There was no gloating from the enterprise open source folks.
Why? Probably because the enterprise open source business, especially the content management end, has problems of its own:
- Vendors are under pressure to scale so they can pick off Vignette's old customers, not to mention those of Interwoven, which was acquired earlier by Autonomy.
- The same economic downdrafts that created the Vignette take-out are also hitting the open source space, in spades. After all, their "customers" don't have to pay, while Vignette's do.
Notice the word "vendors" in the first bullet point. As opposed to projects. Whenever a project sponsor incorporates and seeks profit it becomes a vendor, subject to a vendor's pressures.
Drupal can live on the kindness of strangers, in other words. Acquia can't.
This may explain why our own Matt Asay (above), instead of noodling over the opportunities Enterprise Content Management (ECM) consolidation may hold, is instead watching John Robert's exit from SugarCRM, and offering no discouraging words.
Matt is an executive with Alfresco, another open source enterprise software outfit. His loyalties lie in the corporate world, while mine remain tied to journalism.
Open source advocates, as opposed to businessmen, did once have a bone to pick with Roberts. The controversy over "badgeware" was eventually finessed through approval of the Common Public Attribution License, but for a while some were wondering whether SugarCRM was open source at all.
That is all water under the bridge now, but the question remains, how big can open source enterprise outfits get? It's unlikely that more than a few will be able to brave the current headwinds and scale their support operations to where big customers need them to be.
Will the rest of the pack then simply fade away? That's what happens in the real world of business. There is only room for a few big businesses at the top of the mountain.
And, again, Acquia is a business, just like Alfresco is a business. Businesses are subject to pressures that projects may not be. And when the business built around a project fails, or gets absorbed, what happens then to the project underneath it?
I have been asking that question a lot regarding Oracle and such projects as OpenOffice, but it's even more meaningful to business software projects than those in the consumer space.
What happens to projects, and to software, as the enterprise open source market consolidates?