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Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Power of Open Source Development
Most literature around open source focuses on using open source software (OSS). While the benefits of OSS are rapidly gaining recognition, some smart organizations are going a step further and applying the Open Source Development Model (OSDM) to solve problems that have proved to be otherwise intractable. OSDM is based on collaboration, community, and the shared ownership of knowledge. Linux is one of the best examples of how this model works.

In September 1991, Linus Torvalds released 10,000 lines of source code for Linux and licensed it under the liberal General Public License that gave anyone permission to copy, modify, and redistribute the code. The only condition was that anyone making improvements to the software and redistributing the changes had to share the improvements with the rest of the community. This liberal license attracted thousands of contributors over the years, who contributed their bit to improve the code base of Linux. A Linux Foundation study found that Fedora, a community Linux distribution, has now grown to contain almost 204 million lines of code.

There are two reasons why Linux and other OSS programs have demonstrated such explosive growth. One is the growth of the Internet, which is the largest collaborative platform in the history of mankind, connecting 1.5 billion people across the world. The other is the open, participative and distributed development model of open source where users are actually encouraged to contribute to the development of the software. This is in sharp contrast to proprietary software that allows very limited rights to users.

Some of the most savvy technology users are embracing the participative nature of open source to build technologies that suit their needs. For example, John O'Hara, senior architect and distinguished engineer at JPMorgan, pioneered Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) as an open source project after being frustrated with developing front- and back-office processing systems at investment banks.

In 2003, O'Hara embarked on a quest to standardize Message-oriented Middleware (MOM) technology, to enable mission critical enterprise applications to send messages to each other in a reliable and scalable manner. He decided to break from the past by creating the AMQP protocol with the intention of making it freely licensed. In 2006, he invited Red Hat to help him create a governance structure based on open source principles.

For developing an early version of the software, O'Hara tapped iMatix, a boutique European development house that had clearly demonstrated a commitment to open source. In 2006, Red Hat's Carl Trieloff submitted an AMQP based project called ‘Qpid’ to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF)—which manages the Apache HTTP Server, the world’s most popular web server, and 64 other open source projects. Qpid is now a Top-Level Project (TLP) within ASF, signifying that the project’s community and products have been well-governed under the ASF’s meritocratic process and principles. The Qpid project continues to grow with contributions from vendors ranging from Red Hat to Microsoft, and users ranging from banks and telcos to consultants and small businesses.

The AMQP project is a perfect example of what Eric Von Hippel, Professor of Innovation at MIT's Sloan School of Management, calls “user-driven innovation.” In his book Democratizing Innovation, Von Hippel says that OSS projects are exciting examples of complete innovation development and consumption communities run by and for users. Today, users like Credit Suisse, Deutsche Börse Systems, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase Bank, the TWIST consortium and others, partner with IT leaders like Cisco, Red Hat, and Microsoft in the AMQP consortium (for further details, you can refer to

Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Today, AMQP processes billions of transactions per day and has many implementations from Apache Qpid (, OpenAMQ, RabbitMQ and many other clients and eco-system integrations. AMQP can also be seen at work in many other projects like visualization, (ovirt, libvirt), in grid computing (Condor), in rich integrations in open source showing WS-DM, JMX, .NET, C++, Java, JMS, Python, Ruby, etc. In a powerfully interconnected world, the OSDM used to build AMQP demonstrates the power and value of collaborative software development.
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