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Pros and cons of open source software development with Jeff Genender

Open source expert Jeff Genender's interest in open source software development may have started with a desire to save money, but he also found open source toolsets that provide functionality that is sometimes lacking in even the expensive corporate offerings. Corporate products often come with escalating maintenance costs that can, in some cases, be avoided by using open source. In addition, finding and fixing bugs can be problematic when dealing with a corporate provider, whereas, according to Jeff Genender, open source developers are able to quickly develop patches and release them back into the open source community.

On the other hand, open source Java development can require more resources in terms of staff hours, as the open source community depends on contributions from its member parts. In other words, you can have a quick turnaround on bug fixes, as long as you're willing to put in the time and effort to help build and release the patch. Another tradeoff when it comes to the quickness with which a specific bug can be fixed is that the patch sets are not as smooth because multiple different teams are working them out at the same time. According to Genender, there can also be a certain amount of "political turmoil" or red tape involved in making larger changes to open source toolsets.

Read the full transcript from this video below:  

Pros and cons of open source software development with Jeff Genender

SearchSOA: Jeff, just to set some baseline as we discuss open source, how long have you been in the software business?

Jeff Genender: Software business since 1989. I got started with low-level C development, got into Java development at or about 1994, and have been involved in software development, system architecture design all the way through right now.

SearchSOA: And you're saying C, not C++.

Jeff Genender: C, before C++ became heavily proliferated. Yes, assembler; I was down to the bare metal.

SearchSOA: When did you start working with open source?

SearchSOA: I started working with open source in about 1999, I would say '98 or '99, when I started working for some companies that did not have budgets and wanted to see what types of tools that were out there. Believe it or not, some of the tools, some of the servlet engines that were out there were the only things that were around. So I worked with that, got a lot of different companies involved with it, started doing a lot of patches to the open source communities and that is kind of all she wrote.

SearchSOA: OK. So the initial drive was to save money?

Jeff Genender: The initial drive was to save money but I guess, on the other side, it was to find a toolset that was out there, that was available, that could provide for what we need, that was not available in a commercial product, or a very expensive commercial product.

SearchSOA: Did it have to do with small vendors disappearing on you if you had bought their software, or big vendors continuing upping the price of maintenance?

Jeff Genender: It is the big vendors upping the price of maintenance, upping the licensing costs, and not being able to get quick turnaround. For example, if you had a problem, in order to fix a bug, sometimes you'd report the bug and you wouldn't get the patch for maybe several months down the road, with a very short workaround. With open source, we were able to edit the code, fix it immediately, get it up and running, then return the patch on what we did back into the open source community.

SearchSOA: Now, having worked with C, the tools there were pretty mono/mono tools, not quite like Power Builder…

Jeff Genender: Correct.

SearchSOA: Do you feel that the tools you have available now are adequate? Do you ever remember Delphi or something that Boreland did?

Jeff Genender: Absolutely. I am dating myself now by discussing, knowing these older tools. Absolutely. I think the open source tools suites that you have today, like the Eclipses of the world, are just phenomenal and second to none. You see big companies getting rid of their own toolsets and basing it off of some of the open source ones. The community came first and then the source proliferated, now we got probably some of the most fantastic tools in open source.

SearchSOA: Has some of the center power moved away from the companies and to the people that get together and mush these things out at conferences or on the internet?

Jeff Genender: Absolutely, that is where a lot of the stuff is being done. It is done in IRC chat rooms, at conferences, on mailing lists. It is great because anybody can get involved, anyone can contribute; if you've got a fantastic idea and you want to contribute. You never what kind of components you can be building that proliferate in the corporate world. There is a lot of opportunity for the little guy, too.

SearchSOA: But there are company people on a lot of these standards groups. Is that a good thing?

Jeff Genender: I think it is a good thing because if all open source is pretty much done in people's spare time, I do not think you would have quite the quality that you have there today. I think the fact that certain companies can dedicate resources on a full-time basis, with keeping in mind the openness and the community component of open source development, that's really what helps build the quality of the product; you get the best of both worlds.

SearchSOA: As an independent, do you have to put in a lot of time because you also are a contributor?

Jeff Genender: Yes, absolutely. I did get paid at one point working for a company. I had to give the patches back and work with the communities, but I got hooked on it and that went into my after-hours and up into the wee midnight hours of just developing, because I loved it so much.
Absolutely, I did do that, and I still do that today.

SerarchSOA: For our record here, which are the main open source projects that you are involved with?

Jeff Genender: I am heavily involved in Service Mix, CXF, Active MQ, and Apache Kill.

SearchSOA: Stepping aside, we have talked about benefits. What are the problems of open source?

Jeff Genender: The problem of open source is sometimes be political turmoil. You get different factions of folks that want different things or components into an open source product, and sometimes it can be difficult to get what you want out the door, or there is a lot of voting that can go on. Sometimes there is a little bit of political jumbling, but that is probably the biggest obstacle.

SearchSOA: It is no harder to get a component fixed than it is in the real world?

Jeff Genender: I think it is easier. If you are willing to pick up a shovel, and help out, and contribute, I think it is a lot easier to get a component fixed than in the real world. If you go to a lot of commercial based organizations, which shall remain nameless, if you report a bug, you have to wait for the next official release. If you have a support contract, you might get a patch in a certain amount of time. The nice thing about open source is you can get it done right away.

SearchSOA: Keeping up with the revisions is always spooky to me when I say 3.71.3. Is that the same as it is in the commercial world?

Jeff Genender: I would say that the patch sets that are provided for you in the open source are probably not as smooth when having to upgrade from one version to another. You will not necessarily get a great installer that does the perfect installation and updates your software for you. That is probably a little bit more of a bump in the road and that is something that we hear complaints about, but it is the trade-off you get for going open source.

SearchSOA: Thank you so much for being with us today.

Jeff Genender: Thank you.


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