The past week more and more people weighed in on the open core debate. Personally, I don't have much more to add now and it seems I have been able to articulate why it is bad and against open source. Watching some of the comments of this week it also seems that the more people talk/write about it, the more their true thinking and motivation becomes apparent to everyone. So rather than add more words, I will just highlight what others are saying.
Watching the discussion last week reminded me of a friend in university, who was a vegetarian. This was becoming popular at the time. I once then saw her ordering a chicken pizza, so I mentioned that she is not a vegetarian after all. This upset her and she protested that who am I to judge her and surely just because she eats chicken doesn't mean she is not a vegetarian.
Now unto the open core debate...
A lot has been written for and against open core now. Yet in the end, a couple tweets can catch all that is needed:
This is that blog post.
Inspired by Stephen, I also looked into a set of slides I recently created and will try that style for this post...
Aslett and Stephen make a great point:
the conversion of community users into paying customers has long been a concern for open source-related vendors. It has also long been a source of friction, with vendors that offer proprietary extensions being accused of “bait and switch” or otherwise undermining the value of the open source software in an attempt compel community users into becoming paying customers. In recent years the next generation of start-ups has learned that the best way to encourage a frictionless relationship between a vendor and its community is not to attempt to “convert” users at all.
Oh my. I was outside painting my house for a few days, and when I return back online I discover that now everyone is having an opinion on the open core business model. Since some participants are still trying to promote it as a valid open source business model, let's see what everyone is saying and highlight any pitfalls being offered...
Julie Bort of Networkworld.com has an interview with Mårten Mickos of Eucalyptus, formerly of MySQL. In MySQL times it seemed (to me at least) that most users never realized Mårten and his management team were taking MySQL increasingly into a closed source direction. (Maybe I'm just stupid myself, but at least personally I had not noticed this until after I started working for the company.) In this interview Mårten at least comes squarely out of the closet and is defending the model.
Julie makes a good journalistic effort of reporting on the topic from a neutral point of view. Alas, sometimes that approach just makes things fuzzier. So let me try to make one thing clear: Open core may be a good business model, but open core is not open source!
It seems to be a well researched chapter and references many past interviews over the years, as well as being based on interviews of at least Mårten, Monty and Kevin Harvey of Benchmark. This is the most comprehensive narrative I've ever seen of items like "InnoDB Friday", a phrase I thought until now was company confidential, since talking about it would have revealed there was something negative about the day Oracle bought InnoDB (no kidding?). It also reveals what MySQL (AB) thought about the fact that PostgreSQL at one time was more popular than MySQL in one country in the world: Japan, or how much it raised VC capital. On the other hand it still only mentions some issues anonymously or only between the lines and reader is left guessing whether he should fill in "Oracle", "SAP" or something else in the gaps. (And I'm too much a coward to blog the right answers... Ok, so Google will tell you Oracle is the one who tried to acquire MySQL several times before.)
I believe one of Red Hat’s most valuable contributions to the open source way is our profitability. We have clearly demonstrated that a company can be a good steward and catalyst in open source and be a profitable enterprise as well. I hope this serves as an example and inspiration to others to enter and participate in open source.
I just want to jot down a few comments here about an open-ed piece by Glyn Moody at the H-online: Why Making Money from Free Software Matters. It is a very good summary of the motivations I had in writing my book Open Life: The Philosophy of Open Source and why I have since also strived to work towards making businesses benefit from Open Source models, and vice versa, making Open Source benefit from the businesses.