Understanding Software Industry Ecosystem

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Saturday, April 8, 2006

While reading about ecosystems, I found an uncanny similarity with (and gained insight into) software industry ecosystems.

Like any other ecosystem, the Software industry ecosystem is in constant flux, with inherent forces that push it toward a stable state that includes niches that are well-defined and sensible with respect to applications. CRM or ERP software are good examples.

Unstable states include the “monoculture,” where a single variety of tools crushes all competition but then falls prey to a fatal flaw. Microsoft Windows pretty much symbolizes this state. Windows monoplized the operating system market untill it fell prey to a fatal flaw - security. It is still the leader but the fall is only a matter of time.

The “Cambrian explosion” where tremendous energy is expended developing myriad competing components, most of which will perish before they find their niches and successfully eliminate their competitors. Today numerous open source software initiatives fall in this category.

Unhealthy forces that push us toward one or the other of the danger zones (monoculture or explosion) include hegemony, centralized control, top-down policy enforcement, redundancy, “protected” diversity (where “natural selection” is prevented from taking its course), and imaginary boundaries in the ecosystem; e.g., political, organizational, ideological, “not invented here” or “we must have a (insert national / political / company affiliation here) solution.”

Healthy forces that help us move toward a stable ecosystem include competition, innovation, evolution, and diversity, but only so long as everything is subject to a rigorous (and fundamentally fair) process of “natural selection”.

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