|By Stephen Walli||
|December 28, 2012 01:30 PM EST||
I recently blogged about making open source software, and the high level steps for how to think about the process. We started with the need for software to seed the discussion, the need for clear motivation as to why to publish as open source software, and then the structural requirements to build a community (license choice, collaboration platform or forge, and governance considerations). Contributions are the life blood of any community, so lastly we talked about the need to build an onramp to encourage users that will hopefully become contributors, and the additional onramp needed to make it easy to contribute.
Rory MacDonald (@technocreative) challenged in the comments that there are substantial commercial motivations for a company to develop open source projects that go beyond a desire for collaboration, and provided a number of examples. I completely agree, and I'd like to build on these ideas.
Why as a company (rather than as an individual) would you want to "make" open source?
Again we have two types of making to consider:
- A company can contribute to an open source project that already exists.
- A company can create a new open source project (either by publishing existing software or creating new).
If we consider a company making contributions to an "outside" project then we should do so from the perspective that this is an advanced case of collaboration where the open source project is being used in a product or service the company offers to customers for sale. Think Red Hat and using Linux to deliver Red Hat Advanced Server. Otherwise, contributing to a project that is used strictly in-house pretty much looks like the discussion in the previous post -- it's about engineering economics and shared innovation and living on a fork gets expensive over time unless it can be balanced against the costs of maintaining a business advantage through secrecy (e.g. the way Google used Linux in the early days).
Participating in an external open source licensed project is a case of expanding traditional corporate thinking of "build" versus "buy" to include "borrow" and "share". It's about time-to-solution if a company uses the project in-house and about time-to-market if the project is used to develop a product or provide a service to customers for sale. One needs to remember as a company using open source licensed software in a product or service that the company exists to solve a problem and create a marketplace around the solution. This is all about Levitt's observations about solving customer problems ("needing a 1/4 inch hole") over selling products ("the drill"). Red Hat wasn't "selling a Linux distro" but rather providing a professionally maintained and supported low cost PC-based server replacement for expensive proprietary UNIX systems on expensive proprietary hardware.
The interesting problems when using an externally developed open source project as a company are in understanding the flow of ownership of the intellectual property with respect to the software. There are a couple of predominant concerns:
- What legal risks are possible that need to be managed against a company's risk profile. This should not be taken lightly. Companies are more interesting legal targets than individuals. Even if a company is using the software internally rather than in a product or service, there is still a risk profile to consider. It's not that the risk is greater than purchasing a proprietary software solution from a vendor but one needs to feel comfortable that the externally run open source licensed project has appropriate IP management safeguards in place.
- What intellectual property is being contributed to whom. Again, companies are often uncomfortable contributing their own hard won R&D investment to others (even partners) without crisply understanding the return.
As a company each of these legal concerns comes with additional legal responsibilities. Open source software foundations provide solutions to these problems by providing neutral non-profit space in which companies can collaborate together, and backing the space with proper IP management practices. The Apache Software Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, the Linux Foundation (né OSDL) and the Outercurve Foundation were all created to manage the risk around these software IP problems.
The discussion becomes interesting when a company considers creating its own open source licensed projects. Rory's examples speak to benefits. Let's start with the motivation again. People are often very good at understanding their "gut" motivation for doing something. The larger a company becomes the more thought and documentation needs to go into such decisions, especially once a company goes public.
If the project to be published under an open source license is "infrastructure" for the company, then the motivations are all based on shared innovation and distributed engineering economics. This is what we see with data centre-centric projects created by the likes of Amazon, Yahoo, Google, Twitter, Netflix, or the Facebook Open Hardware Initiative. The company starting the project is sharing work in which they have invested time and energy in the hopes that others will join the project, use it in new ways thereby hardening the software and contributing at the very least bug reports, but also hopefully extending and evolving it.
When this is the motivation, all the discussion in the previous article comes into play around making open source. Essentially, one needs:
- Useful software as a base around which to build a community.
- Motivation to share, credible expertise in the problem to be solved, and an understanding of the software structure to anchor the open source community.
- The project needs to have the structural issues of license, forge, and governance decided, even if governance becomes an evolving discussion in a growing community.
- The community needs to build a solid onramp to encourage use, and a second onramp for users to become contributors. The sooner this happens in a project's life, the faster it can build a community.
The additional consideration to encourage corporate participation and contribution needs to be software ownership, legal risk, and IP management around the contributions. This is where considering using existing open source software foundations comes into play. Corporations are far more likely to contribute their software to a neutral non-profit for mutual benefit.
But as Rory points out, there are business motivations for creating open source projects as well. A company's executives want to "increase business" but does that mean increase leads in the sales pipeline? Or build a community of evangelists that firmly anchor the company's products and services while providing proof points and expertise to potential new leads.
Using free and open source software in a commercial setting doesn't change the nature of running a business. One needs to clearly understand that customers buy solutions to problems and what problem the company is solving. Geoffrey Moore demonstrated some time ago that companies offering the best "whole" solution win, i.e. a core product or service and all its complementing products and services around a more complete ecosystem. This has a lot to do with shaping a "complete" solution to account for the subtle differences that customers perceive they have around the problem space. Successful companies essentially offer a portfolio of products and services and as long as the sum of the costs of delivering the portfolio is less than the sum of the revenues (spend less than you earn), the company is profitable. Taking a portfolio approach allows a company to play with their pricing models and differentiate themselves for customers against similar competitors.
Open source software can play a number of roles in such a portfolio approach. A company can:
- Sell support, upgrades, customization, training and "stability" to a product that is otherwise provided as an open source project. The best example is probably Red Hat "selling Linux" when it doesn't own the core IP. The "product" isn't the software. JBoss tried several of these approaches before their Red Hat acquisition.
- Sell a core product (licensed as proprietary or open source) while encouraging an ecosystem of complements from partners around open source licensed projects.
- Allow customers to try the "product" in its simplest form as a set of unsupported unwarranted binaries for "free", i.e. downloading the community/developer editions, to self-qualify themselves in the sales pipeline. (This was very much how MySQL built both its businesses.)
These items all speak to the delivery of the product and the pipeline. A company can also develop a community of users of the open source project that act as a source of expertise and experience for potential customers.
A community of developers and users is an essential piece of the whole solution. Some companies develop large successful communities without ever publishing their product software. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP have all done this to great success. This is why community building is so important for your company and why community development is an essential ingredient in your solution pitch to customers. User and developer communities (regardless of open source):
- Anchor customers both in an engaged relationship as well as from a technology perspective.
- Create knowledge, expertise and experience necessary to provide a complete solution for the technology pitch to the customer. These proof points are invaluable when potential customers are self-qualifying themselves and testing the strength of a solution's community.
- Create advocates and evangelists to spread awareness about a solution.
- Create enormous inertia in the status quo around a technology.
These variations all rely on remembering a couple of related "rules":
- An open source licensed project is not a complete product solution for most people.
- Project community users and developers are not solution customers. Community members tend to have time to spend on a solution but no money while customers have money and are looking for time-to-solution and certain guarantees.
Creating an open source project can be as simple as publishing software using an open source license, and this gives customers insight into the workings of a solution. But if you ignore community building activities, you're losing all the benefits that come from an engaged base of customers and users of your technology.
Clearly understanding the benefits of using open source licensed software for delivering time-to-market, providing a rich complement ecosystem, and enabling communities to anchor the ecosystem in place allows a company to set its motivations correctly. One can discuss the investment in effort as a way to understand the motivation. We can contrast the publication of the software as open source and the effort required to develop the community against the evolution of the commercial product in terms of investment and value returned.
This also allows a company to understand the problems with half measures. Companies sometimes treat "open source" licensing as marketing pixie dust, instead of rightly understanding its place in the solution portfolio or the need to build genuine community that will lead to solving customer problems, and ultimately delighting said customers which can be measured in profitability. They try to limit access and only approach community half-heartedly because ultimately they're unsure of the benefits. Fully appreciating the benefits allows a company to fully engage with both community and customers to solve problems.
Rory also mentioned the use of open source projects to undermine a competitor's margins. This is a level of competitive play by large complex companies in well-established markets that warrants its own blog post. We save it for another day, and instead stay focused on the commercial positives of making open source software.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Jun. 30, 2016 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,258
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Jun. 30, 2016 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 273
When people aren’t talking about VMs and containers, they’re talking about serverless architecture. Serverless is about no maintenance. It means you are not worried about low-level infrastructural and operational details. An event-driven serverless platform is a great use case for IoT. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Animesh Singh, an STSM and Lead for IBM Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, will detail how to build a distributed serverless, polyglot, microservices framework using open source tec...
Jun. 30, 2016 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 623
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
Jun. 30, 2016 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,317
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
Jun. 30, 2016 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,494
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to 'DevOps at Cloud Expo 2016' as Conference Chair The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited t...
Jun. 30, 2016 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 444
"We work in the area of Big Data analytics and Big Data analytics is a very crowded space - you have Hadoop, ETL, warehousing, visualization and there's a lot of effort trying to get these tools to talk to each other," explained Mukund Deshpande, head of the Analytics practice at Accelerite, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jun. 30, 2016 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 528
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jun. 30, 2016 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 582
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effi...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 626
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 721
The idea of comparing data in motion (at the sensor level) to data at rest (in a Big Data server warehouse) with predictive analytics in the cloud is very appealing to the industrial IoT sector. The problem Big Data vendors have, however, is access to that data in motion at the sensor location. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave, discussed how as IoT is increasingly adopted by industrial markets, there is going to be an increased demand for sensor data from the outermos...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 444
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 475
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,097
Presidio has received the 2015 EMC Partner Services Quality Award from EMC Corporation for achieving outstanding service excellence and customer satisfaction as measured by the EMC Partner Services Quality (PSQ) program. Presidio was also honored as the 2015 EMC Americas Marketing Excellence Partner of the Year and 2015 Mid-Market East Partner of the Year. The EMC PSQ program is a project-specific survey program designed for partners with Service Partner designations to solicit customer feedbac...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 680
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 572
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 987
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 543
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profession...
Jun. 30, 2016 09:33 AM EDT Reads: 270
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Jun. 30, 2016 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 445
Apixio Inc. has raised $19.3 million in Series D venture capital funding led by SSM Partners with participation from First Analysis, Bain Capital Ventures and Apixio’s largest angel investor. Apixio will dedicate the proceeds toward advancing and scaling products powered by its cognitive computing platform, further enabling insights for optimal patient care. The Series D funding comes as Apixio experiences strong momentum and increasing demand for its HCC Profiler solution, which mines unstruc...
Jun. 30, 2016 08:45 AM EDT Reads: 589