The mood at last week's Open Source Think Tank
was surprisingly somber
. Two years ago, the open source community was celebrating huge acquisitions such as Sun's purchase of MySQL (and even the VMware acquisition of WaveMaker
This year, the consensus was that the economic model which led to
success for companies like MySQL and RedHat is being fundamentally
disrupted by cloud computing.
For example, Amazon recently launched a successful Relational Database Service
(RDS). This hugely profitable service is based on MySQL, but Amazon
doesn't pay MySQL a penny for it. This spells death for the traditional
open source business model.
understand why, let's look at how the open source model used to work.
The open source business model has traditionally been based on two
revenue streams: 1) revenue from OEMs who embed an open source product
into their commercial offering and 2) revenue from providing support
services for production systems that embed an open source product.
a company embedded MySQL into their commercial offering, they had to
either license their own product under an open source license like GPL
or buy a commercial license from MySQL. Just as importantly, a company
using MySQL in a production environment would purchase support from
MySQL as an insurance policy.
let's look at Amazon RDS. First of all, Amazon gets around the GPL
license because they are not delivering binaries to their customers.
This means that Amazon can deliver a commercial service without being
forced to open source their own software. Next, Amazon has sufficient
internal expertise on MySQL that they can provide their own support.
open source community has tried to fight back. For example, the new
Affero GPL license (AGPL) was supposed to fix the loophole which allows
Amazon to deliver MySQL as a commercial service. However, since almost
nobody is using the AGPL license, every OSS project faces the prospect
of seeing someone else deliver commercial services based on their
product for which they don't get paid.
open source companies are trying to get ahead of this trend by offering
their own cloud-based service - such as Cloudera (Hadoop). This is a
good idea, but it is not clear how these stand alone services will be
able to compete with Amazon's Elastic Mapreduce service, also based on
course, none of this is going to stop the success of the open source
movement in general. There are many projects which have no commercial
aspirations. However, until open source companies can articulate a
business model that can thrive in the cloud, this does cap the potential
valuations of open source companies and hence their access to venture