Open Source Goes Main Street
Five years ago, if you had asked most people if open-source was a good basis for a business, they would have laughed at you. How things change.
Today, major open-source projects, like Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird and the Debian Linux distribution with the Debian Core Consortium, are being transformed into businesses.
What's happening here?
First, there has always been a strong tendency for some to look at open-source and see the business possibilities.
The late Caldera Systems (subsequently The SCO Group Inc.) and Red Hat Inc. lead the way for the commercialization of Linux.
Other people saw the possibilities of open source beyond the operating system.
David Axmark, Allan Larsson and Michael "Monty" Widenius saw profitability in the open-source database management systems and founded MySQL.
Later, Marc Fleury in the United States thought that open-source Java-based middleware could make a viable business.
Today, his JBoss is a leading J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) provider.
There are, as they've proven, many ways to profit from open source.
Analysts, however, now see more open-source groups than ever before, realizing that there might be gold to be found in their code.
"We're seeing a grand experiment under way now. Many open-source project teams are trying different approaches to monetizing their projects," observed Dan Kusnetzky, IDC's VP for system software research.
This development isn't just about turning a corporate profit, though. Some open-source projects need to turn commercial to keep going.
"It's a bit of a mix," said Gordon Haff, senior analyst for research house Illuminata Inc., "but certainly many of the major projects are very dependent on developers who are paid to work full-time on them, which in turn implies that some commercial entity is either profiting or hoping to profit."
As Kusnetzky pointed out, "Even open-source projects need funding to pay for systems, network connectivity, and other things."