Open source standards and proprietary profit

By giving away the how, Day became the who, as in who you gonna call if you want to link big ECM projects together.

I chatted yesterday with Roy Fielding and Santi Pierini at Day Software. Roy is the chief scientist, Santi the vice president for product strategy. They told me what is now a familiar story of open source standards leading to proprietary profit.

Day, a 13-year old ECM vendor, considers a technology it called the Content Bus its “secret sauce.” That's a pun because it was originally developed for McDonald's, in order to help both American and Japanese executives access a highly-detailed real estate database.

Day created a standardized version of the Content Bus, under Java, as JSR170.  The software was released a little over a year ago. Where this gets into the area of open source was that it was used as the basis for the Apache Jackrabbit project, which is licensed under the Apache license.

Part of our goal was to have other projects adopt it as their storage layer,” Fielding explained. Jackrabbit  “is an implementation of the content repository API as well as a working resource for our reference implementation. We donated a license to the Apache Software Foundation, and our developers work with Apache to move it forward.” That software was released a few months ago.

By giving away the how, Day became the who, as in who you gonna call if you want to link big ECM projects together. But by using the Apache license Day was able to do more than that.

Day created the Content Repository Extreme (CRX).  which adds management functions to the Jackrabbit code, and which makes Day a one-stop shop for managing big data repositories.

The result is a profitable company with two product lines, content applications and content infrastructure. The application layer includes custom JSR-170 connectors, and the infrastructure layer is the CRX repository. Day creates repositories for firms like eMusic. It also creates JSR170 connectors to proprietary repositories, like those of FileNet, Interwoven, Vignette, OpenText, even some Microsoft products.

The point is that open source helps build standards which even proprietary outfits can then profit from, although I think Pierini said it better than I can:

Using open source gave us access to a new channel. The enterprise, open source, and repository communities tend to be separate. We could bring them together with a standards agenda. There have been tens of millions of Apache downloads, and to have an offering relating to that audience gives us broader distribution. Jackrabbit let us propagate further than pure Java.”