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On the GPL, Apache and Open-CoreMatthew Aslett, August 28, 2009 @ 5:48 am ET
Jay has already provided a good overview of the debate related to the apparent decline in the usage of the GPLv2. I don’t intend to cover the same ground, but I did want to quickly respond to a statement made by Matt Asay in his assessment of the reasons for and implications of reduced GPLv2 usage.
“as Open Core becomes the default business model for ‘pure-play’ open-source companies, we will see more software licensed under the Apache license”
I don’t doubt that we will see more software licensed under the Apache license, and also more vendors making use of permissively-licensed code, but I don’t see a correlation with the Open-Core model.
In our report, “Open Source is Not a Business Model“, report we found that 23.7% of the 114 vendors we covered were using Open-Core as a vendor licensing strategy. Looking at the stats, over 70% of Open-Core strategy users also used a variant of the GPL or LGPL.
The main reason for the correlation of the L/GPL and Open-Core is, as Matt notes, that “the GPL makes sense in a world where vendors hope to exercise control over their communities”. Carlo Daffara agrees: “the GPL is not a barrier in adopting this new style of open core model, and certainly creates a barrier for potential freeriding by competitors”.
Carlo cites as an example the use of the GPL by the usually Apache-focused SpringSource for its SpringSource dm Server as a means of restricting the commercial opportunities for potential rivals, something that we covered here.
As Matt explains, however, “if the desire is to foster unfettered growth, Apache licensing offers a better path”. Savio Rodrigues offers an example of a usually L/GPL-focused company – Red Hat/JBoss – choosing the Apache License for its new HornetQ messaging software because “the project team felt that the Apache license would ensure that the project’s code could be more easily included into products from the ecosystem.”
1-1 then. But this isn’t about point scoring. What the examples demonstrate is that vendors choose licenses for individual projects/products based on pragmatic business reasons rather than dogmatic commitment to licensing philosophy, and that – as we previously suggested – there is actually some benefit in the proliferation of different licenses.
Of course it is also important to remember that many vendors don’t have the luxury or choosing a license for the project they attempt to commercialize. Mike Olson notes that adoption has been a factor related to the Apache licensed Hadoop project – but what came first commercialization or adoption?
I believe we are seeing increased adoption of permissively-licensed open source software by both new open source specialists, such as Mike’s Cloudera, and also proprietary vendors such as Oracle, SAP and – as recently discussed – Day Software.
In these cases, the commercial vendor doesn’t choose the Apache license for software to encourage widespread adoption, it is encouraged to choose Apache-licensed software because of widespread adoption (not to mention the low cost and high quality advantages of being part of a true developer *community*).
That has more to do with the patron model, as discussed by Day Software’s chief marketing officer, Kevin Cochrane, than it does Open-Core.
Additionally, as Carlo notes, it is a product of the shift towards what he calls “consortia-managed projects”. Or as I previously stated: “if Open-Core was a significant revenue strategy of open source 3.0 (vendor-dominated open source projects such as MySQL, JasperSoft), then Embedded [as I was referring to the patron model at the time] is one of the commercial open source strategies of open source 4.0 (vendor-dominated open source communities such as Eclipse, Symbian).”
So while we expect Open-Core to remain a significant business model for ‘pure-play’ open-source companies, and we expect to see more software licensed under the Apache license, we don’t see the two as being directly related.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a quick post. That’s enough for now.
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