Open Source Usage Statistics: BitRock Network Service, an interview with Erica Brescia

GroundWork 5.3 press release says that customers benefit from using the BitRock Network Service to be notified of available patches, and updates, and technical bulletins.

During the open night reception at the Open Source Think Tank Erica Brescia, BitRock CEO, told me more about her product and strategy.

What is the BitRock Network Service?

The name actually came from MySQL Networks and Red Hat Networks, the idea was that we provide a platform that ISVs can use to run a subscription business model. We started working on it about three years ago, was appearing clearly that the MySQL model to offer a subscription to include support, aids and updates and other value added services on top of an open source software was becoming mainstream. We asked ISVs what they needed, and first we heard they need a tool to deliver updates to users. But we sorted out that what they really need was the ability to pull back information from users, that is why we decided to focus our BitRock Network first on notification.

Vendors need to offer some incentives to make users opt-in, and let them know when updates are available seems a valuable incentive, considering that 25% of GroundWork users actually opted-in.

How do vendors use it?

For the ISVs the most important thing was to better understand their users base, so we made Bitrock Network very flexible, in order to collect any kind of data. It might be the number of clients monitored, like in the GroundWork case, or they might want to know how many documents are stored in their database, like in the KnowledgeTree case.
Our servers (note: BitRock Network Service is an hosted service) allow our customers to selectively update users based on their license, geographical information, operative systems and so on.

What about privacy?

It is up to vendor what they want to collect, and how they present it to the user. It is an opt-in process.

Bitrock network helps open source vendors to know more about their users base, but the privacy issue might become a problem as far as end users can’t check what is really transmitted, though.