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522525)

for one: Tomcat rocks! (shameless plug?)

ok, now back to the article. Companies are only embracing OSS and not the Free part. This has been around for a long time since the UNIX-mainstream days. The problem I see is that end users will not have the free-version of the software available anymore as the industry goes both feet into SAAS mode--that was a nice aspect of the business that were involved in F/OSS efforts today, but with the big 3 coming in will likely disappear.

"25" isn't some magic number... (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21522709)

Just because there are 25 programmers tied to the project doesn't mean that they are the only ones who make contributions to the project via bug reports, patches, providing documentation, and it doesn't even include those who work on the modules, does it? Maybe the core of Apache doesn't need to change so quickly because it's pretty stable feature-wise, and modules incorporate most new features? Did you see how long it took to go from Apache 1.x to 2.x? I'm not talking about how long it took to release, although that was long, but even adoption of Apache 2.x took a long time because 1.x was considered stable and secure, and hardly any development was still ongoing besides bugfixes. The additional development was a *deterrant* to adoption of the new version. There are quite a few factors to consider here and the article barely glosses over them, but aside from some rhetoric on Tomcat, the article doesn't really have any actual information to back up the point they're trying to make.

Only 25 devs is a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21523447)

The problem they are pointing out is that there are only 25 core devs, a project that popular should have attracted quite a few more but it hasn't, why?

A big project creates a barrier to entry but no barrier to leaving. If you want to contribute to a big project you have to start looking at and figuring out the code and style used, a sufficiently complex project and any minor change might have chain effects all over, its actually a fair bit of work and takes a while on minor contributions until you get to the point your a core dev and understand the project. Takes a bad day or just getting sick of it to leave. At least at a company like MS or IBM or Google they can spend money to have somebody sit in front of that code all day and tweak stuff, the coder may not be passionate about their code buts its a lot easier to keep keep people there in front of it.

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