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Innovation

The original open source niche remains just that

Groundwork Open Source is an example of a well-run enterprise open source company. The big news, however, is the closing of a new $5 million round of financing led by Canaan Partners. Cool. Congratulations. Uh, $5 million?
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

When I first began covering this beat five years ago there was great excitement about one niche, enterprise software.

Large companies would buy support, the thinking went, and open source would save them money. Big money.

Five years later, it's still a niche.

Consider the good people at Groundwork Open Source. (That's co-founder and COO Dave Lilly smiling over there, maybe because Peter Jackson replaced him in the CEO hot seat. His corporate picture is much better than the one CNET has.)

Groundwork offers reporters a steady supply of story ideas and leads. They specialize in system management software. They have been around since 2003. They offer many fine resources like MonitoringForge, a community for open source system management problems of all kinds.

Groundwork Open Source is an example of a well-run enterprise open source company. It has good relations with Red Hat, evidenced by its recent switch to JBOSS. It's also part of the Microsoft System Center Alliance program. At Oracle OpenWorld this week they're supplying some of the games.

The big news, however, is the closing of a new $5 million round of financing led by Canaan Partners.

Cool. Congratulations. Uh, $5 million?

Please don't misunderstand. It's great that Groundwork has this money. A lot of open source companies founded in 2003 are sprouting tombstones, not running tombstone ads.

But $5 million? In venture capital? Six years after launch? When you're doing everything right? Really? Really.

My point is that there are some zeroes missing in this enterprise open source niche. Previous booms sprouted many more, much faster. This business has already seen a $1 billion deal (mySQL) and a $350 million one (JBOSS). But how many more are out there?

There are other values in open source other than money. I am the first person to say so. But among those for whom money is the chief value, is this an ore vein that's playing out?

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