About Open Source Value Creation and Consumption

The relationship between open source communities and vendors keeps being a topic of debate these days. Simon Phipps at the South Tyrol Free Software Conference gave a talk about his “software freedom scorecard“, a method to indicate the approach vendors take to promote software freedom as part of their business strategies.

Matt Asay says we have to get used to companies separating their open-source efforts from their revenue models. We may be talking of  “fauxpen source” vendors in this case – as originally named by Taurus Balog –  but it doesn’t necessarily cut open development out of the equation.

I want to make my point by having a look at how differently two companies have been building a business strategy around Apache projects.

Si Chen - Open Source Strategies CEO and opentaps project leader - talking of  about how an open source project can support a business says opentaps users use opentaps as a starting point, and then look for customization services.

In that way, even though the end result is still a “custom product” to meet their needs, a higher percentage of that custom product is in fact from standardized open source components.

Here benefiting from ‘standardized open source components’ seems key to business success. Opentaps business strategy relies on a community based production model, allowing Open Source Strategies to reduce software production costs, and enabling customers to make their own decisions (i.e. avoid lock-in).

David Nüscheler, Day Software CTO, is a person putting standards, interoperability and lock-in avoidance at the forefront, but he is also a representative of a different way to profit from open source value creation and consumption.

Last time we spoke about standards participation and production costs, this time I asked David to tell me more about Day Software’s decisions about what to keep secret and what to make public.

In my experience though it is not as much the availability of the source code that makes a particular organization gravitate to open source or commercial software but the cost and the level of service and responsibilities.

The reason why I mention that is, because this to a large degree already defuses the question on what’s open source and what’s not (in the sense of what’s secret) but it really is the question, what do you want to give away for free and what do you want to commercialize. It is more a question of money than a question of secrets.

Giving up control has been issue at Day Software?

I think everybody agrees that open source is about community or call it eco-system. Where other vendors try to find a compromise between different licensing options, we believe in participating in a true, vendor neutral, non-profit organization and ingesting the commodity code of our commercial software into a meritocratic structure that allows our code to grow beyond the body of our commercial entity.

There is not really any sacrifice or compromise for us.

Day doesn’t compete for open source commercial dominance. Following the strict ‘definition’ of professional open source vendor you are probably not an open source vendor.

I agree, that this is a very different model from the traditional oss vendors, but there are a lot of companies that are buying into this model. I usually look at the list of apache members and order them by their affiliation. I think the companies involved in proper community open source usually don’t do that for marketing/buzz reasons so they don’t spend a lot of money talking about it, they spend the money actually contributing to the community and advancing the software.

I think that’s why the “professional open source vendors” are louder but proportionately less relevant in the long run.

David you added an interesting perspective to the debate. I look forward to cover more stories about open source based business initiatives that are out of the chorus.