The Great Debate: Is There An Open Source Business Model, YES or NO? - Jeffrey Borek, IBM & Stephen Walli, Microsoft [Open Source Summit EU 2018]

Stephen from Microsoft says that there is NO open source business model, Jeffrey says there is.

Stephen always says that open source software is about engineering economics (which Jeff sabres down). From the very beginning, engineers have been collaborating in writing software. Every engineering/IT manager understands the Build vs. Buy dichotomy, and just add vs. Borrow/Share to that.

If your core competency as a company is delivering software, then you can write software that is either core value proposition, or complement value add, or non-core (context).

For the latter two, it’s easy to see how you as a company can develop open source software. If however you’re publishing your core value proposition in an open source license, youre turning your potential partners into competitors. Also, if you build a community around this, you’re creating friction between the company and the community. So it is not impossible to succeed with an open source project that is your core competency, but you have to think about it really carefully.

Differentiate between products and projects. Projects have communities that have no money but have time. Products have customers that thave money but no time.

Jeff says that there is an open source business model. Collaboratively developed liberally licensed software is about evolving business models. IBM was already doing open source in 1959, with the SHARE Operating System, a community around a mainframe. Software business models came later, when IBM unbundled their software from the hardware in 1969.

Business models have evolved over time. Dual licensing, advertising (Mozilla), support and service (RedHat), Open Core. More recently: SAAS. However, it has always been difficult. There has never been an easy business model for monetising open source.

In the last few years there has been a flurry of activity in the license models: fair source license, business source license, community license, commons clause, server side public license.

Open source really is about community and sharing and creating fundamental technology.