What SpringSource dm Server licensing tells us about control versus community

When SpringSource introduced its dm Server product, then known as the Application Platform, I argued that it was fascinating (if you’re in to that sort of thing) to see that SpringSource had chosen the GPL for the OSGi application server.

It is equally fascinating (if you’re in to that sort of thing) to see that the company is now proposing that the dm Server move to the Eclipse Public License and become an Eclipse.org community project.

As we noted when SpringSource introduced dm Server, the choice of GPL was appeared to be designed to protect the company’s commercial interests by limiting the ability of other vendors to use the code in proprietary products.

As SpringSource CEO Rod Johnson explained:

    “Creating an application platform that makes the benefits of OSGi available to end users was a huge investment for us. There’s a lot of technical innovation under the hood which won’t be immediately apparent but which enables us to make a generational leap. If we’re giving that technology away in open source, we wanted others who build on it to also give away the results in open source.”

The move to the EPL appears to be motivated by a decision that there is more to gain by encouraging wider adoption of OSGi approaches through more permissive licensing and collaborative community development.

As Adrian Coyler explains:

    “There is a great deal of interest and innovation around enterprise OSGi and the dm Server. This interest is strongest amongst early adopters, and projects with requirements that match closely the dynamically modular nature of the OSGi Service Platform. For a mainstream development team though, who just want to build an enterprise application as quickly as possible, and with as little hassle as possible, the costs currently associated with adopting enterprise OSGi can outweigh the short-term benefits. This situation needs to be addressed before enterprise OSGi can become the de-facto approach for mainstream enterprise application development.”

One of the trends we predicted (451 clients only) for 2010 in open source was that we would see a trend towards community projects and a greater willingness to engage with existing open-source foundations such as the Apache and Eclipse Foundations:

    “The control afforded by reciprocal licenses such as the GPL was previously seen as a benefit for new open-source-related vendors, alongside other intellectual property controls. However, there is an argument that too much control can restrict the success of a project. We believe the trend is shifting away from vendor-led control and reciprocal licensing to community-led collaboration and permissive licensing.”

See also:
Three options for the future of Open-Core licensing
The rejuvenation of community-controlled open source
Out of control
Losing control

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#1 Chris Aniszczyk on 01.12.10 at 10:19 am

Weak copy-left licenses like the EPL are the best when it comes to building communities based on platforms in my opinion. If you want to be inviting but protect the platform, it’s a great license. You are also seeing companies like Intuit build their code.intuit.com community using a license like the EPL. The Symbian Foundation is another great example that leverages the EPL too.

#2 Matthew Aslett on 01.12.10 at 10:31 am

Absolutely agree – good examples

#3 Microsoft-manned VMware Still Against the GPL | Boycott Novell on 01.14.10 at 6:31 am

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#4 451 CAOS Theory » A capitalist’s guide to open source licensing on 01.14.10 at 12:36 pm

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#5 Has SpringSource rejected the open core business model? « rand($thoughts); on 01.19.10 at 10:13 am

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#6 ¿Se están cambiando de licencias GPL hacia otras más permisivas? | La Pastilla Roja on 02.11.12 at 8:26 am

[…] servidor de aplicaciones Java basado en OSGi de la división SpringSource de VMWare. Matthew Aslett comenta en 451 CAOS Theory el cambio de licencia de dm Server de GPL a EPL que se convertirá con ello en el Proyecto Virgo de […]