Ask companies why this year's O'Reilly Open Source Convention looked like such an endless buffet of opportunities for open-source developers and you'll likely get this in your reply: access, autonomy, flexibility, and power.
InfoWorld reported last month on the boom in hiring booths at OSCON, and it noted the drive to bring open-source developers to those tables.
Why is this happening? The bottom line, according to some experts, is that the old-school way of building out a business's software and hardware infrastructure doesn't speak to the new-school questions that open-source projects entail.
What many businesses want is to move away from the considerable costs of maintenance of commercial systems. The goal is to create more precisely what they imagine will serve their customers best. It's the ability to design, redesign, and work with product goals on an entirely more elemental level.
Three Way Street: Futures for IT in an Open-Source World
"Some IT departments are dealing with this overhang of twenty or thirty years of packaged apps and commercial software that have so many constraints that they're being reduced to janitors," said David M. Fishman, vice president of marketing for Mirantis. "Their ability to take on new development projects is being reduced to nearly nothing."
The scenario amounts to either obsolescence, or brain drain — as business development pulls open-source capable IT staff into its own ranks — or a basic redesign and transformation of what IT should entail.
"Some IT departments say, 'Hey, wait a minute,'" Fishman said. "'If I can get my people to make it easier to wire all this stuff up in the first place, then the business developers don't have to run off and do it themselves.'"
There are other benefits to open-source skills as well. The very practice breeds a kind of attraction, when it comes to employers seeking their next candidates for a team.
Doing It Themselves: Why the Open-Source Ethic Appeals
Being able to work on an open-source app at home, on one's own setup, and then being able to bring that product to the presentation room is part of the work ethic that open-source encourages.
And the experience is paying off, as far as hiring managers are concerned.
"Software development isn't a just job for open-source developers, it's their passion," said Jenson Crawford, director of software engineering at Crowd Ignite.
That's one of the reasons her company seeks to hire them. Another reason: "Open-source developers have more hours of experience per year than developers who only work nine to five," Crawford said. "Open-source developers write better software due to feedback they have received on open-source projects."
Edgework: Frontiers of Open Source and Next Steps
As they were a decade ago, experts are still predicting a kind of sea change that commercial apps and packages may need to address when it comes to open source. The findings of the seventh annual Future of Open Source survey tell the story. "This year's results signal a shift in reasons why open source is chosen over proprietary alternatives," said Michael J. Skok, general partner at North Bridge Venture Partners, which co-sponsored with Black Duck Software on the study.
Added Skok, "Going forward, as broader adoption creates a virtuous cycle of innovation and investment, we can expect more disruption from open source, new business models, and many more exciting new projects and companies."
In other words, the time to advance one's open-source skills is now, and the hiring opportunities seen at this year's OSCON are not likely to vanish anytime soon. If anything, they're expanding. The world of developers — and IT departments — may never be the same.