|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.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Niagara Networks will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.
Oct. 28, 2016 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,449
In today's uber-connected, consumer-centric, cloud-enabled, insights-driven, multi-device, global world, the focus of solutions has shifted from the product that is sold to the person who is buying the product or service. Enterprises have rebranded their business around the consumers of their products. The buyer is the person and the focus is not on the offering. The person is connected through multiple devices, wearables, at home, on the road, and in multiple locations, sometimes simultaneously...
Oct. 27, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 3,833
SYS-CON Events announced today that Transparent Cloud Computing (T-Cloud) Consortium will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Transparent Cloud Computing Consortium (T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data proces...
Oct. 27, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,508
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue an...
Oct. 27, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 3,082
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
Oct. 27, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 9,800
Intelligent machines are here. Robots, self-driving cars, drones, bots and many IoT devices are becoming smarter with Machine Learning. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Sudha Jamthe, CEO of IoTDisruptions.com, will discuss the next wave of business disruption at the junction of IoT and AI, impacting many industries and set to change our lives, work and world as we know it.
Oct. 27, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 540
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
Oct. 27, 2016 10:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,162
The Internet of Things (IoT), in all its myriad manifestations, has great potential. Much of that potential comes from the evolving data management and analytic (DMA) technologies and processes that allow us to gain insight from all of the IoT data that can be generated and gathered. This potential may never be met as those data sets are tied to specific industry verticals and single markets, with no clear way to use IoT data and sensor analytics to fulfill the hype being given the IoT today.
Oct. 27, 2016 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,910
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
Oct. 27, 2016 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,110
OnProcess Technology has announced it will be a featured speaker at @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1 - 3, 2016, in Santa Clara, California. Dan Gettens, OnProcess’ Chief Analytics Officer, will discuss how Internet of Things (IoT) data can be leveraged to predict product failures, improve uptime and slash costly inventory stock. @ThingsExpo is an annual gathering of IoT and cloud developers, practitioners and thought-leaders who exchange ideas and insights on topics ranging from Big Data in...
Oct. 27, 2016 09:45 PM EDT Reads: 535
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their online busine...
Oct. 27, 2016 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,463
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
Oct. 27, 2016 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 314
The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), sponsor of the IoTivity open source project, and AllSeen Alliance, which provides the AllJoyn® open source IoT framework, today announced that the two organizations’ boards have approved a merger under the OCF name and bylaws. This merger will advance interoperability between connected devices from both groups, enabling the full operating potential of IoT and representing a significant step towards a connected ecosystem.
Oct. 27, 2016 06:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,330
November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Penta Security is a leading vendor for data security solutions, including its encryption solution, D’Amo. By using FPE technology, D’Amo allows for the implementation of encryption technology to sensitive data fields without modification to schema in the database environment. With businesses having their data become increasingly more complicated in their mission-critical applications (such as ERP, CRM, HRM), continued ...
Oct. 27, 2016 05:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,192
SYS-CON Events announced today that Embotics, the cloud automation company, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Embotics is the cloud automation company for IT organizations and service providers that need to improve provisioning or enable self-service capabilities. With a relentless focus on delivering a premier user experience and unmatched customer support, Embotics is the fas...
Oct. 27, 2016 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,069
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudbric, a leading website security provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudbric is an elite full service website protection solution specifically designed for IT novices, entrepreneurs, and small and medium businesses. First launched in 2015, Cloudbric is based on the enterprise level Web Application Firewall by Penta Security Sys...
Oct. 27, 2016 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,346
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
Oct. 27, 2016 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 3,285
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Oct. 27, 2016 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 4,004
SYS-CON Events announced today that MathFreeOn will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MathFreeOn is Software as a Service (SaaS) used in Engineering and Math education. Write scripts and solve math problems online. MathFreeOn provides online courses for beginners or amateurs who have difficulties in writing scripts. In accordance with various mathematical topics, there are more tha...
Oct. 27, 2016 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,179
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, will draw together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established ...
Oct. 27, 2016 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,630