Open-Source and Slash-and-burn Aggregators
By ColmSmyth on Oct 05, 2004
Open-source certainly facilitates new kinds of collaboration for developers to create software, but I think it's perhaps even more interesting that it seems to enable a cornucopia (or Pandora's box, depending on your point of view) of business models.
Many open-source-based companies (such as GlueCode or RedHat) reuse significant open-source elements developed elsewhere and their value proposition is to offer a product that is branded, reliable, supported etc, usually with a certain amount of value-added features or a market-specific solution. Even along this one dimension of "amount of code contributed", there can be a broad spectrum of business models that require more or less software to be developed by a company, ranging from pure support (0% new software) to solution (5-10%) to component(s) (5-30%), finally leading up to developing a complete product (~100%).
So it's with great interest that I read a LinuxWorld article that
describes how a couple of ex-Microsoft folks are founding an
open-source-based company (SourceLabs)
to productise and support an (unyet specified) open-source platform,
but presumably including the staple Apache, MySql (or Postgres),
Python, among other elements.
It's not totally clear where SourceLabs are going, but if they aim to
provide pure stack-ware (maybe even divorced from the base OS, likely
to at least include a Linux variant) then their market is likely to be
either developers or deployers.
So what can be done to discourage aggregators from using open-source as cost-free out-sourcing? Or on a more positive
note, to fund the developers (sometimes
altruistic or fame-seeking individuals, but often companies who
actually need to make a buck or two) who create high quality
open-source components? Tricky. I hope that something can prevent
aggregators from simply using the work of others while cherry-picking a few of the
developers who maintained it - that seems monumentally unethical and
ultimately fatal to the friendly, optimistic and above all innovative
ecology of open-source.
My 2 cents, over to you!