Enterprise Open Source vs Project based Open Source - Part 1

Enterprise Open Source vs Project based Open Source - Part 1

Traditionally most Open Source initiatives are spawned from a single individual or a smaller group that has a specific need they want to solve. Typically in the CMS space it is for their own personal website, blog or similar. This means that the software often has limitations in the usage and is typically not suitable for enterprise deployments. Several projects of this type also gradually grow into the enterprise space, but this is not very common.

When we started eZ we started a bit differently. We started out with the goal of making a global software company based on a different business model. We wanted to make our business based on Open Source principles while it was still being run as a commercial business. We came up with the term Enterprise Open Source where eZ as an organization always had the lead of the vision of the product as well as full copyright of the code. We have also employed the core team of engineers that have driven the main product development forward. This was mainly inspired by another Norwegian company called TrollTech with their product Qt (now bought by Nokia). The combination is building a sustainable and scalable business while still having a full Open Source business model.

We have often seen that Open Source projects grow to a certain size and at a point they have to re-invent the architecture. This due to a mismatch between the original design and the now new desired usage group. Such a re-design is extremely expensive with both loss of momentum and the typically high cost (man hours) of re-implementation. Very few non-funded projects can make this. eZ on the other hand have both a long term vision and roadmap as well as our own full time engineers that are solidly financially backed. This means that when we have had the need to make strategic enhancements like building a solid native and REST API we can execute on this while still keeping the momentum.

eZ has from day one been building software for enterprise deployments and when designing the core of the system this has been one of the main requirements. This is also clearly reflected in the of clients we have today from high traffic media customers (Financial Times) to large financial institutions (Oslo Stock Exchange) and even security fanatics like governmental customers (US Navy and Interpol).

This differentiation between the Enterprise Open Source model that is vendor backed and Open Source projects is important to know about when you are selecting software for your organization. Specially when it is a strategic and long term commitment.

Mixing Business Model and Product Properties

I often hear people (typically in a purchasing process) where the Open Source business model is not a fit for the required functionality. For example a statement like “Open Source does not scale” as I recently heard from one of our proprietary competitors. That is an interesting statement as you are comparing apples and oranges. It is as wrong as stating “Proprietary software does not scale”, which is equally not a valid statement.

First of all; a business model does not define anything about the properties of the software product. Open Source, Software as a Service or Proprietary are simply how a vendor chooses to ship the product. There are also several hybrid models that mixes the different business models. But the point is that a business model must not be confused with product properties.

In my next post we will look 3 major differences between Enterprise Open Source and Project based Open Source. Stay tuned...

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