Open communities and lightweight consortia

The consortium is one of the oldest, and most practiced structures for coordinating resources of different companies towards a common goal, by creating a simple legal framework to coordinate and encourage a joint activity (for example promotion, development, management of rights). It is based on a simple concept: to be self-sustaining, a consortium must be capable of creating more than the simple sum of its parts.

What can be said of FLOSS-based consortia? The underlying “raw material”, usually, is based on open source projects that are available to all without limitations, and so they cannot be a discriminating factor, contrary to other development consortia like Avalanche. In fact, even joint development like the Common Customer View are not improved or hindered by the fact that the participating companies are all in a single consortium or not. It is not difficult to see that if such an approach looks technically interesting, other non-members would probably add a compatible offering to their own project; on the other hand, two companies in the same market would be hard pressed to participate in the same consortium, as Roberto correctly said, because there would be no economic incentive to be part of a non-differentiating common ground.

I suspect that development consortia can accept only a single company per vertical market, while representative consortia (that leverage a common effort to provide a simplified “certification mark”) can probably more effective in reducing the cost of promotion of FLOSS-based solutions. In this sense, I would suggest OSA to leverage more than simple interoperability, and try to promote a two-stage approach: an “inner circle” that provides the interoperability framework by leveraging paying customers, and a “subscriber circle” that leverages the shared resources (like IP clearing from Palamida, technical certification from SpikeSource, etc) to obtain a “seal of approval” that could be used as a marketing instrument.

After all, if we look at OSA, we can see two different kind of customers: the ones that are buying services and products from the members, and FLOSS companies that may be part of the consortium in the future; it is in my opinion sensible to try to address both.

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