There are many ways in which companies "support" open source.
- They toss unwanted software out the door. It's called "open source" but it's really orphaned.
- They let users use their software free, but maintain control of its development. I call this "semi-open" source.
- They put resources behind it, and recruit other companies to commit them as well. This is "true" open source.
There are also many ways to play among these extremes. You can play games with licenses. You can essentially spin it out, letting a committer from within build a company around it. You can claim one thing while doing something else entirely.
The point occurred to me today while chatting with Neelan Choski, senior director of product marketing at BEA Systems, about his firm's decision to offer an "open source" version of its Kodo technology, a relational database mapping tool.
The open source Kodo will be offered under an Apache license, while BEA continues to offer BEA Kodo under a closed source license. BEA will offer five "committers" to the project, but hopes to recruit more from outside, Choski said.
All this is taking place under the looming market threat of an Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) specification, which hopes to become a real standard by the time of the next JavaONE. "We want to be viewed as one of the leaders in enterprise Java," and having open source code in line with the new EJB3 spec code helps, Choski explained.
The lesson here is that open source imperatives are now driving corporate policy. The transparency in BEA's announcement will be seen in practice. And that's how it should be.
Whatever one's open source policy, competition is moving it away from Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.