The value of candor (Andy Astor)

Andy Astor no longer claims EnterpriseDB to be an open source software company which, oddly enough, makes it look much more like one.

I spent an enjoyable morning with Andy Astor at a Bank of America Private Software Company Day (or something like that - Kirk Materne of BofA organized it and did a great job of moderating a panel on which Andy and I participated). As we talked before and during the panel, I came to understand and appreciate Andy's position on what constitutes an open source company. I'm still not sure I agree, but Andy has a good point....

EnterpriseDB initially dubbed itself an open source software company, and took some heat as a result. Andy's response? Clearly delineate the company's licensing policies.

As he recently wrote...

In an excellent blog entry yesterday, Michael Tiemann, president of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), declared that he will now begin vigorously defending the term/brand "Open Source" as it is defined by the OSI. I think this is great news for the market. Michael decried vendors who, starting in 2006, ?claimed that they have every bit as much right to define the term as does the OSI.? I must admit that I count myself among those vendors. As a late entrant into the open source space, I was somewhat naïve about the term, and we called EnterpriseDB?s license ?commercial open source.? As some of you know, we found that this confused the marketplace, and so we changed it. We are now very clear that the product, EnterpriseDB Advanced Server, is licensed under a closed source license.

Once EnterpriseDB made this clear, its licensing became much less of an issue. The world was able to focus on its value (drop-in Oracle compatibility at a fraction of the price) and not fetish its license. I'm one to fetish such things, and even I am struggling to muster righteous indignation. I'm really, really trying. But it's hard when a company is so candid about what it's doing, and what it values.

Would I (strongly) prefer that EnterpriseDB open up its code? Yes. But so, too, would I prefer that IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, etc. do the same. And, as I'll be highlighting here in the next few days, many of these companies are doing just that, though not all at once in big releases, as Sun has done. Baby steps.

I dislike companies that trade off open source branding without providing open source substance. I don't like deception. EnterpriseDB is not deceiving anyone. It contributes heavily to the Postgres community and sells excellent (though proprietary) software on top. I'm not sure I can recommend it as an "open source company" just yet, but it's definitely a company in the open source ecosystem to be taken seriously. Just ask Sony Online, Vonage, and a slew of other big-brand customers of EnterpriseDB's.