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The role of Open Source and Foundations in Enterprises

I had the pleasure of joining a panel discussion that included several instrumental folks including Duncan Johnston-Watt, Sam Ramji & Monty Taylor on the role of the foundation. Without getting too far into the nitty gritty, there were some very interesting themes that came up…of which I will try to summarize here.


Many of the foundations are working with Open Source Software as a means to bring collaboration and organization to a collective of like-minded folks. In many ways, the role of the foundation is to bring organization to chaos.

During the conversation, a core conversation topic is the maturity model of engagement for customers. The model encompasses a number of different attributes. One of which is the relationship between individuals, foundations and commercial organizations.

Software Maturity Spectrum


One of the big misnomers with Open Source Software is that it is free. Open Source Software is not free. As one panelist equated: taking software without paying (or contributing back) is theft. At the opposite end of the spectrum is commercial software where a commercial agreement outlines the exchange of software for money. And, of course, there are a myriad of different attributes in between.

While this is only one way to slice the conversation, there are many ways in which one could look at how individuals engage with Open Source Software and how it, in turn, relates to foundations.


Each foundation follows a varied mission. However, there are three facets that often cover the core aspects of the foundation’s mission: Political, Economic and Technical. Many foundations will focus on the technical attributes without consideration of the economic nor political components. Unfortunately, only focusing on one facet leads to challenges that will manifest in a number of ways.

Not all foundations will, or need to, serve each of these dynamics. However, there is a reality setting in that the majority of foundations will need to address each of them in order. To ignore one or two (ie: political or economic) provides a significant, if not unsurmountable challenge.


In the end, foundations are complex. For the enterprise, it is important to understand the role of the foundation and how it aligns with your own vision and needs. It is important to find the appropriate ways to engage in a collaborative fashion.

Tim Crawford is ranked as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Chief Information Technology Officers (#4), Top 100 Most Social CIOs (#7), Top 20 People Most Retweeted by IT Leaders (#5) and Top 100 Cloud Experts and Influencers. Tim is a strategic CIO & advisor that works with large global enterprise organizations across a number of industries including financial services, healthcare, major airlines and high-tech. Tim’s work differentiates and catapults organizations in transformative ways through the use of technology as a strategic lever. Tim takes a provocative, but pragmatic approach to the intersection of business and technology. Tim is an internationally renowned CIO thought leader including Digital Transformation, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT). Tim has served as CIO and other senior IT roles with global organizations such as Konica Minolta/ All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics and National Semiconductor. Tim is also the host of the CIO In The Know (CIOitk) podcast. CIOitk is a weekly podcast that interviews CIOs on the top issues facing CIOs today. Tim holds an MBA in International Business with Honors from Golden Gate University Ageno School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Golden Gate University.

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