open source

Open-Xchange Discusses How Open-Source Software is Flexing its Power

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Editor’s note: Is there a connection between open-source and delivering value in the “connected economy?” Definitely, says Chris Latterell, VP of marketing at software engineering company Open-Xchange. Like his company’s flagship product, OX App Suite, open source is people centric and responsive. In this interview he discusses game-changing open-source trends.

SandHill.com: What are some of the comments your company is hearing from potential customers regarding open-source software? What business problems are driving them to open source?

Chris Latterell: The Internet continues to drive new industries and connect value chains at exponential rates. Open-source software (OSS) allows development teams to rapidly address this phenomenon benefiting greatly from having a diverse community interested in the development of the solution, not just one vendor.

This allows, for example, for peer review from a base of knowledgeable and expert supporters. These communities are invested in the quality of the software, not necessarily invested in making a buck from every feature improvement or addition. This is an important benefit often overlooked.

Costs in this context are actually driving business to not only search for non-proprietary ways of remaining agile but also to find and implement them at healthy rates. The main issue of IT deployment in virtual and remote environments has disrupted the entire IT industry to such an extent that the IT administrator is discovering more work in the HR department vs. “just” the data center.

SandHill.com: In your opinion, what has been the most interesting aspect about OSS adoption over the past two years?

Chris Latterell: One thing is for sure: Big Data has forced everyone on the planet connected through the Internet to reconsider the importance of scale. Big Data alone has already shifted models once based on commoditization back to innovation as the vendor lock-in model can only compete up until a point and then it breaks.

I don’t envy the position that Apple and Oracle are in at the moment. These closed-source giants have bet their future on the wrong end of the stick (or not the full stick): the intersection of cloud, mobile and Big Data can only be OSS. Amazon and Google are betting everything on this and rightfully so.

Consumers are quickly becoming a force in the way software evolves these days. How is that affecting open source? I see this primarily being done through the old maxim: “location, location, location.” And mobility is the location where software is pioneering new depths of meaning and connection for each one of us individually.

In a way, one could say the distribution of Apps via app stores is the beginning of an open-source distribution model for individuals to create software vs. proprietary companies. Data sits at the core of this rise in user-created software: a need for a better experience and more freedom in sharing one’s own data. A good example is the gaming industry which is exploring how people share, connect and play in non-traditional ways and mobility is accelerating this development.

SandHill.com: How does your company demonstrate its open-source philosophy in its products? How are you leveraging open source to benefit customers?  

Chris Latterell: Open-Xchange delivers Web-based products and services based on open standards that are interoperable: open source provides more avenues for people to deploy their ideas bigger than proprietary and conventional entrapment models ever could. We believe that this is the difference between making software that people have to use (i.e., no real alternative) and applications people choose to use and recommend across their personal and professional circles. Open source has been the foundation and provides the motivation (Linux, Red Hat, Drupal, Firefox, WordPress) for scaling how people want to work across their digital lives.

Our flagship product, OX App Suite, enables this seamlessly by connecting data integration with the requirement of free and secure collaboration. OX App Suite has been built exactly at the intersection of data access and user value. This is amplified by providing a software platform that is people-centric (vs. technology centered). It is built using responsive design, which enables people to connect their files, communication and time management across devices or platforms from a single interface.

SandHill.com: How is open source helping government entities achieve their goal of becoming more agile despite legacy IT?

Chris Latterell: Governments, like companies, have the tendency to become bloated, overwhelmed with the process of process. Too much scrutiny from the public eye requires that people and programs harden before going operational. This means long lead times, untested with false or outdated solutions that don’t move at today’s speed (i.e., the Internet).

Open source fundamentally challenges the current premise that government has to create predictable services. The principles of OSS philosophy are based on continuous deployment, actionable metrics and the ability to pivot/fork and customize new or disruptive requirements. Open source provides an instant engagement model providing the space for people to create and participate vs. prescribe what people “have-to do.” Now that is freedom, democracy and of course how government needs to run. Open source enables us all (as a part of government, i.e., voting) to be a crowd of hands vs. a crowd of voices. As Jennifer Pahlka says: what if we loved and used government as much as we do our iPhones?

SandHill.com: Your company is one of the collaborators the 2013 Future of Open Source survey. What new trends do you anticipate may show up as findings in this year’s survey?

Chris Latterell: I hope we don’t only see a higher willingness to adopt OSS platforms but more a requirement to break through the old mentality of how business runs — both the business of one’s 9-5 job as well as the personal business of staying connected and informed meaningfully.

My hunch is that we will start to see that the “business of interruption” in the mass market gives way to working across specific, connected ecosystems based on value and trust. Communication and collaboration are now so integrated into how our digital and physical lives work that, to me, the old standards of working are simply too full of risk to rely on them.

Economies of scale are at the core of innovation vs. economies focused on profit. Open source for me, is about deploying the build-measure-learn feedback loop into all business systems regardless of whether or not it’s built by a lean startup.

SandHill.com: From your observation, where does open source need to focus over the next three years in order to provide more value to customers?

Chris Latterell: Breaking legacy thinking in business, in user experience and in delivering value in the connection economy. This is where open source has pioneered human ingenuity and innovation. Copy, Paste and Save today have become Link, Rate and Share, which is accelerating creative output and our need to connect.

In the next three years, the focus needs to be on establishing the next wave/web of open standards that connects motivation, technology and innovation not only across screens and mini-screens of consumers, but in impoverished communities that have never tasted the value of fresh water. To me, open source plays a more fundamental role than just where the IT part of this discussion takes us.

Click here to take the Future of Open Source survey. Take five minutes for this survey and tell us what attracts you to open source. Open-Xchange is proud to be a collaborator of the 2013 Future of Open Source Survey.

Chris Latterell is VP Marketing at Open-Xchange and drives thought leadership and integrated communications into the SaaS marketplace. Previously at frog design, Chris led global IT, teleco and automotive client relationships. He worked with HP, delivering strategic marketing campaigns across EMEA. He was also a director at OgilvyOne, leading a team to create and implement 360-degree co-marketing campaigns for SAP and IBM worldwide. Contact him at chris.latterell@open-xchange.com for more connection on open-source and the business of marketing.

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.

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