Open core licensing is free software’s evil twin

Or, why free software advocates love to hate open core

I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that free software advocates are so fixated on the open core licensing strategy and recently came to the conclusion that there is only one explanation: open core is free software’s evil twin.

To clarify I do not believe that open core is evil, but that the relationship between free software and open core is the equivalent of the literary device where two protagonists share certain characteristics (such as general appearance) but have inverted moralities and visual differentiators (usually a goatee beard).


Spock and Evil Spock, image courtesy of Dave Friedel. See also Evil David Hasselhoff, aka Garthe Knight.

If we look at the relationship between open core licensing and free software we also see common characteristics along with diverging moralities.

With regards to the common characteristics witness the fact that the two strategies are united by a dependence on strong copyleft licensing.

According to our recent research on open-source-related business strategies 67% of vendors utilizing the open core licensing strategy are associated with a project that uses a strong copyleft license. We have also found that 52% of vendors taking a single open source licensing approach to open source use a strong copyleft license.

Looking at it another way we see that 30% of vendors associated with strong copyleft licenses are using open core licensing, while a very similar number – 29% – of vendors associated with strong copyleft licenses are using single open source licensing.

That is where the similar character traits end and the differences begin.

While free software projects utilize strong copyleft to ensure that the software in question remains open, vendors using the open core licensing strategy use strong copyleft licenses, along with copyright ownership, to ensure that only they have the opportunity to take it closed.

While 83% of vendors utilizing the open core licensing strategy are associated with a project for which the vendor owns the copyright, 88% of vendors associated with foundation-owned copyright were using open source licensing.

Meanwhile 56% of vendors taking a single open source licensing approach were using the bazaar development model, compared to 61% of those taking an open core approach using the cathedral development model.

Similarly 43% of vendors taking a single open source licensing approach were using the community-led development model, compared to 80% of those taking an open core approach using the vendor-led development model.

Finally, while 96% of vendors utilizing the open core licensing strategy generate the largest proportion of their revenue from closed source software, 32% of those associated with single open source licensing generate revenue from support subscriptions, and the same proportion from ad hoc support/services.

The evil twin theory doesn’t explain why the debate is so enduring however, or why free software advocates seem to be so fixated on open core. That is unless you add in the theory that the twins are also symbiotically dependent on each other.

You don’t have to look hard for evidence that open core is dependent on free software – the statistics above demonstrate how open core related to the strong copyleft licensing strategy – but what of free software’s dependence on open core?

It seems to me that in a world where the line between proprietary and free and open source is increasingly blurred advocates of free software are becoming increasingly dependent on open core as the bogeyman to define the line and differentiate the free software approach. Where once ‘proprietary’ was considered the opposite of free, now it is open core that is considered the opposite of open source.

The dependence has gone so far, in fact, that we have seen examples of free software advocates labeling projects and vendors as open core, even when they are not, in order to highlight the benefits of a pure open source approach. Witness Bradley M Kuhn and Alexandre Oliva attempting to pin open core’s goatee beard on Canonical and the Linux kernel respectively.

If we look back at the creation of the term ‘open core’ it was coined in order to provide an alternative to terms such as ‘bait and switch’. In hindsight it was inevitable that the negative connotations would simply be applied to the new terminology.

What wasn’t obvious was how important open core would become to the software freedom movement in articulating the benefits of software freedom. That is why free software advocates love to hate open core, and that is why the open core debate will endure.

451 CAOS Links 2010.01.19

Monty turns his attention to the East. The value of JBoss to Red Hat. And more.

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“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

For the latest on Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL via Sun, see Everything you always wanted to know about MySQL but were afraid to ask

# Monty Widenius predicted that the EU will clear Oracle-Sun “any moment”, turning his attention to Russia and China.

# Meanwhile the release candidate of MariaDB 5.1 is now ready for testing.

# With EC approval imminent, All Things D reported that Oracle has prepared its letters to Sun employees.

# Marc Fleury shared his thoughts on the Save MySQL campaign, suggests JBoss is making Red Hat $100m/yr.

# Hugo Roy published a draft of Why Free Software matters for Society.

# Disney Enterprises released its Ptex 3D modeling library under the BSD license.

# MuleSoft delivered Mule MQ JMS messaging software.

# Nexenta Systems claimed 740% revenue growth in 2009 over the previous year.

# Open source community forum software vendor Vanilla Forums raised CAD500,000 Series A.

# Datamation published The limits of Linux’s “live free or die”.

# The Canonical and Ubuntu leadership asked users what new proprietary apps they’d like in the next version.

# While Canonical launched a dedicated support program for Lotus Symphony.

# An insight into open source initiatives at BT, via FossBazaar.

# John Mark Walker speculated on the future of Zimbra at VMware.

# BAE Systems selected MontaVista Linux to power new artillery and naval gun systems.

# Assimilate Technology released its VersaFix open source FIX Engine for the .NET platform.

# The 9 most important events in open source history, according to Royal Pingdom.

# Interview with Tasktop CEO Mik Kersten on the importance of transparency.

# Russ Danner argued that leadership, rather than license, is key to a strong development community.

# Andrew Aitken suggested that helping CIOs get into the game might be the best way to sell them open source.

Losing control

There was some rapid reaction to my post arguing why open core vendors should consider opening up their core code, either under a more permissive license than the GPL, or (and perhaps and) to an independent foundation.

The most interesting response, for me, came from Savio Rodrigues since he questioned whether the theory would work in reality. specifically Savio questioned whether commercial software vendors would join a community development project created by an established open core vendor. Using an example of a middleware vendor called ABC as the company giving up control Savio wrote:

“XYZ would not have the established user base or associated brand that ABC does; two key elements needed to sell the proprietary extensions. Also, since ABC has a head start on the proprietary extensions, and has likely chosen to develop higher value extensions first, XYZ has little opportunity to differentiate by delivering valuable proprietary extensions. It’s hard to envision the business case for XYZ to enter the community around ABC’s community edition project.”

This is a valid point, and clearly not all projects are going to be suitable for the transition I have suggested but I do think that Savio’s example is limited by an assumption that there is only one way to monetize an open source project. Consider another example involving a database vendor called – I don’t know – MyXYZ.

MyXYZ managed to create a new market opportunity with its open source database by differentiating from the established proprietary vendors. The company started off with a dual license model but once the open source version became ubiquitous shifted its strategy to providing additional features via a managed service to paying customers only, and has flirted with proprietary extensions. The company has continued to differentiate its database from proprietary rivals allowing an ecosystem of vendors to emerge building their own extensions to the core database products to take it into new areas not targeted by MyXYZ itself. At the same time the core open source database has become so ubiquitous that an ecosystem of support providers and consultants has also emerged. Because MyXYZ continues to dominate the development of the core database as well as its own extensions there is an amount of duplicated effort while the ecosystem around the core database has also begun to fragment based on frustration about the progress of the database under MyXYZ’s control (we will ignore for a moment the rumour that MyXYZ might even be acquired by a larger rival).

It would be better, I would argue, for MyXYZ to open up the process of contributing to the core database as this would avoid duplication of effort, and enable the database to evolve in response to the multiple interested parties. MyXYZ could continue to contribute to, and in all likelihood lead, the project, while focusing its development effort on the features that best suit its paying customers.

Now that’s an isolated example, clearly, and undoubtedly it’s a lot easier in theory than it is in practice but I believe in certain circumstances the opportunity to take the community route remains even after a vendor has established itself.
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One of the issues I didn’t cover in my post is the impact such a shift would have on users of the open core version. I had intended to tackle that in a second post, but Carlo Daffara beat me to it with his explanation of why COMmunity+COMpany is a winning COMbination. Rather than repeat what Carlo had to say I shall simply point you in the direction of his post with the following excerpt:

“the current structure is not the most efficient to enable participation from outside groups- if you look at the various open core offerings, the majority of the code is developed from in-house developers, while on community-managed consortia the code may be originated by a single company, but is taken up by more entities… Having then a pure proprietary company that sells services or add-ons also removes any possibility of misunderstanding about what is offered to the customer.”

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The issue of customer satisfaction was at the heart of Bradley M Kuhn’s response, which was entitled. “Open Core Is the New Shareware”. With regard to the title, I disagree that open core equals shareware. I agree, however, that open core done badly might equal shareware. Done properly open core enables a full and complete core open source project that is of value to its users, as well as proprietary extensions that are of value to users that are prepared to pay for additional features. If the core is “crippleware” then the strategy is wrong.

That said, Bradley makes some interesting points, including the suggestion that the current venture capital model is unsuited to monetizing open source. This is an issue I nearly deviated into in my previous post, and is a subject that we addressed in our report into VC investment for open source earlier this year. Arguably, though, is not unique to open source as the costs of starting up and running a company – whether it is based on open source or SaaS have dropped rapidly in recent years while the demands of VCs for levels of investment and returns have increased.

Bradley may well be right that “the best Free Software companies are the small ones, 5-10 employees, that do consulting work and license all their improvements back to a shared codebase” but his suggestion that this should be the vision of future monetization of FOSS is completely detached from commercial reality and would actually limit the adoption of free and open source software. Even if it were possible to somehow block proprietary and open core vendors from commercializing free and open source software the move would effectively isolate FOSS from making any further commercial impact.

Strength of support models and symbiosis for free and open source software

Since we’ve been getting philosophical on the war between open source and proprietary software, free software and open source, etc., I thought I might as well weigh in with my perspective. First, I wanted to address the matter of open core, the term that refers to a software business strategy based on proprietary pieces and licensing that is nonetheless built around open source software core components.

For a good, fresh perspective on open core without running through the baggage of the term’s definition and implications, see John Mark Walker’s latest take on open core. While we at 451 Group have remarked on a trending preference for open core models among vendors and VCs — simply reporting what we see and hear and not advocating for any business or development model or license, etc. — I’m beginning to think we may be starting to see a return to support and other services, rather than commercial code and licensing, as the preferred mode to monetize open source.

While we began 2009 indicating that there appeared to be a preference among vendors, VCs and others for open core models, John Mark sets out a good challenge in asking which open core vendor owns its market? While it may indeed be too soon to tell, Red Hat has ridden the supposedly tough economy to healthy gains recently, all on its simple model of supporting free software for fees. While we often talk about different models, it is hard to argue against one that is working in the market.

In fact, at the end of last year and beginning of this year, when we did see a prevalence of attention and strategy around open core models, we began hearing less the common phrase ‘we have a Red Hat model.’ Instead, organizations were looking to monetize enhancements, extensions and wholesale different parts of code and products on top of, alongside or as the nougat center of proprietary products. Speaking to vendors, channel players and end users today, there are signs we’re seeing a return to the ‘we’re like Red Hat’ mantra of explaining and running an open source business. Red Hat has shown an ability to sustain and grow using its model, and even when it might be questioned or prodded or advised by an analyst to change slightly or dramatically, it has stuck with its model and established itself in the S&P 500 as a major enterprise IT player in the process.

Next, I wanted to address the free software and freedom versus open source and business debate. While this is, similar to open source versus proprietary, also viewed often as a ‘war’ that must have a winner and loser, it is my fundamental belief what without freedom, the ideology of free software and organizations such as the Free Software Foundation, commercial open source would be nothing more than some big vendor’s or big consortium’s latest buzzword, campaign, strategy, etc. Conversely, without the billions and billions of dollars that vendors, channel players and others are making and the costs that customers and users are saving thanks to open source software, the ideology would most likely be relegated to academia and philosophy books. Thus, the two — that is free software and the ideology and open source software and the commercial use of it — are symbiotic.

For either side to say the other doesn’t matter or that they have won is also somewhat antithetical to the reality of the situation. The ideology matters because of the business. The business is disruptive and effective because of the ideology. In true symbiotic fashion, they need one another and make each other stronger.

451 CAOS Links 2009.09.29

Winning and losing with open source. Paranoid Android. And more.

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“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

Winning and losing
Matt Asay stirred things up with his declaration that free software has lost and open source has won. Responding to Matt Asay, Glyn Moody argued that without free software, open source would lose its meaning, while Mark Stone explained that free versus open source is not black and white – it’s more complex than that.

Matt Asay later declared open source the winner again, this time as a platform.

Paranoid Android?
Linux Magazine reported on Google’s cease & desist letter to an Android developer. The move prompted the formation of the Open Android Alliance to replace proprietary applications included in OEM Android installations with open source alternatives.

Best of the rest

# OSnews published The Difference Between EULAs and Open Source Licenses. An important distinction that is often not made.

# Talend acquired Amalto’s master data management software.

# Michael Tiemann published a preview of his speech on open source and the recovery at Open World Forum, prompting James Dixon to argue that the acquisition and exist costs of open source are not ‘zero’.

# Microsoft contributed a Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) Channel for AMQP to the Apache Qpid project.

# Protecode launched version 3.0 of its Software Lifecycle IP Management software.

# Zack Urlocker provided some insight into open source adoption by SMBs in Europe.

# Jan Stedehouder provided a summary of the ongoing debate about FOSS, sexism and feminism.

# Matt Asay reported on the importance of a strong foundation for open source dominance.

# Savio Rodrigues noted that the quality of open source code can go down, as well as up, depending on how you count it.

# Red Hat appointed a new board member, Donald Livingstone, Professor at BYU’s Marriott School of Business.

# DotNetNuke formed a board of advisors to help shape product development and technology adoption issues.

Not free as in fundamentalist

Matt Asay set the cat amongst the pigeons late last week with his post declaring that “Free software has lost. Open source has won. We’re all the better for it.”

There have been a number of responses picking apart Matt’s claim, of which I would recommend Glyn Moody’s.

To my mind, there is actually a lot to agree with in Matt’s post but where it falls down is in its generalisation of the Free Software movement. Like many others Matt has long since stopped seeing the difference between proprietary and open source as black and white so it is unfortunate that he chose to describe the difference between free software and open source in such terms. (I should point out, by the way, that this is something that a lot of people, myself included, are often guilty of).

Mark Stone points out that historically there are three camps on the FOSS side: Berkeley Unix, Linux and GNU. It is also true to say that that there are differences of opinion within the Free Software movement itself.

For example while Free Software Foundation sometimes appears to be more concerned with attacking Microsoft than it is promoting freedom, a recent article in Free Software Magazine demonstrates total opposition to proprietary software is not universal.

“A policy of promoting free software and opposing proprietary software no matter what the production consequences are is unethical,” wrote Terry Hancock. “The real world is a big place with lots of different people who think in lots of different ways. Trying to convert them all to your own way of thinking is probably a lost cause.”

For some people that remains a cause worth fighting for while others have elected to move on. Many others have simply chosen to pick their battles. The difference between Free Software on one side and proprietary software on the other is not black and white – it is much more complicated than that.

At the Open World Forum event in Paris on Thursday I will be discussing whether the the open source/proprietary war is over, including the fact that we are seeing an increasing amount of push back from free and open source advocates attempting to prevent what they see as the dilution of not just free software philosophies but also the open source brand as a result of increased involvement of proprietary vendors, licensing and development strategies.

I will therefore return to this issue later in the week but for now I wanted to make the point that the FOSS movement is not a community as much as it is a loose coalition of communities, parties and individuals all of which have shared interests, but also significant differences.

The biggest threat to the success of FOSS is arguably not proprietary software or isolationism but in-fighting and Balkanization.

Microsoft contributes to Linux kernel: a CAOS Theory Q&A

Microsoft has announced that it is to contribute code to the Linux kernel development effort under the GNU General Public License (GPL) v2. What on earth does it all mean? Here’s our take on the situation. With thanks to Jay Lyman for his contribution to the following:

Flying Pig

Q. This is a joke, right?

A. Not at all, although if any announcement is better suited to the image above, we can’t think of one. Microsoft has announced that it is going to contribute code to Linux under the GPLv2.

Q. What code is Microsoft contributing?

A. Microsoft is offering 20,000 lines of its own device drivers to the Linux kernel that will enable Linux to run as a guest on its Hyper-V virtualization technology. Specifically, the contributed loadable kernel modules enable Linux to run in ‘enlightened mode’, giving it efficiencies equivalent to a Windows virtual machine running on Hyper-V.

Q. Why is Microsoft doing this?

A. Red Hat and Novell’s Linux distributions already support enlightened mode, thanks to the development work done by both in partnership with Microsoft. One benefit for Microsoft of contributing to the kernel is that it reduces duplication of effort and the cost of supporting multiple, unique implementations of Linux. Once the code has been accepted into the kernel, Microsoft will use the kernel tree code as the basis for future virtualization integration development.

It also means that community Linux distributions will be able to use the code, which opens up more opportunities for Microsoft in the hosting market, where adoption of community Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian and CentOS is significant. It also therefore slightly strengthens the challenge those community operating systems can make to Red Hat and Novell, which are more direct commercial challengers to Windows.

Make no mistake about it, Microsoft’s contribution is driven by its own interests. While it must serve and respond to enterprise customers that continue to drive the use of multiple operating systems and mixed environments, Microsoft also benefits by differentiating its Hyper-V virtualization technology from virtualization leader VMware. We believe Microsoft sees an opportunity to make virtualization with Windows more Linux-friendly than VMware.

Q. What’s in it for Linux?

A. The interoperability benefits previously reserved for ‘approved’ Microsoft partners will now be available licensed under the GPLv2, and available for all Linux distributions – commercial or community – without the need for a formal partnership.

The contribution of device drivers to the Linux kernel as been a sticking point for the Linux development community in the past as developers have struggled to encourage vendors to contribute driver code to the kernel. Microsoft is therefore setting something of a precedent and could encourage other vendors that have been reticent to contribute their drivers to do so.

The seal of approval Microsoft has given to the GPLv2 is also not to be overlooked. If Microsoft can find a way to contribute to Linux projects, many other organisations may also be encouraged to do so.

Q. I guess Linux is no longer “a cancer” then?

A. Exactly. Back in 2001 Steve Ballmer told the Chicago Sun-Times* “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That’s the way that the license works.”

Reviewing the statement in the context of today’s announcement demonstrates how much progress Microsoft has made in the intervening years to understand open source licenses. Contribution to Linux, or to any other project under the GPL, would have been unthinkable at the time, and is still barely believable today. The announcement is likely to challenge perceptions of Microsoft’s strategy when it comes to open source, Linux and the most popular open source license.

*The original article is no longer available online. Plenty of references are still available, however.

Q. What does this say about Microsoft’s overall strategy towards open source?

A. The contribution is a significant sign that Microsoft is now prepared to participate with open source projects on their own terms by using the chosen license of that project and making contributions directly to the chosen development forge of that project. Microsoft continues to use its own CodePlex project hosting site for code releases, but if an existing open source project uses SourceForge then Microsoft has acknowledged that the best way to engage with that community is on SourceForge. Don’t expect this to be the last contribution Microsoft does under the GPL.

Microsoft is now becoming more proactive in how it engages with open source under a strategy it describes as ‘Open Edge’ (which we have previously mentioned here and here. Whereas Open Core is used by commercial open source vendors to offer proprietary extensions to open source code, Open Edge is Microsoft’s strategy to encourage open source development and application deployment on top of its suite of commercial software: Windows, Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, SQL Server etc.

The Open Edge strategy is rooted in attempting to ensure Microsoft’s commercial products continue to be relevant to the ecosystem of developers and partners that the company has attracted to its software platform. It is also a continuation of the realization that if customers and developers are going to use open source software, Microsoft is more likely to retain those customers if it helps them use open source on Windows et al.

For more details on Microsoft’s strategy towards open source, its partnerships with open source vendors, and its contributions to open source projects, see The 451 Group’s formal report on the contribution to Linux (the report will shortly be available via this link ).

Q. How is the contribution to the Linux kernel being handled?

A. The contribution is being made via an alliance with the Linux Kernel Driver Project and its maintainer, Greg Kroah-Hartman, who will steward the contribution into the Linux kernel code base. (Greg has a post up about it here).

Q. What are the intellectual property issues?

A. The copyright for the code will remain with Microsoft, with the contributor credit going to its engineering lead, Hank Janssen, group program manager at Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center.

Q. And patents?

A. If we were putting money on the most likely conspiracy theory to emerge in response to this news it would be that this is a Trojan horse and Microsoft is contributing code to Linux that it will later claim patent rights over. Whether that is even theoretically possible depends on your understanding of the GPLv2.

The GPLv2 contains an implicit patent promise that some would say makes a Trojan horse impossible. However, the FSF obviously thought it necessary to introduce a more explicit patent promise with the GPLv3 to remove any doubt.

Ultimately this is a question for a lawyer, or an eloquence of lawyers (yes it is ironic, apparently). In the meantime, it is our understanding that Microsoft’s understanding is that contributing code using the GPLv2 includes a promise not to charge a royalty for, or assert any patents covering, the code being contributed.

Q. What about Microsoft’s prior claim that Linux infringes its patents?

A. Microsoft really dropped the ball on its communication of the suggestion that free software infringes over 200 of its patents, and tensions with free and open source software advocates are likely to continue to be tested by Linux-related patent agreements, such as the one struck with Melco Holdings last week, which have driven scepticism and mistrust of Microsoft among some key open source supporters.

Absent the company giving up on software patents altogether, we believe that in order to convince those FOSS advocates that it is serious about co-existence, Microsoft needs to find a way to publicly communicate details about those 200+ patents in such a way that is not seen as a threat and would enable open source developers to license, work around, or challenge them. We also believe that the company is aware of this, although finding a solution to the problem will not be easy. But then neither was contributing code to Linux under the GPLv2.

UPDATE – It has subsequently become clear that there were two important questions that were not answered by our Q&A. Those have been covered by an addendum – UPDATE.

451 CAOS Links 2009.05.13

SugarCRM loses its CEO. Reaction to the Nagios fork. Oracle’s hardware plans. And more.

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Life is not so sweet

SugarCRM announced the resignation of John Roberts as CEO and appointment of Larry Augustin as interim CEO. Larry offered a perspective on his role. The news was widely reported but there were two surprising aspects – that the founder of an apparently successful company should choose to leave despite it being apparently poised for a run at an IPO when the markets recover, and that almost no one publicly questioned why the founder of an apparently successful company should choose to leave despite it being apparently poised for a run at an IPO when the markets recover. The Register was the notable exception but didn’t uncover any answers.

Forking hell?
We previously reported the Icinga fork of the Nagios open source monitoring software. This week Nagios creator Ethan Galstad responded by welcoming the fork and writing a series of posts that dealt with the issues, including trademarks, commercialization and the future of Nagios. Meanwhile GroundWork Open Source, which makes use of Nagios within its products, provided its point of view on the Icinga fork. In a timely post, James Dixon offered a perspective on why, when, and how to fork an open source project.

You say fauxpen, I say potato
Tarus Balog’s post on what he calls “fauxpen source” business models caused something of a stir, most of its played out in the comments to our response. There was more to come, however, with Carlo Daffara, Tarus and Benjamin Reed continuing thje debate about what constitutes an open source business model, and whether vendors with proprietary extensions should be allowed to call themselves “open source”. The debate has simmered for the last 10 years and the latest skirmish settled nothing. Tarus himself was left with a feeling of disappointment about the level of debate.

The potential impact of software liability

The European Commission proposed that software developers should be held responsible for the security of their products, prompting Glyn Moody to speculate on the impact on open source developers. Savio Rodrigues argued that it would specifically damage open source vendors, while Matt Asay argued that the proposal did not match the reality of the vendor-customer relationship.

The best of the rest
# Reuters interview with Larry Ellison on plans for Sun hardware.

# The New York Times reported the behind-the-scenes details on the Sun acquisition saga, including the involvement of a mystery third bidder, thought to be HP.

# Intel and Nokia jointly announced the oFono project, an open source telephony project.

# MontaVista launched MontaVista Linux 6 embedded Linux operating system.

# JasperSoft updated its JasperForge forge with full production capabilities and collaboration features.

# SGI lives on. Rackable Systems to become Silicon Graphics International (SGI).

# New InformationWeek open source survey focuses on desktop adoption.

# Free software makes the Huffington Post. Jamie Love raised timely & important questions for president Obama on free software usage.

# Dave Neary explained why football clubs are like free software communities.

# ComputerWeekly explained how a government-wide Microsoft software deal fits into the UK Government’s Open Source Action Plan.

# xTuple partnered with BitRock to simplify installation of open source ERP.

# Likewise announced that its Open identity management software is now integrated in Citrix XenServer.

# WSJ: Novell plans to create and market a Moblin-based OS for netbooks.

# Zenoss Core 2.4 open source network monitoring now GA.

# Introducing PostgreSQL Experts Inc, Josh Berkus’ new PostgreSQL consulting, services and support company.

# The Linux Foundation: GNU/Linux: The Operating System of the Cloud.

451 CAOS Links 2009.03.17

Cloudera debuts Hadoop support with $5m in funding. The financial value of open source. More patent problems for Red Hat. Government open source projects on both sides of the pond. Symbian’s release plan. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory

Cloudera makes it official
We previously reported the launch of Cloudera a new vendor set up to provide support for Apache Hadoop and related projects back in October. The company made its official debut in not-so polite open source society with the launch of its distribution for Hadoop and commercial support. The company also confirmed that it had raised $5m in funding from Accel and other investors including:

“Mike Abbott (senior vice president, Palm), David desJardins (early Google employee), Caterina Fake (co-founder, Flickr), David Gerster (entrepreneur), Diane Greene (former CEO of VMware), Youssri Helmy (entrepreneur), Dr. Qi Lu (president of the Online Services Group, Microsoft; former executive vice president, Yahoo!), Marten Mickos (former CEO, MySQL), In Sik Rhee (former chief tactician, Opsware; founder, Loudcloud), Mendel Rosenblum (founder VMware), Jeff Weiner (president, LinkedIn; former senior vice president, Yahoo!), Dick Williams (CEO, Illustra; former CEO, Wily Technology), Gideon Yu (Facebook CFO; former senior vice president, Yahoo!; CFO, YouTube).”

The financial value of open source
We previously noted that Bruno Von Rotz had calculated that that the total financial value of the today existing open source code base is $100bn to $150bn. Carlo Daffara performed some calculations of his own to confirm that assessment and then performed some more calculations to demonstrate that an project containing 10 million lines of code costs €210m ($273m) less if 75% of the development uses open source software.

More Red Hat patent problems

Patent problems for Red Hat have recently involved being sued for patent infringement. However, the company has also got in hot water with AMQP-related developers for apparently claiming a patent on routing messages using an XQuery match, an extension of AMQP. Kirk Wylie declared himself “apoplectic with rage” at what he saw as a “really bad maneuver on the part of Red Hat”.

Matt Asay insisted everyone should “Get real. Be reasonable. [and] Settle down.” While Red Hat maintained that there is “no reasonable, objective basis for controversy”. Did that satisfy Kirk? It did not. More on this later in the week, one suspects.

Government intervention
Following its recent open source conversion The UK government launched the UK’s first national open source project, the National Digital Resource bank, which enables schools to create, search for and share digital content online. Meanwhile the US Department of Defense released its corporate management information system under open source licenses via an agreement with the Open Source Software Institute (OSSI).

The best of the rest
# “How to create an unbelievable amount of buzz” Christopher Keene on openness as a marketing tool.

# Carlo Daffara provided details on The FLOSSMETRICS study on OSS business models, now with 218 companies.

# Red Hat on board for Cisco’s Unified Computing System.

# Wind River launched Wind River Linux 3.0.

# Richard Stallman told eWeek Free software is not about saving money.

# Free Software Foundation Europe president Georg Greve discussed what makes a Free Software company.

# The Symbian Platform release plan.

# Jaiku is now open source.

Define ‘free software vendor’

George Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, has written an interesting post on the topic of defining what it means to be a Free Software vendor, furthering the conversation on business strategies related to free and open source software.

I have recently posted about defining what constitutes an “open source vendor” for our reports. It is a complex problem that highlights philosophical and strategic differences between approaches to open source.

The issue, as it relates to Free Software, is less complex. As George writes: “The critical differentiator is provision of Free Software downstream to customers. In other words: Free Software companies are companies that have adopted business models in which the revenue streams are not tied to proprietary software model licensing conditions.”

In coming to this conclusion George discusses the importance of considering a vendor’s strategy in relation to three aspects: the software model, the development model, and the business model.

Interestingly this is very similar to the approach we took when assessing vendor strategies as part of Open Source is Not a Business Model, where we examined the development, vendor licensing and revenue generation strategies.

It would appear at first glance that our “vendor licensing” category is similar to George’s “software model” in that it relates to the control placed on the software by licensing rights.

George also seems to be in agreement with the way in which we used our three categories to calculate that there are hundreds of potential business model combinations:

“It should be noted that the overlap of possible business models on top of the different software models is much larger than usually understood,” he writes. “The number of possible combinations is almost endless, and the choices made will determine the individual character and competitive strengths and weaknesses of each company. Thinking clearly about these parameters is key to a successful business strategy.”

I wrote last May that there appeared “to be a strengthening commitment in some quarters to the ideals of the Free Software Foundation in rejection of the commercial opportunities provided by the Open Source Initiative.”

UPDATE – I didn’t phrase that last sentence very well. What I meant was that people (and companies) that consider themselves “open source” rather than “Free” are more inclined towards proprietary licensing as a means to generate revenue from open source software since they don’t necessarily share the Free Software philosophy that all software should be free – UPDATE.

I wonder if we will see more vendors flying the Free software flag, rather than attempting to wrestle ownership of the term “open source” from those with a penchant for proprietary licenses.

In the meantime George is promising “to show how differentiators used by Free Software companies can be as strong as those of proprietary companies” in a later post. Should be worth a read.

451 CAOS Links 2009.01.09

EMC buys some, but not all, of SourceLabs. Cfengine launches data center automation software. Open source and TCO. Measuring corporate contributions to open source. And more.

Official announcements
Self-repairing Data Center Automation solution released Cfengine

Acquia Joins Red Hat Exchange Bringing Social Publishing Expertise to the Open Source Ecosystem Acquia

DotNetNuke Moves to CodePlex DotNetNuke

The BitRock Network Service Improves Product Development and Support, Gains Momentum BitRock

AccesStream Announces Beta Release of its Open Source Identity Access Management Solution AccesStream

Roaring Penguin Software And GroundWork Open Source Deliver Solution Providers Easier Monitoring And Management Of Anti-Spam Appliances GroundWork

CohesiveFT Adds the Kernel-based Virtual Machine Format to its Automated Elastic Server Platform CohesiveFT

MuleSource Partners With FastConnect to Meet Rising Demand in France MuleSource

Extentech Inc. Announces Open Source Multi-Platform Alternative to Sharepoint Extentech

LinMin Introduces Bare Metal Provisioning 5.3 with One-Click Provisioning Role Creation and Support for the latest Linux Releases from Red Hat, Novell, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE and CentOS LinMin

DSS, Inc., Announces Open Source Version of vxVistA EHR Framework, Joins Open Health Tools Foundation

News articles
Measuring Corporate Contributions to an Open Source Project Joe Brockmeier, CIO.com

EMC buys some parts of SourceLabs Colin Barker, ZDNet.co.uk

Consortium tackles cloud computing standards Jon Brodkin, Network World

Marketcetera readies open source trading platform Computer Business Review

Vietnam to widely use open source software VietNamNet Bridge

Palm needs Nova to shine Ryan Kim, San Francisco Gate Chronicle

The state of free software TechRadar

Surf Google Earth With Wii Balance Board Thomas Claburn, InformationWeek

Blogs
Managing open source adoption in your IT organization Bob Sutor

Open source and the total cost of ownership dilemma Savio Rodrigues, InfoWorld

Open Source TCO: Total Cost of Ownership and the Fermat’s Theorem Roberto Galoppini

Great things afoot in the MySQL community Don MacAskill, SmugMug

Bob Muglia and open source at Microsoft Savio Rodrigues, InfoWorld

Cisco: Serving Up Open Source? The VAR Guy

As the UIQ Platform Opens, UIQ Closes Kristin Shoemaker, OStatic

Open Source trends in 2009 – what’s new? Matthew Langham, The Silent Penguin

The difference a year makes Savio Rodrigues, InfoWorld

Why Dell Won’t Buy Red Hat The VAR Guy

Integrated Revised 2010 Goals Mitchell Baker

Refocusing on our mission SJ Klein, OLPC

Will More iPhone Apps go Open Source? Frederic Lardinois, ReadWriteWeb

Audio/visual
Podcast: Novell Chief Marketing Officer Talks SUSE Linux (And More) The VAR Guy
“In this episode, Novell Chief Marketing Officer John Dragoon responds to five key questions about the company’s SUSE Linux strategies, broader software efforts and partner initiatives.”

Free For All BBC Radio 4’s In Business
Maybe there are better ways of doing business than charging users for goods and services. But is it really profitable to give products away? Peter Day hears from two advocates of business models that turn conventional wisdom on its head. Apologies in advance if this is not available outside the UK.