|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.
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
May. 28, 2016 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,168
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
May. 28, 2016 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,407
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide 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 ...
May. 28, 2016 08:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,962
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
May. 28, 2016 07:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,630
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
May. 28, 2016 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,237
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
May. 28, 2016 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,098
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
May. 28, 2016 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,218
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
May. 28, 2016 04:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,178
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
May. 28, 2016 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,307
SYS-CON Events announced today Object Management Group® has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
May. 28, 2016 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,526
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
May. 28, 2016 02:30 AM EDT Reads: 814
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
May. 28, 2016 01:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,448
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
May. 28, 2016 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,929
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
May. 28, 2016 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,257
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...
May. 28, 2016 12:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,018
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
May. 28, 2016 12:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,431
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
May. 28, 2016 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,337
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
May. 27, 2016 11:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,326
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
May. 27, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,238
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
May. 27, 2016 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,897