Enough of this "open core" confusion!

  4 comments for “Enough of this "open core" confusion!

  1. July 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Jack
    This is an interesting post. It is interesting because as far as I can tell, Collabnet/Subversion is not engaging in any of the objectionable activities that the open core debate is criticising some vendors for. I blogged about the details of these practices in my blog here: http://openlife.cc/blogs/2010/july/so-if-he-doesnt-call-himself-open-source-vendor-then-everything-fine
    …but to make it short: AFAICT Subversion is purely an open source project (it is not even owned fully by CollabNet?), there is no proprietary software using the Subversion brand (since that is what you call CollabNet), and there is no proprietary software being distributed at subversion.org.
    The fact that CollabNet then creates proprietary commercial products upon subversion is a separate space, and the fact that CollabNet has been a strong supporter and leader of Subversion could even be seen as a positive excercise. (A “purist” could of course oppose any and all closed source software, but that’s a different topic altogether and should not be confused with the ongoing debate.)
    So while you of course have any right to stand up and defend the likes of MySQL, Zimbra, JasperSoft, etc… there seems to be no reason for you to defend Subversion or CollabNet, since nobody is accusing you of anything. (It is left as an open question whether your model could be in the “open core” bag, but in any case it would not be of the objectionable kind of open core.)

  2. July 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts, Henrik. Im glad you find nothing objectionable in either Subversion or CollabNet!
    I wasnt particularly interested in defending either CollabNet or those other vendors you list. Rather, I was trying to move the conversation a bit towards how to do it right, and away from confrontation.
    If I may restate the objections raised by your blog and others, the offensive thing here is, as I understand it, obscuring the line between open and proprietary source. Your blog focuses on one form of obscurantism, mixing the two types into a single product and brand. But the obscuring also happens in another way: labeling all mixed-mode work with the same name. You left as an open question whether [CollabNets] model could be in the open-core bag, but thats the question Im opening. My belief is that open core is the most appropriate way currently available to describe the CollabNet / Subversion relationship, but I wouldnt choose to use that term because of the negative associations with other models within the space. I want a new term, not only to stitch onto my own golf-shirts, but to recommend to other companies looking for a successful and inoffensive model.
    Instead of excoriating people who use terms badly (when no better terms are available), lets set the terms of discourse so they identify and reward constructive models.

  3. July 16, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Ah, I understand your thinking now.
    I do see the need for that too. In the database space we have EnterpriseDB based on PostgreSQL in the same situation. It is essentially open core, except that EnterpriseDB does not own PostgreSQL and the brands are separate. Since this is a significant distinction, it may be practical to have another “label” for this model that would also include Subversion/Collabnet. This would of course be in your interest now, since open core is at risk of becoming a negative term (for those that care about open source).
    Matthew Aslett also made a great point in an earlier post, that the fact that IBM, Oracle and the lot use Apache software in their proprietary products, do not make these companies open core companies. This makes sense, and in that case the same argument would apply to CollabNet.
    (Btw, “objectionable” could of course be many things. I could come back here arguing that people should use only 100% open source / free software, there are people that do that. But that is not what the current debate is about.)

  4. July 16, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Yes, thats the sort of thing I was shooting for. Good examples, thanks. Im not familiar with the nuances of EnterpriseDB/PostgreSQL, but I think Collabnet/Subversion is considerably closer to the open core / open infrastructure line than {IBM,Oracle,PrettyNearlyEveryoneOnEarth}/Apache: CollabNet doesnt own Subversion, but CollabNet is and has always been the clear and principal corporate sponsor of Subversion, whereas the Apache Foundation model has a longer list of rough equals.

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