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How open source got its groove back

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Articles - October 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Puppet Labs software is used to manage and automate large corporate data centers. Making it intuitive and powerful to use is the focus of VP Teyo Tyree (left) and user experience expert Randall Hansen.
Photo by Michael Cogliantry
OSU also happens to be the physical home for the holy grail of open source: the Linux kernel. Linux, like Windows, is an operating system that controls a computer’s hardware. Virtually every open-source program works on Linux, and was written by Lake Oswego resident Linus Torvalds. The kernel is the heart of Linux and its source code rests on disk drives housed in the Open Source Labs on the OSU campus along with other major open-source software code such as Apache and Drupal.

“The Lab connects the dots between academia, economic development and companies,” says Deborah Bryant, public sector communities manager at OSL.

It’s likely that open source will continue to thrive in the region. For one thing, Portland under Mayor Sam Adams has launched a number of projects, such as CitySync, PDX Reporter and more, based on open- source technologies. And the mayor has been a high-profile supporter of open source by being a regular keynote speaker at OSCON and Open Source Bridge. Transit agency Tri-Met also evaluates open-source software for every software purchase.

In addition to the city, the state of Oregon in 2003 was the first in the nation to mull legislation to force agencies to consider open source as an alternative to commercial products. Although it did not pass into law, the state does have a charter statement from its CIO Council to “consider open-source opportunities to accomplish the mission of state government and achieve the state’s business objectives.”

Beyond that, open source is doing great on its own. Market researcher IDC says open source is a $5.8 billion industry growing at 22% annually, much faster than the 8% growth of the commercial software business. A lot of that new growth promises to happen in Oregon because if history tells us anything, the vibrant open-source community here will lure more businesses, which will generate more jobs, which attract more developers, creating an expanding virtuous circle of technical talent and talent-hungry enterprises in the region.

Mark Everett Hall is a Salem-based journalist who has been a writer and editor for Computerworld, MacWeek, and Performance Computing. He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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