The emergence of stacks of open-source infrastructure software will spawn new opportunities to enter and succeed in open source, according to a panel of experts.
"We see the emergence of the open-source stack as a new phenomenon that will allow new companies to break into the enterprise," said David Skok, a general partner with Matrix Partners, in Waltham, Mass. "And with that stack, quality will come."
Such companies as SourceLabs Inc. and SpikeSource Inc. have entered the market with just this model in mind, delivering an open-source software stack and providing services around it.
The stack typically includes Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python components, otherwise known as LAMP.
"A lot of enterprise companies are scared of dealing with small companies, so theyll look for big brands," Skok told attendees of Harvard Business Schools annual Cyberposium. "And companies like JBoss will bring in lots of smaller [open-source] projects and fold them into their brand."
Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL AB, in Uppsala, Sweden, said he got into open source "to produce profits in the long run. For us it is reducing marketing costs and reducing product development costs." Mickos said altruism is not a driver behind open-source development. He said people who write open source code do so because "they want to learn something, they want to show something, they want something fixed."
"To start an open-source business, you have to have a very vibrant community, then you can create a business around that," Skok said.
Brian Stevens, vice president of operating systems development at Red Hat Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., said to succeed as an open-source company, "you need to provide more value."
There are a few basic business models for open-source software, according to Skok. One is the dual-license model, where companies offer their ware for free under the GNU GPL (General Public License) and then charge a fee to customers who want a commercial license. Another is the support model, where companies provide the software for free but charge for support. Still another model is to offer a basic version of the software for free and then charge for an upgrade.
Skok pointed to IBM as a vendor harnessing open source to great benefit. "Theyve managed to capitalize on Linux. Their major competitor on hardware used to be Sun [Microsystems Inc.], but, since Linux, IBM has been able to thrive and sell a bunch of services and hardware."
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