I’ve been saying for years now that open source is more than just a marketing term, and I’ve probably bored most of my three readers by harping on it.
While it may not seem to matter to most people, it is dreadfully important to my business that open source not become synonymous with fauxpen source (or to use the more politically correct term – open core). It is hard enough to educate the market on the values of open source software (if it is free, how can it be good?) without having the waters muddied with the confusion brought on with the hybrid open source/commercial software model.
However, as far as analysts go, there are few that are held as in high esteem as Gartner. Today, Michael Coté sent me a link to a Gartner blog post by Brian Prentice called “Open-Core: The Emperor’s New Clothes“.
There is a gem of a quote in every paragraph, so just go read the article, but here are some of my favorites:
You’ll soon realize that the fabric making up the garb of their stated innovation is a fabrication. They’ll then be exposed for exactly who they are – a good old fashion software vendor. Just like every other one you’ve come to know.
I have asked, on numerous occasions, for someone from the open core front to explain to me the different between their model and the traditional software model of having an open API to add functionality while keeping the best parts of the application closed. HP was able to create a huge environment around OpenView this way, without claiming to be open source (even though they use “open” in their name).
Furthermore I have personally been told by one such open-core provider that the reason a new feature, which was clearly of value to all users, was only being provided in the paid-for, proprietary version was that they “had investors they needed to satisfy.”
This sounds familiar. (grin)
Open source projects such as OpenNMS can provide a powerful, scalable and flexible solution. While I never want to lead with it when talking to potential clients, it also has a large cost benefit. The problem with the open core model is what Gartner calls the “super-size trigger”.
Besides, what you already know is that this type of functional separation creates what Gartner refers to as a “super-size trigger.” The minute you require a feature only available in the full version then the entirety of your commitment needs to be scaled up and re-costed to the full-cost offering.
Since open source is not a marketing term, these hybrid vendors are only trying to ride the hype. Brian addresses that, too:
This is where the hype starts to creep in. The idea that a functionally complete, proprietary solution is somehow unique because it was built atop an open source base fails to recognize the fact that many proprietary solutions are being built using open source components
But what about the communities around these open core projects. Aren’t they different than a commercial software product?
Even the very definition of “community” is being adapted to suit the open core narrative. What has largely interested the corporate IT world is the concept of a community as a collection of code contributors working outside a normal project/company structure. But now open core providers are extending the term community to include users and even resellers. That, of course, is what we’ve all been calling a software ecosystem for the last twenty years. Same old, same old – just co-opted terminology used to describe it.
I have no real problem with open core as long as they don’t use the term open source. It is simply another commercial software business model. But when they refer to it as open source it causes confusion in the marketplace for my business, and that’s what bothers me. From the article:
Be clear, there’s nothing nefarious going on with open core. It’s just that there’s just nothing particularly new or innovative going on either.
I believe that all commercial software companies will start focusing on creating a much larger “software ecosystem” which will include access to some source code, new APIs, social networks, etc. But it will not represent an open source business.
It’s nice to see Gartner putting it out there in such a straightforward and blunt manner.