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Benefits and Risks in Curated Open Source

by Nick Heudecker  |  June 24, 2014  |  4 Comments

Today, Aerospike announced its in-memory NoSQL DBMS is available under the AGPL license, the same license used by a few of its competitors. According to Aerospike, there were a number of reasons to pursue an open source path, such as getting their DBMS into the hands of developers – who are the people leading the NoSQL charge. Of course, the long-term objective is some of those OSS users will eventually become paying customers.

The unexpected result is enterprises with open source mandates will be able to use Aerospike more broadly. As closed source software, Aerospike was a point solution. But the licensing change means Aerospike’s addressable use cases expand overnight.

This is a fundamental shift in enterprise attitudes toward open source and vendor lock-in.

During my career, I’ve seen open source software transition from a heretical notion to an essential factor in how enterprises evaluate and purchase software. This is especially true in the Information Management space. Information Management has a long history of understanding and adopting open source, essentially starting with Ingres and spawning a variety of data management options available today.

However, it takes more than simply having an Apache project or something on Github. Enterprises aren’t turning to StackOverflow, IRC or mailing lists for support. Open source software needs to be curated by commercializers for enterprises to be willing to use it.

It’s an interesting shift. Companies are directing – or outright owning – the development of open source projects to make them palatable to enterprises. In some cases, only one company is developing or shipping the open source project. That leads to an interesting question about the actual value of open source in that scenario: If only one company supports an open source product, is that product viable at avoiding vendor lock-in?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Category: data-and-analytics-strategies  dbms  nosql  

Tags: aerospike  open-source  

Nick Heudecker
Research Vice President
5 years at Gartner
19 years IT Industry

Nick Heudecker is an Analyst in Gartner's Research and Advisory Data Management group. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Benefits and Risks in Curated Open Source

  1. […] Source: Benefits and Risks in Curated Open Source […]

  2. Monica Pal says:

    Great question Nick. Really depends on the quality of the product and how the company enables the community and customers doesn’t it? If the technology is not good, then no one cares. If the technology is great but the company does not deliver, then the beauty of open source is that someone else will… thats why as NEA’s @kittukolluri says, “open source is the new escrow for enterprises”

  3. Hi Nick, I am sorry I stumbled onto your post a month late…

    Since Talend is a good example of a vendor-led open source project, allow me to share some thoughts. The adoption and lock-in avoidance are driven by how genuine the project promoter/leader is in providing value in the open source product. If the open source product is just a “bait and switch” to the enterprise/commercial “superset” product, then forget about it. If however developers can get true value from a rich feature set that does not require them to “upgrade” to the commercial product as soon as they want to do something real, adoption happens. Developers are no fools – they will adopt a product that brings value, not just because it’s free.

    The lock-in can be viewed from 2 different angles: technology lock-in, and vendor lock-in. In the case of Talend, a developer who has adopted Talend’s open source data integration (for example) will have a hard time moving over to another open (or closed) source data integration tool. Not (only) because Talend is so easy to use 😉 but because there is no transverse standard to port data integration jobs. So a Talend job cannot be ported to (say) Kettle or Informatica, and neither can the opposite happen. Change tool, develop again. So the technology lock-in is as real with open source as it is with proprietary software (there are some exceptions, for example in the realm of the ESBs that are all built on the same Apache projects, but these are not the norm).

    Vendor lock-in is a different story. A user of Talend’s open source is not tied commercially to Talend. Paying for support is entirely optional. Users can (and do) deploy Talend’s open source into production for real projects, without becoming Talend customers. I recall in the early days of Talend, the CTO of a media company informing us that Talend Open Studio was in the toolbox of over 100 developers in his team but that he did not feel the need to buy a support contract from us because the community support (forums etc) was so good. Sales rep wasn’t too happy 😉 but this is part of the open source DNA to accept (and foster) these use cases in the community.

    Clearly, a customer who decides to buy the commercial product will benefit from richer productivity features, automated deployment, collaboration, etc. And at this stage, they will be “locked-in” a contract with Talend. But only for the duration of their subscription. At its term, should they decide to not renew, everything they’ve built will keep running in the open source environment.

    It may not be perfect, and it’s only our story. But so far, we’ve made it work…

  4. Nick,

    I completely agree that dropping code on Github just isn’t good enough to be an OSS business any more. I was just at OSCON last week where I delivered a talk “How to make money at open source and not lose your soul: A practical guide” [1] There are many vendors that are adopting this strategy as a survival tactic. OSS is winning on adoption because of the nature of OSS in the first place. We believe in source code being available to view, modify and use as you will. I can tell you there are many in the software industry that hate this mentality, but because these are the prevailing winds, they went with it. It’s easy to spot the companies that have went the OSS route while holding their noses and that is the use of the AGPL license.

    The debate on AGPL is reoccurring [2] but always lands in the same place. People who understand OSS licenses hate it because it is full of traps that easily trigger violations. The vendors using it love it because it protects revenue from organizations looking for free software. AGPL is now being better understood and there are some organizations that forbid the use of AGPL projects inside their firewall. [3] It’s sneaky, and for me, violates what open is all about.

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