I'm the father of ItsNat AJAX Java web framework, JNIEasy, LAMEOnJ, JEPLayer and JEPLDroid libraries (and very old stuff like XPDOM), supporter of the Single Page Interface (SPI) paradigm, writer of the SPI manifesto and currently Android native guy. Jose Maria has posted 28 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

The Future Of Open Source

04.22.2009
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Sun purchasing by Oracle has worried many people about the future of Sun’s open source products, one of the most important stack of open source software in the world. This purchasing has promoted speculations about the future of open source software as a whole because Oracle, in spite of is an open source supporter too, for instance with ADF Faces, the core software owned by Oracle like Oracle DB and Bea products remain closed, including entry level products like Oracle Express.

Another source of concern about the future of open source is the failure of Sun in making money with an aggressive open source strategy. To add even more concerns, cloud computing trend is tightly aligned with the Software As Service business model, and this model usually is not open source friendly.

In a previous article, Rod Johnson, CEO of SpringSource, the company which holds the Spring based portfolio, claims that Oracle, in spite of Sun purchasing, is not going to rule the innovation of enterprise Java because most of this innovation have taken place outside Sun and driven by the open source community.

I don't know whether Oracle is going to keep on the recent good work of Sun in the open source space, may be the path will be a mixed strategy of "free" software as an entry to the non-free, non-open stuff of Oracle, because now Oracle has many options to do this: MySQL-OracleDB, GlassFish-WebLogic, Sun JVM-JRockit, NetBeans-JDeveloper etc.

In a comment to this article Jacob Jenkov makes public his concerns about the future of open source as a business, he claims two downsides of open source:

1) Doing business with open source is difficult and it shouldn’t because usually open source adds value and this added value is worth to pay something.

2) As most of the open source projects are not driven by profit, the barriers to publish anything are very low and compromise with the future cannot be enforced. This generates tons of options to do the same, hard to pick the tool which fits in your need and very much uncertainty in the (short) future.

First of all, nobody can say Jacob’s reflections are anti-open source, because as the author of Butterfly DI Container, he has supported the open source movement more than the average software developer. The same cannot be said to this article, because myself I am the author of an open source product with many hours and lines of code behind (ItsNat).

Is open source a viable business model?

SpringSource is in this path, Sun tried this path too, we cannot say Sun failed in making revenue from open source because there was not very much time to explore and exploit a new world of services based on MySQL, GlassFish and so on. May be without this terrible crisis Sun would be profitable soon again (StorageTek and MySQL recent acquisitions implied "obvious" losses)...

I think the future of open source as a business is dual licensing, a mix of a non-liberal license and a commercial license, dual licensing does not exclude other "peripheral" revenue models like consulting, training, support and book selling, but dual licensing is a return to the product as the focus, a return to a revenue model based on *affordable* licenses with all of the goodness of open source.

The objective of dual licensing is to align user revenues with commercial licensing. As an analogy dual licensing is similar to the model used by PayPal, PayPal is FREE for vendors, there is no maintenance fee, but when you make money PayPal receives a small fee, this model works, scales and benefits both sides.

The open source product should not be a simple excuse to other kind of business. There is no "ethic" problem (for me) for these "excuses", if they work... fine! The problem is they have problems to scale because "almost anyone" can acquire "for free" the expertise of an open source product including in-depth knowledge.

The solution should not be a return to closed source software, giving for free a cut down open source community version is actually a return to this model. Even worst, a Software As Service in the cloud is even more closed. 

IMHO the problem is not the number of options of one concrete technology, because many options (for instance in web development) are redundant, very similar approach. The problem is the number of “supported” options, or options with a compromise with the future... The open source world would benefit of dual licensing improving quality, support and ensuring a long term future if the product is successful.

An example, JACE, JACE was a very popular product to code “in Java” but in C++ to avoid JNI, JACE has been useful to many developers when Java was too poor and native code was necessary. These days almost no one needs this kind product, in fact the last version of JACE is dated in 2003 and based on JVM 1.3 and the web site is down… But what if I need this kind of software? There are two options, try to use JACE if you can in a modern JVM (generics may be a problem) or buy JunC++ion the alternative closed source product.

Why am I using this example? Because I have an alternative to JACE and JunC++ion, is used internally in JNIEasy (yes a closed source product) to check the license in C++ code using Java APIs. It is very similar to JACE and JunC++ion but it uses the C++ “new” keyword to create “Java” objects in C++ (the new keyword makes more comfortable writing “Java” in C++ for a Java programmer) and Java arrays in C++ are more powerful sacrificing C++ templates.

I could publish this internal tool as open source, but when I think about the time needed to bring some decent to the public (polish some things, add more features, javadocs, web, tutorials, new releases, maintenance and so on) for free… then I change my mind. Paradoxically sometimes the fully free open source way may hurt the innovation. This is one reason why dual licensing can benefit open source.

What do you think?

What is the future of Open Source?

Is open source a viable business model?

Is dual licensing a viable business model?

How is going to affect the cloud computing to the software products and business? 

 

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jose Maria Arranz.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Mladen Girazovski replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 8:42am

Yes course, so dual licensing provides the best of both worlds, closed and open.

 I concur, i personally think that the previous success of JBoss was because the have choosen to offer both.

 

 

Jose Maria Arranz replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 9:08am in response to: Mladen Girazovski

No, JBoss is LGPL and LGPL is considered a "liberal" license.

Don't say anyone but Mc Fleury said in public (the don't say is a joke) , before JBoss acquisition by RedHat, that JBoss LLC (the company) would perform better if JBoss (the product) had been GPL since the start... Dual licensing was in his mind but it was too late. In that time JBoss was the only competent and inexpensive alternative to very expensive and closed source Java app. servers, Mc Fleury thought JBoss was too inexpensive.

 

Mladen Girazovski replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 9:09am

Thanks fpr the correction.

I think i was mixing up dual licensing and the fact that you could get commercial support for JBoss.

David Lee replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 1:16pm

Great thread.  This debate is long overdue. 

 

Dmitry Leskov replied on Fri, 2009/04/24 - 1:16am in response to: Jakob Jenkov

> Don't you think you could earn the same level of respect (or even greater) by developing some software that was so good, that people were actually willing to *pay* for it?

Maybe yes, provided that either (a) you do that yourself or (b) your contract with the employer permits you to tell the world that it was you who has written that masterpiece. In most cases (a) also requires doing quite a bit of marketing and some boring stuff such as accounting, and there is still a good chance that you will fail to gain any decent level of respect. (The iPhone App Store does the marketing for you, but it only makes maybe 1% of developers rich.) As for (b), your employer owns the copyright to anything you have created in your work time...

My point was that open source contribution is an easier and less risky route for a recent graduate, especially in this economy. But it is certainly not the only option. If you have saved enough for 6-12 months of unemployment, you can try microISV. You also can start a startup or join a promising one, though you would probably need something on your CV, and "lead contributor to a-relevant-open-source-project" is a good CV item.

cowwoc replied on Sat, 2009/04/25 - 11:36pm

For what it's worth, Jace is still under (slow) development. The full source code is available at https://jace.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/jace and is being maintained in my free time. I would love to see more people involved in this project.

Sébastien Pérès... replied on Fri, 2009/06/19 - 2:46pm in response to: Jose Maria Arranz

How come nobody ever spoke about Alfresco ?

It seems to be some kind of success story and it is almost 100% Java.

Akter Md. Ali replied on Tue, 2010/05/11 - 2:46am

In my opinion, open source project initiative should come from Governments or big corporations who respects the philosophy and can afford to sustainably invest into the project. The targeted outcome of the project may be for its internal use or for public interest or both. There may be some paid positions for the core developers and project managers. The OSS initiatives taken by one or a group of enthusiastic talented programmers are eventually bound to embrace the fate of MySQL. I consider it as a sin to attrack millions of people to some OSS product, make them dependent on that and then get sold to big corporations for personal gains or just not being able to safeguard the product from money hunting big corporations.

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