Business models

Wishing good luck to Avoin Yritys (Open Company)

I didn't intend this to become a trilogy, but today I will wish good luck to a newly started company by a friend of mine from the university: Avoin Yritys literally means "Open Company" in Finnish and they have committed to making their company as open and transparent as possible in any way. I confirmed with Antti that it is an independently developed idea, although the concept is very much similar to an idea from the Open Life book. Oh, and see also the post on Lastwear for yet another independent incarnation of the same idea.

What you can do to help get rid of open core

Much has been said about open core, but with the OSI coming out squarely against it on the one hand, and Rackspace and NASA creating the project as a "true open source replacement" for Eucalyptus on the other hand, it seems open core is now much less attractive than it was only a week ago. It seems everyone has now learned what open core is and agrees that it is not open source, nor is it good for open source. (And by "everyone" I mean everyone that really are open source advocates, naturally those who directly or indirectly are trying to profit from open core will continue to promote the model for a long time to come.)

The final question that remains to be answered is, if I know about open core and don't like it, what can I do to help prevent its spreading and rather promote the adoption of true open source?

With my personal experience working for MySQL, I've had a few years to collect some ideas, and would like to share them below. Please add your own in the comments and I'll keep updating this post so it can remain a useful reference.

(Last updated Aug 29, 2010.)

What others say about open core

The past week more and more people weighed in on the open core debate. Personally, I don't have much more to add now and it seems I have been able to articulate why it is bad and against open source. Watching some of the comments of this week it also seems that the more people talk/write about it, the more their true thinking and motivation becomes apparent to everyone. So rather than add more words, I will just highlight what others are saying.

Watching the discussion last week reminded me of a friend in university, who was a vegetarian. This was becoming popular at the time. I once then saw her ordering a chicken pizza, so I mentioned that she is not a vegetarian after all. This upset her and she protested that who am I to judge her and surely just because she eats chicken doesn't mean she is not a vegetarian.

Now unto the open core debate...

So if I don't call myself 'open source vendor', then everything is fine? (yes)

A lot has been written for and against open core now. Yet in the end, a couple tweets can catch all that is needed:

scurryn @h_ingo -- So as long as 'an open core vendor' doesn't call themselves 'an open source vendor' then everything's fine?

h_ingo @scurryn: pretty much. I think I owe everyone one more blog post to answer that question with a few more details.


This is that blog post.

If you're selling to your community... you've got it backwards.

My ongoing dialogue with Matthew Aslett inspired me to read more of his recent writings. An excellent piece Do not sell anything to your community is based on a blog post by Stephen Walli.

Inspired by Stephen, I also looked into a set of slides I recently created and will try that style for this post...

Aslett and Stephen make a great point:

the conversion of community users into paying customers has long been a concern for open source-related vendors. It has also long been a source of friction, with vendors that offer proprietary extensions being accused of “bait and switch” or otherwise undermining the value of the open source software in an attempt compel community users into becoming paying customers. In recent years the next generation of start-ups has learned that the best way to encourage a frictionless relationship between a vendor and its community is not to attempt to “convert” users at all.

Open core is not open source and don't trust someone trying to convice you otherwise

Oh my. I was outside painting my house for a few days, and when I return back online I discover that now everyone is having an opinion on the open core business model. Since some participants are still trying to promote it as a valid open source business model, let's see what everyone is saying and highlight any pitfalls being offered...

ladder in open and locked states

Open core is not open source

Julie Bort of has an interview with Mårten Mickos of Eucalyptus, formerly of MySQL. In MySQL times it seemed (to me at least) that most users never realized Mårten and his management team were taking MySQL increasingly into a closed source direction. (Maybe I'm just stupid myself, but at least personally I had not noticed this until after I started working for the company.) In this interview Mårten at least comes squarely out of the closet and is defending the model.

Julie makes a good journalistic effort of reporting on the topic from a neutral point of view. Alas, sometimes that approach just makes things fuzzier. So let me try to make one thing clear: Open core may be a good business model, but open core is not open source!

Book on Finnish startups includes chapter on MySQL AB

Tekes, a Finnish government agency funding R&D in Technology and Innovation (including MariaDB) has recently published a book on Finnish startups, (PDF), which contains a whole chapter on MySQL AB.

It seems to be a well researched chapter and references many past interviews over the years, as well as being based on interviews of at least Mårten, Monty and Kevin Harvey of Benchmark. This is the most comprehensive narrative I've ever seen of items like "InnoDB Friday", a phrase I thought until now was company confidential, since talking about it would have revealed there was something negative about the day Oracle bought InnoDB (no kidding?). It also reveals what MySQL (AB) thought about the fact that PostgreSQL at one time was more popular than MySQL in one country in the world: Japan, or how much it raised VC capital. On the other hand it still only mentions some issues anonymously or only between the lines and reader is left guessing whether he should fill in "Oracle", "SAP" or something else in the gaps. (And I'm too much a coward to blog the right answers... Ok, so Google will tell you Oracle is the one who tried to acquire MySQL several times before.)

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