“A man who is not a Liberal at twenty has no heart. A man who is not a Conservative at forty has no head.”
– Attribution is controversial
At the beginning of my professional career I was a staunch supporter of Open Source. As a young engineer, I had no budget, I was not supposed to have a budget, and I had been trained by my years in college to do things without a budget. After all, why use money on projects when using time to hack things together was so much cheaper?
Just like that young me, thousands of developers around the globe have been following in the footsteps of great people like RMS, Linus Torvald, Igor Sysoev, Willy Tarreau, PHK and endless others to create fantastic pieces of software that solved real problems for thousands of organizations, be they commercial or not. I breathed that air. There’s a lot of pride that goes into being part of the Open Source community. And there’s a lot of solid learning that one needs to do (and solid amount of free time donated) in order to be one of its respected members.
As with any human community, aggregation happens around narratives, i.e. storytelling that everyone agrees on that bounds all members together. Some of that narrative is fair. Much of it is naive. And some simply clashes with reality full on. Without going too much around it, one such narrative that clashed with reality was the assumption that Open Source Software was guaranteed to be better and outperform commercial software, and do so consistently in all possible cases. This is pretty far from reality, and nowadays most will acknowledge that, which wasn’t the situation 20 years ago.
In spite of having invented WURFL almost two decades ago and having managed it as a FOSS Project in the first 10, as I matured in my professional career, reality showed that things were different. Great Open Source products exist for sure, but, as we look at more specific needs by users, we find endless examples of how the part-time effort of a few willing can hardly keep up with fully-fledged teams that make the development of great products the core of their profession. In fact, if I look at the old WURFL and what WURFL has become with the transition to its commercial version, I can see a glaring example of that.
Why am I telling you all this? Because something good has happened recently. Our WURFL NGINX Module got certified by NGINX, Inc. As I think of NGINX, I can recognize a similar pattern to WURFL: a product that was born as FOSS, out of the vision and the commitment of its creator, which reached a maturity stage where more was needed to step up the game. While Enterprises like Open Source for its pricing, they are also dependent on the availability of new features, good documentation, dedicated support, SLAs, the ability to deploy in the Cloud and more. These are capabilities that a purely FOSS solution can simply not achieve.
As I look at the matrix that compares OSS NGINX to NGINX Plus, the sense of what Enterprise means appears in all its clarity. So many more features and that awesome support. There is an obvious parallel with the evolution of WURFL over the years. And it was only a matter of time before Enterprise WURFL reached integration with Enterprise NGINX after years of integration with its OSS version. This has finally happened.
As one progresses in their career, programming becomes project management, and project management becomes governance. Good governance relies on setting up solid systems and processes to achieve the goals of your organization. Sending an email to a mailing list of volunteers hoping to obtain support is not good governance. Relying on the guaranteed response of a dedicated team is.