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Innovation

Must open source businesses scale?

What is an open source enterprise worth? Its contracts, its goodwill, and its people. Sounds like a law firm to me.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Here's something to think about this weekend.

A decade ago, during the Internet 1.0 boom there was a saying -- get big or get out.

It's a natural way for businesses to evolve. Leaders emerge, followers merge into them, and pretty soon you're either working for some giant enterprise or you're out of business.

PC hardware worked that way. PC software worked that way.

Must open source work that way?

Not necessarily. If you quit Microsoft, you lose access to the code you were working on. If you leave RedHat, you don't. If you're a really great programmer, work will find you.

So perhaps a better model for a successful open source business might be...a law firm.

OSDL is something of a law firm. It has a few stars, and projects that revolve around those stars. JBoss was like a law firm, a few great programmers and support staff, surrounding the business model.

Because you can't "own the IP," as Oracle President Charles Phillips put it recently, the chief asset of any open source enterprise must be its people. And people can leave. People can also rise up.

So what is an open source enterprise worth? Its contracts, its goodwill, and its people.

Sounds like a law firm to me.

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