The hybrid model in open source

The hybrid model in open source

Summary: The hybrid model adds a third dimension to the open source incline. The idea is that you stand at the corner of sharing and self-interest. You can adjust license terms to gain more support, or you can offer different terms to different customers in the name of self-interest.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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In order to get more mileage from their efforts I'm seeing more and more open source companies adopt a hybrid model. (The shirt shows a mule train pulling a car. Available from Muledesign.)

Hybrid licensing comes in three flavors:

  1. An open source developer holds out some code as proprietary. Medsphere is doing this.
  2. An open source developer sells an enhanced "pro" version of their code. Pentaho does this.
  3. An open source developer offers a commercial license to customers who don't want the obligation of donating code back to the project. OpenClovis does this.

I don't believe any of this violates an open source principle because there is no such thing. Open source is a business movement rather than a political or business movement. FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) developers choose to have principles. Open source developers prefer to eat.

The hybrid model adds a third dimension to the open source incline. The idea is that you stand at the corner of sharing and self-interest. You can adjust license terms to gain more support, or you can offer different terms to different customers in the name of self-interest.

Got a problem with that?

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Topic: Open Source

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  • The most important question is which model will result in the best code in

    the long run.

    People using the hybrid approach, force contributors to sign over rights for proprietary use to the primary developers, which means they also cannot incorporate existing code unless they track down the authors and get them to sign off. This reduces the pool of contributors, and means that the project is primarilly maintained by internal paid developers, or purchased code.

    Companies without the hybrid approach are free to pull code from anywhere to use on the project, and can accept contributions with no strings attached.

    You really have to weigh the plusses and minuses on a case by case basis. For some vertical niches, the hybrid is probably almost always the best model. For parts that make up the basic pieces of a standard desktop, the hybrid approach will not be long term viable, if it results in just one company that holds the keys for proprietary usage of the entire Linux stack. Of course this is the whole reason for GNOME's existance. Qt is still GPL, not LGPL by the way.

    Also, note that Richard Stallman is not against companies like MySQL releasing the code under that GPL, (even libraries), as a trick to force license payments for a proprietary applications that just uses MySQL.
    DonnieBoy
  • Open Source has principles

    I don't agree. Go take a look at the Open Source Definition on the OSI website. It is true that the Open Source community is less focusing on "philosophical" aspects than the Free Software community. But there actually are basic rules to follow in order to be branded as Open Source software. And sorry to say that, but among your 3 models, only one (the last one) is really Open Source. The other ones are examples of companies making abuse of the Open Source term (even if their products are really good). Of course, if you are releasing the code for a "low-end" version of your product, this version can be qualified as Open Source. Nevertheless, in that case the "real" version, I mean the one people want to use, is not Open Source. It's like the WebSphere Geronimo approach. Of course, WebSphere CE is based on an Open Source technology, but WebSphere AS is not Open Source.
    So there are actually principles. You cannot say there aren't, even if it is true that the Open Source community takes a more business oriented, practical approach to software than the Free Software community.
    And about the quality of the resulting code?
    On example here: JBoss AS is a real Open Source product. WebSphere is not (there is only an Open Source "incentive"). I really believe from my experience that although WebSphere is a good product, JBoss is superior on many points (personal opinion).
    Olivier Pilot
    • Re. WAS CE & Apache Geronimo

      Olivier,<br /><br />

      WebSphere Application Server Community Edition (WAS CE) is built using an open source product, Apache Geronimo. While WAS CE is free to download and use, and you can build it yourself from open source code, WAS CE itself does not carry an OSI-approved license and as such, is not an open source product. I'm 99.999% sure that we've never said that WAS CE is an open source product. If you've seen something to indicate this, please drop me a line (my zdnet username at gmail.com) and I'll work with my old WAS CE colleagues to get it fixed. But again, I do not believe we've ever said that WAS CE is an OSI-licensed open source product.<br /><br />

      I'd disagree with your distinction between <i>"Geronimo and the real version, that people want to use, i.e. WAS CE"</i>. Customers are using WAS CE and Apache Geronimo; it all depends on what you're need/comfort is. If you want the newest stuff right away, than you'll use Geronimo. If you want predictable release cycles and integration with other IBM products, than WAS CE will fit the bill. And again, both are free, or optionally, supported for a fee through IBM and others, so have at it!<br /><br />

      Lastly, re. JBoss. Yes, it's a good product (although it has its own shortcomings). The problem I have with Jboss is their ?community? is made up on 1 company, themselves! This is why I believe that Geronimo & WAS CE have been able to grow so quickly against Jboss in the past year. See the Evans data in the 2nd half of this post: http://saviorodrigues.wordpress.com/2006/11/27/fleury-to-red-hat-show-me-the-money-the-rd-money/ <br /><br />

      Cheers,<br /><br />

      Savio
      http://saviorodrigues.wordpress.com/
      Savio.Rodrigues
  • Huh?

    [i]Open source is a business movement rather than a political or business movement.[/i]

    Huh?
    Swashbuckler2