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Open Source Business Models Debate: Create & Support vs. Pure-Support

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Two different approaches and viewpoints about professional open source collided in a recent blogspace discussion where Rod Johnson (creator of the Spring Framework & CEO of Interface21 which offers Spring support services) and Stormy Peters from OpenLogic had a heated debate.  OpenLogic and Interface21 have very different business models. Like JBoss and other notable open source success stories, I21 both hires most of the Spring committers full time and also offers support, training, and consulting around Spring.  OpenLogic on the other hand is part of a growing trend of professional open source companies that offer support and consulting on all popular open source stacks, included certified, integrated stacks. OpenLogic relies on both internal resource for tech support as well as a network of external developers paid per-issue.

Stormy Peters started off asserting that "Developers that work on open source software typically have day jobs that pay pretty well. So they work on open source software for free and write code during the day for big bucks." Ms. Peter's remark was in support of OpenLogic's Expert Community which compensates its participants roughly $100 per incident solved. 

Rod Johnson called the idea that open source developers are evening volunteers a "years ago" notion, that citing JBoss, Interface21, Hibernate and Linux as examples:
"... [For Linux'] most code is generated by programmers punching the corporate time clock. About 1,000 developers contribute changes to Linux on a regular basis, Morton said. Of those 1,000 developers, about 100 are paid to work on Linux by their employers
Rod cites some Gartner stats that open source software sales will quintuple that of commercial license sales by 2011 to make the point that "unless there's a sustainable model behind open source for the long term, that's an awful lot of potential flaky software."  Sustainability to Rod means not relying on volunteerism. Rod throws a number of other criticicms at OpenLogic's model, but the largest of which stemming from the key difference between their business models that Interface21 both develops and supports Spring, whereas OpenLogic just supports it. According to Rod:
We're talking about a rapidly growing part of the software industry that is mission critical. And [OpenLogics] model does not give anyone the ability to make a living from developing great software... You can't divorce the process of maintaining software from the process of creating software...That's not the future of enterprise open source - unless open source has no future
For many of their customer incidents, OpenLogic claims that they get responses back from the developers (who signed up to troubleshoot and resolve customer problems) in 30-60 minutes; netting to $100-$200 per hour. Kim Weins from OpenLogic makes a comment that:
"... the model is already working. Open source developers have chosen to be members of the OpenLogic Expert Community. They have resolved issues and gotten paid. And customers have been happy with the results.
Stormy Peters also challenged the idea that open source requires sponsors:
it sounds like you don't think open source will be successful if it stays in the "free" space. I would challenge that - many successful open source software projects don't have large corporate sponsors - take some of the Apache projects for example!
Rod concludes the blog thread with the assertion that "enterprise open source requires the same quality of support as closed source products or it will not deliver real benefit to customers.

The number of companies doing the two models of professional open source in this debate are growing.  On the 'creator' side we have companies like Mulesource (Mule), LogicBlaze (ActiveMQ/ServiceMix, recently bought by IONA), Mergere (Maven), and of course JBoss.  On the pure certification/support side, enterprise demand for support is causing increasing VC investment in companies such as pioneers SourceLabs, SpikeSource, OpenLogic and others.

Is any one side really better than the other? What do you think?   See also past related coverage by InfoQ "Marc Fleury on what makes open source business models tick".

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