Monday, February 27, 2006

Open Source Companies ...

Jim Rapoza writes at eweek "Open Source Ripe for the Taking"

There has been plenty of discussion about the effects of Oracle's Sleepycat acquisition on the database market and on MySQL specifically. But I wonder about the impact these acquisitions will have on open-source software and open-source licensing as a whole.

However, Oracle has a well-earned reputation as a company that acquires to remove competition. Many people have speculated that one goal of the Sleepycat acquisition is to damage the increasingly popular MySQL open-source database, as MySQL relies on Berkeley DB and InnoBase (acquired by Oracle in October) for its transaction engine.

While some in the open-source community see these acquisitions as validation of open-source software, there are many who fear what will happen in the future. These fears may well be valid, as the notion of "open source" isn't as cut and dried as it once was.

When you say "open source," many people tend to think of applications running free through the proverbial plains, with no way to control them. However, companies such as Sleepycat, MySQL and JBoss have figured out how to make money from open source, mainly by employing most of the top developers of an application and by providing high-level support options that big enterprise customers expect.

But the situation brings up the bigger question of whether a company can really be open source. From a business perspective, these open-source companies make a lot of sense, as they allow enterprises to use open-source products without having to sacrifice solid support options.

But, from the perspective of those who use open-source software because it is free from constraints, these company-based open-source products could start to become a lot less attractive.

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