Open-Source and Slash-and-burn Aggregators

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.

Ok, my thought is this: it seems to be possible for large companies to do little more than aggregate open-source components, develop some minor fixes, brand it and call it a product (this charge has actually been levelled at Sun by a few folks who somehow don't know how much Sun contributes to the GNOME and OpenOffice.org projects, among others - not guilty ;). This results in no significant contribution from such a company to any of the projects whose creations they bundle. It may even be possible that such an "aggregator" company can monopolise revenue from the components they bundle, even though those components are of high quality. The open-source "ethic" doesn't say anything about how the benefit (the revenue that an aggregator obtains by bundling open-source) can in part be shared with those who create the open-source components. Somehow that doesn't seem right or even viable.

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!

Comments:

Post a Comment:
Comments are closed for this entry.
About

ColmSmyth

Search

Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today