Easing SaaS lock-in with open source

Open source offers SaaS vendors a way to ease customer concerns about data lock-in should the vendor go bankrupt.

Larry Dignan at ZDNet calls out a significant customer concern with SaaS: data lock-in, particularly if a SaaS vendor goes out of business. How can a SaaS customer get its data out of a failed SaaS system without undergoing the burden of escrow agreements?

The answer is simple, but perhaps not palatable to SaaS vendors: open source a version of their software.

SugarCRM does this , letting its customers run SugarCRM "in the cloud" but giving them the code via an open-source license so that they can support their own deployment if necessary. Why couldn't a Salesforce.com or RightNow do the same?

Answer? They could, and wouldn't even need to open source their code today. Perhaps they could create a special escrow agreement that triggers open sourcing the code upon a winding down of operations? There are problems with this, of course, as it may diminish the value of the vendor's assets, but it's a relatively clean resolution to a customer concern, and one that is already being used in the industry.

Disclosure: I am an advisor to SugarCRM.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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