Open source is not all about the money

Open source is not all about the money

Summary: No matter what happens to Sun open source is not going away. Financially it may find its level to be lower than its boosters first thought, but there are many more ways to compute value other than the change in your pocket.

TOPICS: Open Source

Scott McNealy and Jonathan SchwartzDave Rosenberg is worried about Sun, a question discussed here last week.

"If it fails," he writes, "Sun will be the harbinger of sorrow for the rest of the open source world."

The open source business, yes. The open source world? Not so much.

Open source is a fact of life. Gartner Group estimates all large businesses will be deploying it within a year. Linux is extending its reach from the server to the client. Open source applications like Firefox are highly competitive.

On the other hand, the open source business model is not doing so well. It's not bringing in the green. When given something for free and then asked to buy support, most customers say "thanks, but no thanks" especially when times get tough.

But there is a lot more to the open source story than the vendor's perspective. There are savings for the entire economy. There is transparency. There is cooperation among companies which depend upon software to run their businesses.

Most important is the work done by the software. That work can still make money, in many ways. We have really just scratched the surface of how to do this. Support contracts are just one of many routes to profit.

You can embed open source into hardware. You can sell what the software does. You can use the software to make yourself more productive and sell your work. Many routes.

Then there is the code. When closed source businesses go under their code usually dies with them. That's not true for open source. That is very important for users and for those who follow the failed company in the market. They build from a higher base.

Or consider Sun itself. It was circling the drain when it committed to open source. Other companies in similar straits just crashed and burn, leaving a greasy mess behind. Now we have Java, Solaris, a real legacy.

No matter what happens to Sun open source is not going away. Financially it may find its level to be lower than its boosters first thought, but there are many more ways to compute value other than the change in your pocket.

Such as the change all around you.

Topic: Open Source

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  • I'm kind of sorry to see them go.

    I just happened to come across this site:

    It seems that the "vultures" are striking early. I didn't really care for Sun's seesaw affair with Open Source but I believe their presence helped to strengthen the Open Source ecosystem. Goodbye Sun.
  • RE: Open source is not all about the money

    Honestly, there's some relation to what these guys are
    going through, among so many others. I actually hail from
    the music industry, engineering/programming with a focus
    on sustainability and growth in business. It bewilders me,
    after two decades, I with others, have struggled with
    company after company to excel with great technology,
    applications and leadership. Open source empowered
    many awesome innovations along the way. Content really
    never the issue. It simply was those in other backgrounds
    who were complacent and forced their boredom with
    moving things forward - to make money - that drew back
    financial success both in a privately and publicly held
  • RE: Open source is not all about the money

    What are you (not) smoking, Dana? The business side isn't doing well? Have you seen what Zimbra, Alfresco, and others have been doing? We'll be at IPO money by 2010 (and I don't think you IPO without nine figures in your annual sales number).

    There is a *big* difference between Sun's near-term problems making enough money from open source and open source making money as a business, generally. The latter is doing quite well, thank you very much.

    As for how it affects open source, you know as well as I that Linux, Apache, etc. are bankrolled by corporations. If the companies behind those "community" projects decide not to contribute, they will be hurt.
    • Dana ...?

      He's obviously not looking at the big picture here. Lots of companies which base part of their business models on open source software are making good money. IBM is generating revenue of about US$8B per quarter right now, expecting to grow 10$ year-on-year. About US$2B of that is directly related to Linux consulting.

      Sun is NOT REALLY an open source company. They have recently tried to jump on the open-source model, but have done so carrying all their old non-OSS baggage with them. is not an open project, though it's open source. Java went OSS this year. Sun bought MySQL this year. I doubt that Sun will fail (given the new SMB hardware they just introduced), but tough times are ahead for them. Extrapolating one bad newly-OSS business out to be an indicator for the entire industry is like saying that the retail business is in trouble because Best Buy is going belly-up or mom-and-pop grocery stores are being put out of business by super Walmarts. It's just silly.
  • Microsoft is running scared

    Whether they're making money or not, open source is gaining ground.

    Its exponential. Ballooning, even!
    Ole Man