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The benefits of opening up

Alfresco offers just one example of how to get to scale quickly through open source.

I don't mean to pat myself/my company on the back, but I wanted to share some data that indicates just how important it is to open up. In two years my company, Alfresco, has grown from 0 to 29,500 active deployments of our software (and tens of millions of end users). To put that in perspective, it took FileNet/IBM 25 years to get to the same number.

Not too shabby.

But it's not just about users. It's about speed of development. Jon Williams, CTO at Kaplan, the multi-billion dollar testing company, notes that it took Alfresco just three days to integrate with the (open) Facebook API and make a meaningful integration of the two. What he doesn't note is that it took Alfresco just six months to get to a code release that several billion-dollar enterprises thought worth buying.

Again, not too shabby. How did we get so many users? A great product and open distribution. How did we get that great product so fast? By building on exceptional open-source components like Hibernate, Spring, Lucene, and others. We're just one example among many open-source examples, too. Look no farther than MuleSource, Zimbra, SugarCRM, etc. to find others.

A proprietary model forces a company to go it alone. Sometimes this strategy works out - just look at Microsoft. But more often than not, and particularly if you're a challenger to an incumbent vendor, you need more than yourself to succeed. You need a community, or a village, as 37Signals' founder David Heinemeier suggests.

This is 21st Century development. It's the way smart companies are building exceptional software, and even more exceptional businesses.

Alfresco is one such company. But we're hardly unique. Take a look at Zimbra, SugarCRM, JasperSoft, Loopfuse, Openbravo, Funambol, MuleSource, etc. There's no shortage of interesting and innovative companies that are growing with open source. You can, too.

Disclosure: I manage the Americas for Alfresco.