InfoWorld - So you want to make a small fortune in open source software? It's simple, the joke goes: Just start with a large fortune. The open source revolution began at least two decades ago, but businesses and programmers are still struggling to understand the best way to share wonderful code and pay the mortgage.
There have been some notable successes: Sun paid $1 billion for MySQL, an eye-popping amount given that MySQL was celebrating raking in $50 million in revenue not too long before. Red Hat has a market cap of more than $6 billion.
Yet for all of this wealth, there's a feeling that these businesses succeeded by being hybrids. They use the open source vision to attract users, but their business success comes by pushing proprietary options. Thus, the dark secret is that their open source version are merely a form of marketing.
Calling this a bait-and-switch may be too cynical, but all users can feel the commercial tilt. Many companies, for example, find it is cheaper to buy a full commercial license for MySQL than to hire a lawyer to see if they are in compliance with the open source license. Red Hat makes a big distinction between the free version, distributed under the name Fedora, and its enterprise products sold under the name Red Hat. Lest there be any expectation that their software is truly free, both MySQL and Red Hat offer 30-day trials, a phrase that's not usually associated with the ideals of open source. Remember Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's famous interview with the Financial Times where he said, "If an open source product gets good enough, we'll simply take it."
Other companies that try to be pure and share their code widely discover that users are happy to share the software but not so ready to pay enough to support the programmers.
Zack Urlocker, a board member and executive for several open source companies, points out the trade-off between the degree of sharing and revenue: "Apache has a great license model that enables the wide adoption of open source software, but there have been few significant businesses -- none approaching even $100 million in revenue -- based on a permissive license model" such as Apache's.
The open source community's business debate The debate over permissiveness is woven throughout the discussions of open source business models. Some companies stay small on purpose, while others argue that there's nothing wrong with proprietary options if they encourage all users to share the costs of development. There is no free lunch, they say.
- Best iPhone, iPad Business Apps for 2014
- 14 Tech Conventions You Should Attend in 2014
- 10 Desktop Apps to Power Your Windows PC
- How to Add New Job Skills Without Going Back to School
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
Red Hat Enterprise Linux - The Original Cloud Operating System
Linux adoption is growing against a number of measures, such as the
number of supercomputers that run Linux and the size of the contributing...
- OpenStack Hype vs. Reality: CIO Quick Pulse Open-source architecture can enable IT departments to build infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) clouds running on standard hardware.
- Building a Bridge to the Next Generation Data Center Selecting a widely adopted operating system is a foundational component of a standardization strategy.
- OpenStack and Red Hat: IDC White paper Most OpenStack deployments are by public cloud providers that are early adopters of technology and use OpenStack in a do-it-yourself deployment and support...
- Live Webcast Best Practices for the Hyperconverged Enterprise Network To the Age of Constant Connectivity and Information overload
- Live Webcast Unmasking the Differences between Consumer and Enterprise File Sync & Share The consumerization of IT combined with the rapid pace of the modern mobile workplace is forcing enterprise IT teams to evaluate file sync...
- Live Webcast Government Agency Webifies Outdated COBOL Applications Let this CTO tell you how his agency converted 1980s-era green screens into an e-filing portal for the 100,000 cases handled each year...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,...
- Getting Ready for BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.2 Find out how BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 helps organizations address the full spectrum of EMM challenges, while balancing the needs of both the... All Applications White Papers | Webcasts