Virtualization's impact on open source business models

Jan Stafford writes that virtualization may herald the advent of a new era of mixed source licenses, but why is this a good thing?

The Server Virtualization Blog has a useful piece on the impact virtualization can have on open source business models.

...But with virtualization as an integral component of the distro (whether Xen, KVM or one of the other open source virtualization technologies), Linux is only one (arguably the key) component of the stack, and when a different OSV?s product is virtualized on Linux (Windows, perhaps, or another open source OS), two new opportunities emerge: First, a Linux OSV can extend its value proposition to its customers by offering to Support other open source OSes virtualized; and second, by adding to their offerings the requisite closed source add-ons such as the Novell Windows Driver Pack for closed source OSes, the distros can artfully deliver high value mixed-source offerings that "price to value," and protect themselves from the kind of discounting attack that Oracle used on Red Hat.

This second thought is interesting. Interesting because it's probably true, but also interesting because it seems mired in 20th Century software thinking. I'm not criticizing Jan's thinking, but rather the likelihood that Jan's readers will glom onto "proprietary" as a lowest-common denominator way to make money. Red Hat continues to demonstrate that proprietary is not necessary to make lots of money in open source. In fact, it may well be showing the opposite.

People have suggested that I believe the GPL is the only open source license worth using. That's not true. I just reject the need to use proprietary licensing, and the GPL does best at enabling vendors to "lock" their customers/developers into freedom. Turns out that competitors don't like this freedom, so they stay away. The GPL offers a great way to hide one's software in the open, such that competitors shy away but everyone else benefits (customers, developers, vendors).

Virtualization doesn't change this. Virtualization may well aid people to avoid burning the boats for a few more years, but I'm not sure this is something to be celebrated....

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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