Commercial open source had very good 2009

2009 was a year many would like to forget, but not the open-source crowd, which saw record revenues and community involvement in 2009.

2009 was very good for open-source businesses. Sure, there was the very public news of Red Hat's gravity-defying year, along with Novell's SUSE Linux business climbing each quarter, but what of the still-private open-source companies?

It turns out they had much to celebrate, too.

Not every open-source company publicized its progress, but several did:

  • SugarCRM announced a "record year in terms of revenue, subscriptions and users, adding over 2,000 commercial customers" to bring its total customer base to over 6,000 organizations scattered across 75 different countries. (Disclosure: I am an advisor to the company.)
  • Zimbra got the press, but Open-Xchange managed to increase its user base to 15 million users, a net increase of 7 million users in 2009.
  • Sonatype, which plays a key role in advancing the Apache Maven community, has seen Maven Central hits skyrocket to 300 million, with unique visitors doubling over 2008. While I am not privy to its financial results, I do know from sources close to the company that the Sonatype has consistently hit its targets.
  • Alfresco, my employer, notched its 17th-straight growth quarter at the end of 2009. Alfresco is profitable with results that put it on the IPO track.
  • While still largely pre-revenue, open-source cloud computing pioneer Eucalyptus Systems scored 15,000 monthly downloads after launching in April, with companies like Eli Lilly lining up to trial its software.
  • JasperSoft grew its open-source business intelligence business by 75 percent, year-over-year. Downloads crept close to 8 million with over 100,000 paying customers. (Disclosure: I am an advisor to the company.)
  • Even companies that don't normally make a lot of noise, like Songbird, made significant headway, with Songbird scoring a significant distribution deal with Philips.

Red Hat argues that the bad economy has been good for open source. The evidence above, while hardly conclusive, indicates that the open-source bellwether could be right.

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