The open core transparency test

Earlier this year Jason van Zyl from Sonatype raised the question as to why so many open core software vendors hide the pricing details of their proprietary enterprise editions, pointing out that it was in their best interests to be transparent:

    “Potential customers who start out as your Open Core users need to see exactly what they get and how much it costs. If they can make all the decisions by easily trying your commercial product and comparing features then you have a viable company.”

The theme was taken up this week by Roman Stanek, founder and CEO of Good Data. Roman’s post had more to do with embarrassing his competition than forwarding best practices, in my opinion, but he makes some good points nonetheless:

    “COSS companies should openly publish their price list and clearly mark what’s free and open and what’s paid and closed. Otherwise OSS is just a bait-and-switch to a familiar proprietary software tactic of customer lock-in.”

I previously argued that transparency is key to the success of the open core model, noting that:

    “Potential customers don’t like feeling confused or misled and it is vital that the marketing makes it clear that the community version is open source and the enterprise edition is not.”

And would agree that transparency about pricing is key to the overall success. So how do some of the highest profile open core vendors compare when it comes to transparency? I took a tour of the following companies’ web sites in search of three key pieces of information:

  • a comparison of the core and enterprise features
  • licensing details available in the comparison, or at least elsewhere
  • details of pricing for the enterprise version

I spent no more than five minutes on each site, on the basis that if I couldn’t find the information in that time it may as well not exist. Here’s the results:

Vendor Edition comparison Licensing details Pricing details
Alfresco Yes Elsewhere No
Compiere Yes Yes Yes
Consursive Yes Elsewhere Limited info
EnterpriseDB Yes Yes Yes
GroundWork Yes Elsewhere Yes
Hyperic Yes Elsewhere Request a quote
Intalio Yes Elsewhere Yes
Jaspersoft Yes Yes Contact us
KnowledgeTree Yes Yes Yes
Mulesoft Yes No Contact us
Pentaho Yes No Request a quote
SugarCRM Yes No Yes
Talend Yes Yes Inquire now
xTuple Yes Yes Yes


  • Intalio has a huge amount of information available, but it is very difficult to find. It only just made the five-minute deadline.
  • The quickest to navigate through all three pieces of information was KnowledgeTree.
  • I was asked to add Alfresco to the list, so I did. Any other requests?

Conclusion: Most of the open core vendors in this study make it easy to find information comparing the open core and enterprise editions, and most also do a good job of providing information about the licensing as well (although in many cases there is room for improvement even when the information is available). Only about half of those involved in this straw poll provide information on pricing for the proprietary edition.

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#4 Antonio de las Nieves on 11.26.09 at 7:02 am

We miss Alfresco on this study, how come it’s not there?

#5 Matthew Aslett on 11.26.09 at 8:14 am

Good point Antonio. I just included the vendors that immediately sprung to mind, and Alfresco has only relatively recently adopted an open core approach. I’ll look into it.

#6 Andrea Gioia on 04.08.10 at 11:55 am

I will also add “transparency about roadmap” in the test. In particular is important for a customer to exactly know what features are going to be implemented and in what version of the product they will be added. What do you think?

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