I wrote recently that the “five ages of vendor-led open source revenue strategies” I’d come up with wasn’t suitable for vendors that build a business around community-led projects.
I recently met up with Ian Skerrett, director of marketing at the Eclipse Foundation and while we were chatting about community engagement, amongst other things, he showed me a graphic that demonstrates why engagement with an open source community has its own five-stage process.
|From Public photos|
Source: Ian Skerrett, Eclipse Foundation. Based on research done by Carleton University and Nortel. For more see this post.
The five-stage process matches with what we’ve been hearing from a number of vendors recently as we’ve examined their attitudes towards open source. Some are further along the process than others while others have skipped a stage (or more accurately completed a stage in private before publicly announcing their engagement with open source).
The five stages, as I would describe them, are as follows:
Stage one (O in Ian’s graphic)
Stage two (1 in Ian’s graphic)
The vendor begins to make use of open source software internally as part of its ongoing research and development process, realizing that it can save money on non-differentiating code and improve interoperability.
Stage three (2 in Ian’s graphic)
There is a realization that open source is a two-way street and that to get the most out of the software it is using the vendor needs to contribute back to the process, helping to improve the overall quality of the code and making further savings on not having to support forked code.
Stage four (3 in Ian’s graphic)
The vendor begins to champion specific projects, and the open source approach in general, as it begins to see the full value of collaborating with partners and competitors in the development process.
Stage five (the right side of the dotted line)
Up until now the process has been largely led by engineering. The realization of greater value pushes the vendor over a line to realize that open source engagement needs to be business-led, rather than engineering-led. It begins to engage in multiple projects and realizes the true business benefits of open source engagement.
That’s my take anyway. Ian will no doubt have more insight. One of the reasons this works so well is that you can think of a vendor engaged in community-led open source development and pretty easily plot them on this chart.
As Ian notes in the comments below, the chart can also be used to track the engagement in open source communities of enterprise users, as well as vendors.
Here’s an interesting experiment: where would you place Microsoft?