Thursday, April 17, 2008
MySQL: hybrid is the way to goAs I mentioned a few weeks ago, the debate about the best open source business model is still open. We are done with licenses, finally. However, the question on how we make (more) money, while keeping our open source soul clean, is still there. And it might not go away soon...
Latest debate: MySQL alleged idea of having non-open source components in its Enterprise Edition. Whooo, scary...
Marten and Zack might have made a marketing mistake: leaking the news out at the end of their conference, where they did not talk about it, was probably not done on purpose... In particular, just after the Sun acquisition, with all eyes focused on how opensourcey they still are.
Nevertheless, this move is clearly into the right direction. The only way to make significant money and keep open source alive and kicking: an hybrid model with open source and proprietary components. My model involves also a separation of the open source community from the buyers community ("do not upsell your community"), but it is a model hard to pull off for MySQL, since they sell only to the enterprise... Anyway, that's a need for them, or as Marten wrote: "we believe we have to be more pragmatic than dogmatic. Call it a necessary evil if you like"...
I know Matt disagrees with me on this, but he is wrong (hey, he was convinced Arsenal would win the Premier League this year... It tells you something about his ability to predict things he cares about :-))
I can't believe a pure model based on support is going to scale to the one billion dollars we always talk about. A pure support and services model works for a while, then customers get comfortable with what they have and pull the plug on it. Your best customers leave you because they are too satisfied... It is sad but inevitable. Maybe you can make it with an operating system, but if you move up the stack you are screwed...
Bottom line: Marten and Zack are going in the right direction. Stop screaming about it. They are as opensourcey as you and me. But they need to keep open source (and their business) alive and kicking.
Posted by Fabrizio at 10:59
Blaise Alleyne said...
Does Red Hat release proprietary code?
Comment Posted at 21:39
Matt Asay said...
I think you missed my point, Fabrizio. We're in a agreement. My point is how to position and deploy the hybrid model. I don't for a second believe that open-source models can scale on support alone, just as Red Hat doesn't. People aren't getting the point on that....
I don't think you and I disagree. I'm all for proprietary services, not software. Sometimes the line between what is a service and what is software gets blurry (RHN is both software and a service - Red Hat was fine, in my book, to make it proprietary, because it's a service that you'd want, but not one that you need).
Comment Posted at 05:49
glad to hear we agree :-)
However, I still believe in higher growth coming from proprietary software on top of open source (ahhh, evil!) rather than proprietary services.
Since we agree on this, let's agree next year Juve and Arsenal will square off in the Champions League final as well ;-)
Comment Posted at 07:34
An important point that you are ignoring is what makes open source software successful:
- No software lock in; If something doesn't exist or doesn't work you can fix it
- No vendor lock in; If a software vendor goes out of business or gets too unreasonable you can change the vendor
- More users with makes the code more tested
- More developers, which gives the software longer lifetime and increases innovation.
- As long as you are a community driven open source project, there is little chance that the code will be forked into multiple projects
There are a lots of other reasons, but all have the same thing in common; As soon as you close one critical part of the software, the line between closed source and open source disappears together with many of the prior advantages. You become a vendor that makes crippleware. No one really wants to use crippleware and while people try to portray it as balancing open source ideals with business sense, it doesn't.
I am absolutely sure that MySQL would never have been a success if the MySQL server or other offerings would have been crippleware from the start. Changing the server to crippleware now and exchange growth and adaption for money is not something that I think is in Sun's interest.
I agree that one needs to make money, but that should be done by proprietary services, not on software.
For Sun in particular this is not that hard as Sun can package the MySQL offerings into it's other offerings and sell a complete stack with support and other services. Sun can take MySQL to new kinds of customers, and has channels that MySQL AB did not. There are many new compelling offerings and business opportunities to be made, without having to go to crippleware.
You can find more things about this topic on my blog at:
Former CTO of MySQL AB, now with Sun's CTO Organisation
Comment Posted at 11:32
thanks for your post.
I believe the fine line is not creating crippleware.
For us, it works great because we are giving an 100% fully featured product to the enterprise. There is no crippleware...
Where we have proprietary extensions is in the Carrier Edition, with features targeted only to Carriers.
My suggestion is never to upsell your community, e.g. don't cripple features and have some proprietary extension only for paying community users.
My suggestion is to segment your community first (they self-select themselves...) If you have a group that does not really care about the source code itself (beside using it as an airbag), you are golden.
I am not sure if this is doable for MySQL, but I tried to apply this generic principle to a world with SaaS. OSS free if you deploy, paid if you host it (or get it hosted by someone else). Maybe this could be the way to go for the optimal balance.
Comment Posted at 11:50
I fully agree with Monty about what makes the success of an open source software.
Once you start creating a line between open source and not open source your line is bound to reduce the open source and augment the close source part. You are bound to be viewed by your community as non innovating for them and they will go away.
As for segmenting between the community and customers, I prefer to segment between the community that does not need your services and helps you build the software and the customers that do need them and pay you.
Of course this might not work in every model. Maybe your carrier as client model creates this need to segment and close since they would have lot of money to not need to pay you load of money. And if your potential customer base is a small number of big companies maybe you cannot make in volume what you lost per deal.
You say, full open source cannot scale to billions. Ok so what ? Does this mean you need to give up the non-lock-in policy that makes Open Source good ?
Open Source should be about not locking in customers except by being competent and competitive. It should not be about playing the "free until I'm known" ploy.