Towards an agreed taxonomy for open source business strategies

Last week Carlo Daffara published a preliminary new classification of open source business models to be used by Conecta, updating the original taxonomy used as part of the FLOSSMETRICS and OpenTTT efforts.

Although I examined that taxonomy as part of my research for Open Source is Not a Business Model (OSINABM) I also tried not to pay too much attention to it, not wanting to plagiarize or unduly influence our findings.

One of the problems with this approach is that we end up with different taxonomies for understanding open source business strategies. However. Looking at Carlo’s new preliminary categorization I believe it is possible to reconcile the two.

One reason for this is that Carlo’s efforts have been focused focused primarily on licensing and revenue generation techniques, while in OSINABM we also looked at development strategies, licensing strategies and revenue triggers. I believe the findings of OSINABM can serve as a framework into which Carlo’s taxonomy can be mapped.

Here’s what I mean:

As you can see it’s not perfect but in most cases a Conecta category maps directly to an OSINABM licensing or revenue category. Blank cells indicate there is no correlation to specific category/ies. Only on a couple of occasions is the mapping dependent on specific combinations of strategies in the OSINAMB framework (platform providers, aggregate support providers and R&D cost sharing).

There are a couple of holes however. OSINABM did not cover vendors providing legal services related to open source software (eg Black Duck/Palamida) while our categorization does not particularly well differentiate between “platform providers” like Red Hat and “aggregate support providers” like OpenLogic. Additionally we grouped software selection and training under the “service/support” banner, as Carlo previously had done under “ITSC”.

Also, in OSIBABM we allowed for companies producing proprietary software from open source code (such as Bluenog), which is not covered in Carlo’s taxonomy (as far as I can tell).

Being able to map these taxonomies together is in part thanks to the debate around business strategies that has occurred over the last few years, which has provided us with some agreed terms and clarified different strategies.

I’m sure as the debate continues and as we look to update OSINABM, as we will no doubt do at some stage, there will be opportunities to further align our taxonomy with others in the industry.

Hopefully over time it will be possible to formulate an agreed set of definitions that provides a common vocabulary and allows everyone to gain a better understanding of the implications of the various models.

In the interests of encouraging that better understanding I will publish the descriptions of the various categorizations we used within OSINABM in a later post.

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