Focus is the key to a successful open source enterprise, says Mark Brewer, CEO of Covalent.
Covalent's focus is the Apache Web Server, and related tools. "You get everything you’d get from Microsoft. The build, bug fixes and security, twice yearly updates, indemnification, tech support," he said when he called ZDNet Open Source today.
Even within Apache, Covalent specializes. It works on the Apache Http Web server, the Apache Tomcat application server, and (most recently) the Apache Axis Web Server framework. It offers a "LAMP Stack," consisting of Linux, Apache, mySQL database, and three scripting languages -- Python, PHP, and Perl.
But Apache is free. Why pay? For support, from experts who stay on top of things, said Brewer.
"We pre-alert customers when something is coming," he explained. "That’s one of the things our customers are buying." Without Covalent, "they have to do it on their own, but they can get the patch from Apache. The difference is they won’t necessarily know about it."
What does it cost to profit from the world's most popular Web server product? Personnel resources, said Brewer.
- Covalent has 14 people on its staff who have commit privileges with the Apache project.
- Five members of the Apache Software Foundation work at Covalent, including a board member.
- Covalent sponsors the Apache scholarship program.
- Covalent has a commercial contributor license agreement which gives the Apache Software Foundation everything Covalent does, except work-for-hire projects.
Knowing of that commitment, and knowledge, 267 of the Fortune 500, and 71 of the Fortune 100, support Apache through Covalent. "Big enterprises realize the need for a support vendor of these products."
This is how you make money in open source. You become vital. You become a big open source company by becoming vital to big projects.
Next time anyone asks you how to profit from open source, point them here.