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The decline of ‘open source’ as an identifying differentiatorMatthew Aslett, June 27, 2011 @ 6:33 pm ET
I’ve been examining the trend of open source-related vendors disengaging from open source development and licensing as part of my research for the next CAOS research report.
One of the things that I have observed in relation to open source-related business strategies in recent months is the decreased use of the term ‘open source’ as an identifying differentiator in some companies’ marketing material, either to describe the company or its software.
The way in which a company identifies itself in the opening lines of a press release may not necessarily describe accurately what the company does, but it is a clear indicator of how the company wants to be perceived.
It seemed to me that a significant number of high profile open source-related vendors had stopped using the term open source as an identifying differentiator.
The list below represents a small and unscientific sample, but these are among the highest profile open source-related vendors, so the fact that half of them have dropped ‘open source’ as an identifying differentiator in the last 12 months (and another two long before that) is not insignificant.
Whether it is because open source has become so in-grained in the industry that it is no longer a primary differentiator or because the vendor in question has become less focused on open source is another question, however.
Certainly Jaspersoft remains committed to an open source strategy despite discarding its ‘open source’ identifier as long ago as 2008, while Cloudera has never used the term in its description as far as I am aware but is clearly committed to an open source-related strategy – it chooses instead to focus on its relationship with Apache Hadoop.
Another vendor worth assessing in greater detail is SugarCRM. The company has increased the number and nature of closed source editions of its customer relationship management software in recent years, and dropped its use of open source as an identifying differentiator in November 2010.
However, the company continues to see the SugarCRM community edition as a significant differentiator in the market, enabling it to reach an estimated 800,000 end users and punch above its weight in terms of profile.
While the company’s commercial focus is on the various closed source editions, many of its channel partners, which deliver the vast majority of SugarCRM’s revenue, have based their offerings around Community Edition, and SugarCRM has taken steps to encourage greater community engagement with the open source version, moving it from an internal forge to GitHub twelve months ago.
Just because a company no longer uses the term ‘open source’ as an identifier does not necessarily indicate that the company is moving away from open source. However, the fact that so many of these vendors have dropped the term open source from their descriptions does indicate that open source is decreasingly seen as a differentiator and a term that vendors choose to identify themselves with.
Another indicator of decreased emphasis on open source is a delay in updating the open source code base. The table below therefore includes details on both the date of the last open source update (according to the relevant forge data) and the date of the last use of open source as a differentiating identifier.
Two of the companies below will be profiled in detail in our forthcoming report, which examines in much greater detail the relationship between vendors and open source licensing and development, as examples of companies that have decreased their engagement with open source as their business strategies have matured.
You can probably guess which two…
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