Is OpenLogic a friend or foe to open source?

OpenLogic is making money from open source. Is it doing so at the expense of the developers who write its code?

OpenLogic just announced that it had a good 2007. The company tripled its number of customers, and now counts three of the Fortune 10 as companies, with many more in the Fortune 500. Good for them.

What is perhaps less appealing about the company's success is that it may be achieving its success at the expense of the projects that make it possible in the first place. Two of its top-five projects (in a consolidated library of 380 total projects) - JBoss and Hibernate - are developed by Red Hat. Yet the company crows about the fact that vendors like Red Hat won't get paid under its model:

OpenLogic allows companies to consolidate their open source provisioning, governance and support through a single vendor [Read: OpenLogic]. Customers have embraced this model by significantly expanding their relationship with OpenLogic.

Let's follow this to its natural conclusion. The more successful OpenLogic becomes, the more it puts its "feeder" open-source projects and companies out of business. With friends like these....

This is, of course, one of the blessings and curses of open source. It dramatically decreases vendor lock-in but also provides the tools to ensure vendors don't get paid at all. OpenLogic, as Oracle tried to do to Red Hat before it, may not be adequately accounting for the source of its business, which is the developer (corporate or otherwise) that writes software that it then opts to integrate. Kill that source by skimming the fat off the top and OpenLogic will leave itself barren of a future.

I've heard complaints of this sort on OpenLogic before, that the company hasn't gone out of its way to ensure the companies and communities developing open-source software get paid. If true, OpenLogic will truly be biting the hands that feed it.

I'd like to see a commitment from OpenLogic to the communities - corporate and organic - from which it derives value, a commitment to actively replenish these wells of code. Open source doesn't just need integrators. It needs people giving back. OpenLogic's model is a boon to open source if it gives as much as it takes. But if its focus is in taking the support revenue from the vendors and others writing the software, it will do itself and its customers no favors.

Tags:
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.

     

    Join the discussion

    Conversation powered by Livefyre

    Show Comments Hide Comments
    Latest Galleries from CNET
    ZTE's wallet-friendly Grand X (pictures)
    Lenovo reprises clever design for the Yoga Tablet 2 (Pictures)
    Top-rated reviews of the week (pictures)
    Best iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus cases
    Make your own 'Star Wars' snowflakes (pictures)
    Bento boxes and gear for hungry geeks (pictures)