If you divided today’s software sector into a detailed Venn diagram, you would end up with a very complex pattern of overlapping shapes and colors. To my mind—and I think to that of most IT managers—these overlaps are welcome news. Where two or more technologies or camps intersect, it means that they are communicating, working together and interoperating. And it means that technology users have choice, that we can combine disparate solutions to meet performance, security and cost requirements.
Technology companies work together and achieve interoperability in a number of ways—through implementation of standards, cross-licensing agreements, technical collaborations and so on.
The combination of best practices emerging from proprietary and open-source software developers offers one of the most promising avenues toward innovation, improved systems management and greater cost control. The most visible example of just such a combination is the alliance between Novell and Microsoft. Novell has increased its value to customers because, as in our Venn diagram, the company now solidly intersects with Linux, OpenOffice, Windows, DB2, Active Directory, Oracle and so on. No other Linux distributor offers this set of benefits.
However, there is a movement afoot, led by the Free Software Foundation, that may prevent such collaborative efforts in the future.
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