Commercializing Open Source

The cloud thickens on the strategy of the open source vendors….“The enterprise fraternity” are keen on acquiring smaller rival companies with open sourced software and after acquisition, only unveil a part of the software that remained open sourced before, Then doesn’t the whole idea of open source get flouted? Another heating debate could be on the possible reasons for acquiring such firms that are open sourced. Typically, an open sourced company is learnt to be earning from the product’s maintenance, installation and support unlike, their product counterparts that derive from the licensed product copies as well. So, there seems to be a basic clash on the ideals of the two entities. Is this strategy a result of the fear in the biggies that the smaller ones could eventually overtake them as they gather more supporters for open sourced version.

A historical data on some such developments on this front that testify this:-

Oracle acquired Innobase an open source software company and a developer of transactional database technology, the software was distributed under the GNU GPL open-source license and was bundled with MySQL. Currently, it is reportedly in talks to acquire three open-source companies to expand its customer base .In return, it announced a free, low-end version of its database software thus, letting the world know about their commitment to opensource. Oracle also plans to buy Jboss Inc ,another opensource company and a leader in the application server market .

IBM last year bought Gluecode Software,which offers an application server based on apache Geronimo project. The give and take business is not new as IBM bundles with WebSphere, and it contributed an embedded database called Derby to Apache.
Bea Systems open sourced a version of its relational database mapping tool “Kodo” under an Apache license, while continues to offer BEA Kodo under a closed source license.
Sun Microsystems looked at open source community to revive itself , open sourced Solaris and JES.

At some point this may be a good deal for the customer as now they have a quality, open, and a low-priced(a bit more) product which is now backed ie supported by a branded company. So I think the product which was originally “true open source software” turns to have only source open.

My concern is that people who contribute to the open source software (apart from the employees of the open source company) is a vast community of developers, architects, designers who believe in sharing knowledge much to the relief of the smaller firms or developers that cannot afford licensed copies. However, with such moves industry wide, would this give enough leverage & credit to the people who contribute to this wealth of information or who use this information. Wouldn’t then the trend to contribute and share knowledge, then discouraged if this trend of acquiring smaller open sourced cos by the big giants continue?

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