Magazine article Online

Where the Jobs Are, Free and Open Source (FOSS) Waits for You

Magazine article Online

Where the Jobs Are, Free and Open Source (FOSS) Waits for You

Article excerpt

You probably know there is a dearth of hot spots in the job market. Whether you believe it's due to the theories surrounding a current sunspot cycle slowdown or financial meltdown is up to you. You may not realize there are exceptions. Some hot spots actually exist. One of them is programming for organizations that have embraced open source software. You'll recall that open source software refers to programs for which the source code is made available for anyone to examine or use.

Each day I get a Google alert about Lucene and Solr. A typical message reads as follows:

   Job: DevOps Engineer--Chef, Rails, MySQL, Solr,
   Redis--Goldstar Management and Monitoring of NoSQL
   DBs (Redis), message queues, search indexes (Solr),
   daemons and email servers. * Capacity Planning ...
   http://jobs.37signals.com/jobs/9124

Does this job description make sense to you? I wanted to determine if a "regular" person could figure out what the employer required. I showed it to my neighbor, a former business development manager for a healthcare company who is currently working as a "business consultant" while looking for a full-time job with benefits. He read the ad and asked, "What is this job? A joke?"

Nope, no joke. The open source boom has created an unprecedented demand for developers, engineers, and coders who can work with Lucene/Solr, Drupal, Hadoop, and dozens of other free and open source software (FOSS) swap outs for brand name enterprise solutions. This boom is not limited to the corporate world--nonprofits and libraries are embracing open source as well, both technologically and philosophically.

YOU'VE GOT ISSUES

The Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_ software) entry for open source software has a bold label that states, "This article has issues." That's a clue about the potential for contention regarding open source software. Open source communities are a fascinating combination of technical brilliance, rock star programmers who make a project or chunk of code "work," and the needs of the users of the software. It can also verge on the dysfunctional. Open source does not mean unencumbered. One needs a good attorney to figure out the licensing of open source software. Even more challenging is working through the thicket of jargon and in-crowd politics that forms around a major open source project such as Lucene/Solr for search, retrieval, and content processing.

Many individuals--both technical and nontechnical--have long seen open source software as a semiclosed and exclusive club for technical insiders. In this community, rock stars emerged. Their reputations gained heft as these programmers made significant contributions to open source projects.

Open source for many people means Linux, an open source version of Unix. The Linux kernel was the brainchild of the "rock star" Linus Torvalds, a Finnish software engineer. Since Torvalds first introduced Linux in 1991, it has sparked the interest of developers and users, who adapted code from other free software projects. It continues to receive contributions from thousands of programmers, even 20 years later.

For many years, commercial software vendors dismissed open source software. Commercial vendors want to "lock in" a customer, control the update and feature addition schedule, and build a developer ecosystem with training and certification hurdles. One company that does a great job of controlling an enterprise software ecosystem is Oracle. As you may know, Oracle (www.oracle.com) is now knee-deep in the open source world. IBM and even Microsoft are playing the open source card to win sales.

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OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY

What is an open source community? In its simplest form, the open source community consists of individuals who believe that software should be largely free of the constraints imposed on code by commercial enterprises. …

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