Selling support for open source projects that you don't own or contribute to

I'm amazed that companies still base their businesses on open source software they neither own nor contribute to.

I saw a press release this morning from a company called Elastra who announced support for the Eucalyptus open source project.

Eucalyptus --Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs To Useful Systems - is an open-source software infrastructure for implementing "cloud computing" on clusters.

ELASTRA Corporation, the leading provider of software for configuring, deploying and managing complete application systems in public and private compute clouds, today announced Elastra Cloud Server support for the Eucalyptus platform.

Eucalyptus is very cool and makes some of the Cloud hype real. But like other open source projects it looks like there are people who are not the developers attempting to monetize the product.

Of course, this is totally OK under the terms of the BSD license and near as I can tell the project is still largely an academic undertaking out of UC Santa Barbara. I just can't understand why Elastra wouldn't at least tell the Eucalyptus team that they were going to do a press release about supporting their product. At a minimum they could have linked to the project site.

I was a little hesitant to jump into this morass, but I think it's clear that open source will power the Cloud. Those who develop the software can decide how to license and monetize, but we should be aware of the implications of consuming open source in the Cloud and how the software may/may not be supported, licensed and warrantied.

This reminds me a lot of a past issue of Rod Johnson vs. OpenLogic. I have to think that Rod wouldn't be too thrilled about Elastra either.

Further in the release there is a quote that mentions Mule. I selfishly contacted the Eucalyptus team to see how they were using Mule, only to find out that they hadn't seen or been informed of the press release.

I emailed Eucalyptus Project Director Rich Wolski to check again, but best I can tell Elastra hasn't donated any code or helped with the development, they've just decided to monetize the project. I also called Elastra's Stuart Charlton to see how we could all work together but I haven't heard back yet.

From a marketing perspective this whole thing is bizarre--putting out a press release that names multiple open source projects that have various levels of brand awareness but not telling anyone associated with the projects that you are doing so is either poor judgment or a lack of marketing skills.

And I love this backhanded compliment from Stuart Charlton.

"The Eucalyptus team has combined several useful open source technologies, including Mule, VDE, and libvirt, into a compelling service layer," said Stuart Charlton, chief software architect, ELASTRA. "Work still remains to incorporate richer networking, storage and security capabilities, but we look forward to contributing further to building an open cloud ecosystem."

An open cloud ecosystem? Sounds like Elastra is waiting for the Eucalyptus guys to do some more work that they can take for themselves.

Disclosure: my company shares an investor with Elastra. I am sure someone is going to yell at me for this rant.

Tags:
Software
About the author

Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.

 

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