Open Source Business Strategy: Feedback on the Beekeeper Model Revisited

James DixonPentaho Chief Technology Officer – about two years ago wrote the “Beekeeper model“, telling the word about how open source firms writing the majority of the code make business.

Now James released the first draft of the new version asking for comments, and I am glad to give him some feedback again.

The first difference is in the very first paragraph, about “Why Professional Open Source Software“, now – more appropriately called – “Why Commercial Open Source”:

If you take Geoffrey Moore’s definition of a ‘whole product’ from his groundbreaking ‘Crossing the Chasm’ book you can see that the barriers above exist because open source projects generate software, they do not generate ‘whole product’. If you were to create a ‘whole product’ around open source software you would eliminate these barriers and gain mainstream adoption. Commercial open source exists to do just that.

I have also been talking about Geoffrey Moore just after Stephen Walli’s post on core and complements. Stephen Walli wrote few slides (open source) mentioning complements like add-ons, certification programs and consulting services. Business tools like these could either be source of revenues or a medium to foster your community. Have also a look at how Moore defines “core competencies” and how these are different from “core value propositions”, it might be helpful to highlight the importance of all building blocks of an open source business model. Telling more about the difference between what people like to pay for, and which core competencies make you unique, might add some salt to the discussion.

Different open source production models imply different approaches to open core or other open source business strategies, as I extensively mentioned talking of Zenoss and GroundWork.

The principles of open source section basically is unchanged, but I see an opportunity to tell something more about different architectures of participation. Transparency and accessibility are broadly discussed, somehow missing the importance of open source components – e.g. MySQL – as building blocks to develop open source products. Super-communities appear to play an important role in the most mature open source models, and probably West’s advices towards these openness dimensions are too strict . Influencing your community or other ones, boils down to the ability to access, align or assimilate external knowledge, and legitimacy is never for ‘free’. Bounty programs and other initiatives to foster open source communities may well be included in this picture, firm-community relationship matters.

Renaming the ‘proprietary model’ the Maple Syrup Farm Model was a brilliant choice, it fits in the big picture much better. Talking of the model, I am half convinced that owning the roadmap happens only by proprietary vendors. On the contrary I see many single-vendor commercial open source doing just the same. Unfortunately taxonomies tend to be defective by design, giving general answers to questions that often need a specific analysis is almost impossile. Resolving name confusions in favor of customers should be our aim, help users and customers to not get confused by open source marketing hype.

Last but not least, I think that adding more information about ‘seeds’, and the nature of the relationship between single vendor commercial open source and resources needed to start a business, would be great. VCs play a very important role, and they deserve more attention.