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Critiquing Claims of an Open Source Jobs Boom 134

Posted by timothy
from the join-us-now-and-free-the-software dept.
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Bill Snyder examines what appears to be an open source job market boom, as evidenced by a recent O'Reilly Report. According to the study, 5 to 15 percent of all IT openings call for open source software skills, and with overall IT job cuts expected for 2009, 'the recession may be pushing budget-strapped IT execs to examine low-cost alternatives to commercial software,' Snyder writes. But are enterprises truly shifting to open source, or are they simply seeking to augment the work of staff already steeped in proprietary software? The study's methodology leaves too much room for interpretation, Savio Rodrigues retorts. 'That's why the 5% to 15% really doesn't sit well with me,' Rodrigues writes. 'I suspect that larger companies are looking for developers with a mix of experience with proprietary and open source products, tools and frameworks,' as opposed to those who would work with open source for 90 percent of the work day."
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Critiquing Claims of an Open Source Jobs Boom

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  • The cheapest code... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kjella (173770) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:48PM (#24325385) Homepage

    ...is the one you didn't have to write in the first place. Developers with some knowledge of BSD/LGPL code that could be used for rapidly creating complex apps without reinventing the wheel is probably in demand.

    • by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:14PM (#24325763) Homepage

      No! The cheapest code is the code that doesn't require support, maintenance, or bug fixes! Development costs are trivial compared to upkeep costs.

      • No! The cheapest code is the code that doesn't require support, maintenance, or bug fixes! Development costs are trivial compared to upkeep costs.

        I'm going to sell my "hello world" code for millions! :)

        • by rbanffy (584143) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @06:11PM (#24326551) Homepage Journal

          I have been reliably running my hello world program since my Apple II days. With more than 30 years of field testing, extensive debugging and hardening, it's probably one of the most enterprise-ready hello world programs in existence.

          Yours obviously can't compete.

        • by mcrbids (148650)

          Show me your densest, most bug-free rendition of your "hello world" code. It's possible I can beat it...

          • by tjstork (137384)

            Show me your densest, most bug-free rendition of your "hello world" code. It's possible I can beat it...

            Go for it!

            msg db 'Hello World'
            mov dx, offset msg
            mov ah, 9
            int 21h

            If you store that baby as COM file, its going to be all of a handful of bytes.

            • by mcrbids (148650)

              I beat you all. Mine's denser.

              Written in PHP:

              Hello World

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

          My last attempt at writing an app that ambitious bricked my system.

      • by Foofoobar (318279)

        No! The cheapest code is the code that doesn't require support, maintenance, or bug fixes!

        So we are in agreeance then. Open source IS better! :)

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        No! The cheapest code is the code that doesn't require support, maintenance, or bug fixes! Development costs are trivial compared to upkeep costs.

        Good luck with that.

        Let me know when something even close to that makes an appearance. In the meantime, people are forced to deal with support issues, maintenance issues, and bug fixes. They must deal with it either directly or indirectly (maintenance fees and/or personal to pick up the phone to get support on the other end). Either way, your counter argument simp

        • by NateTech (50881)

          Or they could do like most of the open-source world when the going gets tough -- give up, fork or start a whole new app that's just as buggy, and continue on at the same crappy quality level forever.

      • Actually this is an argument for open source, although not one of the strongest. If you use popular open source software, you get many bugfixes for the open source part for free - there's no guarantee the bugfixes posted with the project update will be what you need though, but there's a good chance it is.
  • This Is True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @04:55PM (#24325505)
    I just got hired in Manhattan by a new company and they have all expected lots of OpenSource technology knowledge. In fact, I recently worked for Barnes & Noble and one of my victories was convincing them to dump JRun for JBoss. Eclipse is everywhere and that is free. (I use MyEclipse, though, for $30 a pop). So, this is bourne out by my experience. The fact is, proprietary software is only supported by the company. Open Source is supported by the masses. And you know which ends up being better--the masses. I remember putting a note in JRun's forums and it went unanswered for a year. Nobody uses those forums. JBoss and Hibernate are teeming with activity. Open Source is "King" (sorry Gavin).
    • by NateTech (50881)

      Let's translate.

      I convinced my employer at great expense (people time, downtime) to change technologies without a shred of evidence it would actually lower the number or amount of bugs our developers create daily. Activity for activity's sake.

      I would run the open version of Eclipse but it sucks, so I buy one because it actually works correctly more often than not.

      I then claim my experience leads me to believe open source is better than closed. (Huh? Why put the story in there about paying for Eclipse the

      • Nate, I'll address your comments point by point: "I convinced my employer at great expense..."--no, my employer (a former DBA VP came up with the idea. We did a POC and had nearly all the kinks ironed out before we changed the team. "I would run the open version of Eclipse but it sucks..."--no idea. I've used WebSphere Studio App Developer, Visual Cafe (true crap), JBuilder, JDeveloper and MyEclipse. Never used raw Eclipse so I have no idea if it sucks. "I then claim my experience leads me to
        • by NateTech (50881)

          Hmm.. point by point. Okay, I can play that game too.

          "My boss came up with the idea" Yeah, because changing out the development team behind everyone's backs makes for a happy workplace, and of course it was economically sound...? (You could answer that question if you were him and could see the real numbers on how much you cost versus the originally deployed solution, but it sure sounds to me like he just wanted yes-men around him, a MUCH more common reason for changing technologies in a company than any

  • In job hunting, I'm seeing more Open Source skills being requested in the mixes, but they are part of a mix, and they definitely tend to be in heavier demand on the front-end web dev side than on the back-end dev side.
    • by NateTech (50881)

      Ah yes, web browsers still suck as user interfaces and always have.

      Now companies want people that can beat them into submission since they bought the bullshit that the web was the way to distribute applications.

  • Duh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573)

    Companies want people who have open source experience - both use and contribution.

    They want to use these people to implement open source projects that fit their needs, for free (beer).

    They do not want these people because they love free (open) software.

    • "They want to use these people to implement open source projects that fit their needs, for free (beer)."

      That's intriguing. Are you saying they won't pay the wages for those people?

  • by hattig (47930) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:02PM (#24325591) Journal

    Given that Java is now GPL and open-source, and lots of the popular third-party Java frameworks are also open-source, I would expect that open-source is really hot in many businesses - just that they don't know it.

    When your developers code an interface to XYZ in a short time, it's not because they're reimplementing the wheel. No, they're using Axis. Or HttpClient. With hibernate, spring, struts, tiles, and so on.

    But if we look at databases, you'll see a large investment in proprietary systems still, for core business data, with MySQL running minor functionality around the outside. Cutbacks simply mean that upgrading your database platform won't happen, it's already paid for, why migrate from Oracle to Postgresql!

    The other big platform is MS proprietary. You all know the story. It keeps TheDailyWTF alive.

  • by infinite9 (319274) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:05PM (#24325627)

    I've seen a lot of shops. And a lot of them like open source for one reason... it's cheap. Not because they're cheap bastards, but because free software often can circumvent the corporate BS associated with spending money.

    Once a place has used some open source software, they tend to keep using it. And they tend to want to hire people who know how to use what they have. I wouldn't call it an open source hiring boom. I'd just call it acceptance.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'll agree to that. I'm currently using SharpDevelop because the owner doesn't want me programming (I'm in "QA") and I need tools that the developers don't have time to write. So, I get SharpDevelop (and Tcl/TK) to write my own tools as I need them.

      Of course, the rest of the company uses Microsoft products, but when I need something quick and I don't want to bother with expense reports, OpenOffice goes on the test machines to open the word docs as needed, and other free and/or open source tools get use
    • by eln (21727) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:25PM (#24325923) Homepage

      That brings up a study I'd really like to see done: What is the correlation (positive or negative), if any, between prevalence of Open Source in a shop and the salaries they offer? Do most of them use open source so they can spend more on quality people, or do they do it because they're cheap and don't want to spend money on anything, people included?

      I don't have enough data in my personal work history to make an intelligent guess, although the size of the company involved may have a lot to do with the answer. However, I think it would be valuable information to have. After all, specializing in a given technology because you hear there are lots of jobs asking for it is not a wise move if all of those jobs max out at 8 bucks an hour (exaggeration to illustrate the point, not what I really think Open Source admins make).

    • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:40PM (#24326113)

      I use open source solutions often at my work, and its not because of the cost. (I don't mind paying for the right tool for the job) It has much more to do with the tracking.. If I go purchase SQL server and windows server, I have to keep track of licenses, versions, (are they enterprise, standard, etc) Are they CAL based, and do I have enough CAL's a few months later, are they processor based (and if so, did I move the app to a server with more processors). With virtualization, its an even bigger push for me, as its very, very easy to quickly deploy a new virtual OS. It takes much, much longer to ensure licensing compliance, and go through the approval and purchasing process if needed..

    • by Rycross (836649)

      Yeah but sometimes you then get the BS with "approved software." We technically weren't allowed to use Firefox at my job for the longest time because it wasn't company approved software. My team works on a web application which is supposed to support Firefox. Took a year or two to get it on the approved list.

      Oh and the fastest way to get a piece of software approved here is to have it released/supported by IBM.

  • What? They are now open sourcing Steve Jobs and then making him go BOOM!?!?!?!?
  • I'm glad Steve Jobs finally decided to open source everything. Boom!
  • Ummm... Yah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218)
    Of course jobs are going to increase in open source areas. Right now, the software industry is in a period of change from 100% proprietary code to now about 25% proprietary and 75% OSS. The thing though is, for any small company, making a general purpose program is nearly impossible. If it is a proprietary system, it gets 0 marketshare due to monopolies in every single program genre. If it is OSS, it may have great marketshare, but won't make any money because your company is too small to give support. Once
    • Right now, the software industry is in a period of change from 100% proprietary code to now about 25% proprietary and 75% OSS.

      You meant to say 20% proprietary and 80% OSS right?

  • Me too... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iamhigh (1252742) * on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:27PM (#24325941)
    Looking at sysadmin jobs, I also see things that want Cisco, RedHat/Some *nix, MS AD, some sort of DB, this ERP app, that specific app, Citrix, scripting, programming, web development, website hosting, blah, blah, blah... Those that have a salary range, are in 55-60K

    I think HR just throws all in the listing... get as many applicants as possible, sort it out later.
  • We might like free software because it is free as in speech, but most companies tend to like it because it is free as in beer. Except for our Oracle databases and a few legacy systems in the process of being migrated, all of our systems have been migrated from Solaris to Red Hat. We are mostly on Jboss, with our proprietary Java application servers being legacy ones being migrated off of. We are mostly migrated from Vignette to Alfresco.

    .
    Tight budgets are the time when management is more willing to "t

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rycross (836649)

      Depends on how you spin it. We use CruiseControl.Net where I work. When I had to justify it as opposed to a "superior" (not really superior technologically, but in a "we're paying for it so it must be better" sense) proprietary technology, I pointed out that since I have access to the source code I can debug issues with our build system without needing vendor support. And I have several times. Of course, people like the cost, but managers also understand "we don't have to depend on a single source if t

      • by NateTech (50881)

        Yeah we really hate having to call a vendor who needs their product to work in order to survive and ask them for a fix, when some guy here can muck around in the code and fix it ourselves.

        Both ways suck. Would be better if the bugs simply weren't there in the first place, now wouldn't it?

        "The domain cruisecontrol.net is for sale. To purchase, call BuyDomains.com at 781-839-7903 or 866-866-2700."

        • by Rycross (836649)

          Yeah we really hate having to call a vendor who needs their product to work in order to survive and ask them for a fix, when some guy here can muck around in the code and fix it ourselves.

          You're assuming that you or your problem matters enough to the vendor for them to fix it. We have, more than once, been told "Sucks to be you..." by a vendor. My boss actually quipped that the Microsoft support we payed for was nearly worthless.

          Both ways suck. Would be better if the bugs simply weren't there in the first

          • by NateTech (50881)

            So I called RedHat and complained that they didn't include proprietary CODECs needed to view most of the content in the InterWebs, and guess what....

            They didn't care.

            Think your own argument just got used against you there. 99% of people WANT to do things like watch YouTube... but RedHat's not interested in fixing their problem.

            Reality check: RedHat gave up on the Desktop market years ago.

    • "We might like free software because it is free as in speech, but most companies tend to like it because it is free as in beer."

      And that's surprising... how? Companies are basically about money, so I can't find suprising that the word "money" appears on each and every company backed-up argument. Not necesarily to say "less" money, but money will be on it.

      So you will find arguments like these:
      * It costs a lot of *money* so it must be good
      * We are tight on *money* so this solution looks apropiate
      * It seems

      • by NateTech (50881)

        Most real businesspeople don't give a fuck if it's free as in speech, free as in beer, or free as in "rainbows will fly out of my ass freely"... nowadays, they FINALLY want software to WORK.

        No more lame-ass programming, no more dicking around in your basement to create shitty applications -- companies want to see whatever resource they spend on something (time, money) come back in spades. Return-on-investment.

        Learn it, love it. It's the new "in" thing. "Damn, these expensive computers and data centers we

  • Dead on. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:33PM (#24326023)

    I think the article is dead on in questioning the study.

    Perfect example: the last two places I contracted at were looking to hire C# developers who had also been exposed to Subversion. Is it fair to look at a place like that and say they're now all about Open Source? Not really, no.

    Open Source is getting somewhere in the business world to be sure, but the FOSS Rapture isn't quite upon us just yet.

  • It Doesn't Cost Less (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kookus (653170) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @05:40PM (#24326121) Journal
    Open source software is actually costing my institution more than a closed source alternative. The drive for moving to open source software is more about being able to maintain a solution, and customize it to exactly what the requirements are.

    Another fun thing we are experiencing is the total lack of knowledge closed source solution professionals have. We're finding the people to be very silo'ed without knowledge of what goes on around them. So when you are trying to implement something, you get very concerned with cross-technical area issues.

    You ask an SAP basis person to come look at a screen and they'll say "Not Functional..." and wave their hands wildly with their palms facing you. Ask the Abaper and they'll shrug without a clue.

    Hell, the Abaper is supposed to be a programmer you think, but they can't even teach you the basic parts of a program; you'll be lucky enough if they even know how to do proper error handling.

    You see these types of people and they frighten the crap out of you. You just stare out the window and wonder why people are willing to pay 80 or 100 dollars an hour for these.... idiots!

    I can go out into a University, pay a fresh graduate 40 dollars an hour and teach them everything they need to know... knowing that they'll leave after the project and still be better off than getting consultants.

    Compare that with a professional in open source technologies. They need to know how things work together, because that's all they do. They can't learn just 1 technology, they need to know multiples, and how to fit them together. As they grow in their career, they know the big picture, and that is completely different than the closed source alternative.
    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      I have an example of that from just the other week. Take it as you will, but I found it to be a trend that emerges the more I talk to techs from both the open source and closed (be it developers, admins, general IT guys).

      The other week I mentioned to someone (a studied but not certified MCSE) that RHEL 5.2 not only ships with Xen support out-of-the-box, but has a full LDAP server. "Oh? LDAP... so it does Active Directory?" was his reply. I fumbled over my thoughts and managed to get out, "let me see i
  • Shhhhhhhhh....lets just keep that a secret shall we!

  • well, at least not big, corporate enterprises. i believe the main thrust for this change is coming from small to medium businesses, then individuals. at least, its what im experiencing in my job.

    a number of bigger enterprises (that are smaller than google, but bigger than avg joe inc medium business) are probably switching to open source due to costs and security as well, probably.

    but the main drive to get one's business to internet is causing huge boost for ecommerce site production and maintenance,
  • The company I work for has a huge monolith of code all done in C#/ASP.NET. We are currently in the process of scrapping it all to go Java and Ruby on Rails.

    Seems like a huge expenditure for little gain, but I guess I'll wait to see what it looks like on the other side. At least I'll have experience with both when this is over. I've got lots of open source administration experience, but little open source programming experience. I'm too spoiled with the Visual Studio training wheels. It's going to be tough t

  • I guess I must live in an open source town. I can't remember a job posting in IT that didn't require a background in some sort of open source software. The only popular closed-source programming language is .NET, and even most of those projects seem to use things like nHibernate and nUnit.

  • Who cares what the "enterprise-level" companies are doing? I mean, yes they are a significant part of the job market but hardly all. Just as with most other types of business, most coding and site jobs are for smaller companies.
  • The tendency in big enterprises is for ultra specialization, the reason being simple: that way people become interchangeable (or so they think, people are not machines after all).

    Small and medium companies yes, for sure, you want somebody that is more of a Jack of all trades.

  • From the summary:

    'That's why the 5% to 15% really doesn't sit well with me,' Rodrigues writes. 'I suspect that larger companies are looking for developers with a mix of experience with proprietary and open source products, tools and frameworks,' as opposed to those who would work with open source for 90 percent of the work day.

    So people with a mix of skill sets are considered valuable by employers, eh? And yet, in this post [slashdot.org], where I advocated requiring IT staff to rotate in their job functions and learn Linux, Windows, Cisco, etc. etc. etc, people jumped down my throat saying "that's too hard" or "geeks won't like that".

    Interesting.

    • That's because you just don't get it: having different skills for similar roles is far different than rotating through different roles. That's as stupid as the japanese habit of rotating people through engineering, AP, and PR.
      • by corbettw (214229)

        Oh please, engineering, accounting, and PR are completely different career fields. Linux, Windows, and Cisco aren't, and any decent sysadmin should be able to switch back and forth between those skill sets with relative ease.

        • Network, AD, and system support are very different specialties. Are you saying that the Cisco guy should cross train with the DBA on AD?
          • by corbettw (214229)

            So you've never worked in a shop where one or two guys did all of that? Seriously? In my professional life, I've been (at various times) the dba (Oracle, Informix, MySQL), the sysadmin, the sysengineer, the Windows guy, the Linux guy, the Solaris guy, the AIX guy, the mail guy (Qmail, Sendmail, Exim, Exchange, various anti-spam systems), the mainframe guy, the network guy (3COM, Cisco, Foundry), and the programmer (Python, C, Java, Perl, SQL). Not to mention all the times when I've worn the project manager

            • If you're in a position where there are separate roles for DBA, AD, etc, then you can be better at each if you stick to one. Sure, you can do all of them, but it's less efficient. If I were in a small startup, sure, I'd do DBA (and software dev too), but I'm not, and i'm more productive for it.
    • by NateTech (50881)

      "Vote Libertarian. The freedoms you save may be your own."

      I want the freedom to have a government that taxes me and uses it for things like roads and schools.

      Oh, you don't want me to have those freedoms? Go away then...

      As far as your job rotation idea -- it's actually a good one. Required time in mentored positions (journeyman if you want to use union-speak) and some structure around how IT people learn their knowledge and some real honest skills tests required by companies (or by law) as people work thei

  • Hedging their bets (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:43PM (#24329969)

    A 5 to 15 percent figure for open source skills doesn't necessarily mean 5 to 15 percent of the projects will be open source. More likely, IT managers are getting smart, keeping their options open and making sure that they have a back door out of the lock in trap. A broader range of experience is also a sign of someone with a better background in CS rather than a one language/one tool technician.

    This sounds like a smart tactic. In fact, I'm surprised that the figure isn't higher. And I'm particularly happy that the proprietary platform fanbois are getting their panties in a bunch over only 15 percent.

  • What on earth is open source software skill?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nimbius (983462)
      the sudden outbreak of common sense that yes, while a $25000 all-in-one load balancing appliance can do the job, the companies cost-advantage is to just pay you to use stuff that already exists for free, and has been around longer in most cases. the downside is you dont get any cool vendor swag, and lunch that day is provided by you. it does however save about an hour and 20 minutes in powerpoint BS from a guy who spends more time in airports than he does at a computer.
      • by weicco (645927)

        And this relates to "open source software skills" exactly how? You are talking about development costs, not open source. I can download a heck load of closed software for free and use them without any costs. Let's take for example Microsoft products Visual Studio Express and SQL Server Express which both are free to download and

        So is "open source software skill" same as doing things cost-effectively? If yes, then every employer is advocating those skills and so am I.

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