I am Benjamin but you can call me Ben. As many of you I am working in the ATM software and more specifically in the surveillance. I am also a regular user of Open Source software and impressed by achievements of such projects. Consequently, I tried to see if Open Source ways-of-doing-thing was applicable to life-in-stake-domain like ATM.
I propose to begin the Open Source in ATM topic by answering to a simple question:
Are ATM companies subscribing to Open Source approach?
All ATM companies are using Open Source software. Linux replaced UNIX long time ago in ATC centers. However, there is a big step between using Open Source software and producing Open Source software.
Mainly companies are tempted to dive into Open Source but they do not go it for 3 main reasons:
ATC Companies are working in the culture that closed product is the only way to go. They do not understand that the software they are producing can be released in the nature and used by other companies. They fear that their software will be robbed. Today they are already using Linux but cannot imagine taking advantages of knowledge sharing and creating as innovative software in ATC as it can be observed in Open Source world. Collaborating with other experts in the domain will bring their products to a higher level of feature at a reduced cost.
Open Source is chaos
Open Source software still sometimes means software produced in a garage, no quality and security lethal weakness. In other words nothing usable state-of-the-art ATC software. And with the growing demand of Safety people without knowledge of current production mechanisms of Open Source think that such “hippies” cannot do good and reliable software for life-in-stake ATC domain.
This is wrong, Open Source is structured. Newbie’s are excluded from the playground until they have shown strong abilities. Successful Open Source project are very structured and organized, this is called the governance and this is one of the key success factors.
No money to be made
Some people think that when open source is in the air, love happened and software fall from the sky. This is wrong as well, more than 3/4 of Open Source software is developed by professional engineers paid by major software companies like IBM, Sun, Red Hat, Novell or even Microsoft. They find here ways to reduce their initial investment and to promote innovation. The investment is shared by stakeholders of the project that are free to use outputs for their own benefit. The actual project take advantage of innovation based on the simple principles (”There are more in 2 brains than in only 1″ times the number of Open Source developers and users - easy to believe that it is good, hein ?) Red Hat has a turn over of 127.3 Millions dollars for the second quarter of 2008 in progression of 20%.
To summarize, I think that most of ATC companies are waiting for pioneers to open the way.