I realized that I didn't get too specific with talking about important
applications of open source other than the general trends around cloud
computing. My focus is on open source and open systems for municipal
public sector technology and there's a lot of work to do there and a
lot of untapped potential for open source. The open source paradigm
makes total sense for municipalities because they are not competing
with one another, they are publicly funded, and they largely share the
same needs and architecture. While open source makes logical sense in
the municipal world, it's often blocked by incompatible culture,
bureaucracy, and procurement policy. This is starting to change and we
can see some massive headway being made out in the open
west, but there's still a lot of work to be done.
The ideal will be an interoperable open network of municipalities using
and collaborating on open technology. With the advances being made by a
few key cities we should have some strong precedents in the very near
future. For now I'll leave it there. I don't want to spoil some
upcoming announcements and the talks that I will be giving at OpenGov West and Where
Some information on the precedents and thinking around municipal open
source and open systems leading toward new software ecologies and
"SmarterCities™" can be found below, but look forward to some
significant advances and announcements regarding this in the near
http://opengeo.org/publications/trimet/ & http://opentripplanner.org
Philip Ashlock wrote:
I see that you're already preparing to give your OSBC talk in a moment,
but maybe I can still provide some useful thoughts for the future.
Let me start with a few assumptions and generalizations:
We can see all these qualities in the transformation occurring in the
cloud era and I think we can already begin to see the evolution
beginning beyond the cloud era. The degree of open/closed and
centralized/decentralized waxes and wanes with each new stage of
technology, but it occurs at a different layer in the stack each time.
Here's a rough sketch of phases in physical infrastructure. I know
these are arguable, but I think it illustrates a general trend.
- Openness decentralizes singular control and instead distributes
it out into divergent creativity and emergent behavior. Yet, a caveat:
social norms often require some kind of leadership to
activate and sustain the larger community's engagement in the the
benefits of open
- Openness is an interdependent trilogy of open data, open
standards, and open source. Each one empowers the others and if you
remove one, the others are weakened. This trilogy is paralleled
in other fields too
- Each evolution of "open" pushes "closed" to compete at the
extremities of the stack: both closed innovation moving higher in the
stack and closed litigation lower in the stack.
centralized operations: mainframe with terminals
distributed operations: pc
centralized networks: pc + pc/server (pre TCP/IP networks)
distributed networks: pc + pc/server (internet)
centralized network services: mobile + pc + centralized clouds (now)
distributed network services & more distributed clients: things +
mobile voip/openbts + pc/tablet + private cloud + mesh (future)
Similar paralleled phases can also be associated with software and
Where we are right now is very analogous to a mainframe with dumb
terminals, but I think this is changing. We are now beginning to see
the potential of a more distributed infrastructure for both the web and
for the internet with more open standards for web services and data as
well as open standards and open source for private cloud infrastructure
and telephony. Obviously there's a near religious debate about the
future of the web and the role or viability of the more orthodox and
academic models for a semantic web versus the more iterative scrappy
and often more bootstrappable forays into potential standards (elder
brilliantly wise Tim Berners Lee Vs younger brilliantly naive Tim
Berners-Lee). I think lots of different strategies will have a role to
play. I'm certainly no expert on this stuff, but I often group things
into the traditional semantic web standards (eg RDFa/SPARQL, XMPP, etc)
and the more nebulous "open stack for the web" emerging standards for
web services associated with the social web (eg OpenID, Webfinger,
PortableContacts, oAuth, PuSH, ActivityStrea.ms, Salmon, etc). Anil
Dash has a nice take on these two different approaches, comparing XMPP
to PuSH, but of course Google is flanking the web with these
standards from both sides: Wave on one side and Buzz and other services
on the other. In the end, we'll be using parts of both.
My point with all of this is that web technologies and related
protocols are gaining potential to parallel the openness and
distributed behavior of the underlying TCP/IP stack. I think much of
the vision of the semantic web is for web technologies to abstract and
act much more like internet protocols. My guess is that this is very
much what will eventually happen. This is also coupled with the
emerging trend for more robust private cloud computing that can
interoperate with existing centralized cloud providers.
As was mentioned earlier, a lot is happening in the emergence of the
open source private cloud with Ubuntu private cloud / Eucalyptus / Nasa
Nebula. There's also activity around the open source abstraction layers
to provide interoperable App Engine style deployment on many different
cloud infrastructures, eg libcloud and Silver Lining.
There's enterprise-level private cloud and states like Michigan and
Utah providing a sort of federated public-services private cloud
infrastructure for their regions rather than having municipal IT rely
on the big centralized providers. There are also attempts to
recontextualize what the cloud is and really bring the features we've
come to expect to the edges of the network in our homes and offices.
Even though robust virtualization and massive scalability is not yet
there, you could say that things like the Pogoplug and other uses of
the Sheevaplug and plug computing are a frontier for cloud computing.
Eventually cloud computing will be much more cloud like: nebulously
ubiquitous. It won't be that you don't know exactly where in the AWS
network your computing is, it'll be that you won't know where in the
meshy network of everything your compute power and data are. Obviously,
we've already seen signs of this with SETI-like grid computing,
botnets, bittorrent, etc. Ideally this transition will also be coupled
with robust mesh networks and OpenBTS or whatever it'll take to evolve
out of the current centralized control of the networks.
Ultimately, where open source and open systems matter most is at the
edges where they're being threatened by litigation or a simple lack of
established openness. This is clearly playing out with cloud computing,
smart phones, network infrastructure, and the legal fights for free
culture and FLOSS in general. The value of open source is always clear:
distributing the value of innovation, the freedom of nuanced control,
and the robustness of an open decentralized system.
Sorry I didn't get this out before the OSBC talk. Will that be
available to view on the web in the near future?
Tim O'Reilly wrote:
years, I've been saying that open source needs to
adapt to the cloud era. In pieces like The Open Source Paradigm Shift
and What is Web 2.0? I argued that data driven applications in the
cloud provide a fundamental challenge to open source.
Yet it's clear that open source is still extremely relevant. For
The Android open source hardware and software stack is playing a major
role in mobile.
Arduino is sparking an open source revolution in sensors and DIY
projects based on them, and there are important open source projects in
machine vision like OpenCV. Willow Garage is building an open source
Open source tools are playing a major role in those aforesaid cloud
data applications, in areas from hadoop to cassandra and other nosql
Open source plays a major role in web operations.
Tools like Ushahidi are crowdsourcing crisis data, and starting to find
Nat Torkington just wrote a phenomenal post about the need for tools to
manage open data as if it were an open source project:
I'm giving a talk on this subject at OSBC next week, and I'd love to
hear from this group about what are some of the most interesting open
source projects on your radar, and what makes them important.
I'm sure that there are lots of projects that I'm not aware of, and I'd
love ideas for projects that I ought to feature in my talk.
Tim O'Reilly, Founder & CEO O'Reilly Media
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472
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