Guest Post: Open Core Debate Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 19, 2010

Spend any time in the open source community and you'll quickly run into the notion that all software should be free and open source, quite literally, to its core. That's a noble idea, but is it a practical -- or even wise -- approach for software developers to take? Jerry Carter, Director of Engineering for audit and authentication software vendor Likewise says no. Read on as he explains why:

Open Core Debate Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

By Jerry Carter, Director of Engineering, Likewise

Matthew Aslett describes the open core debate as "tedious and futile," which is nearly accurate. Tedious, certainly, at times. Futile, only in that those who hold strong opinions in the debate are unlikely to be swayed this or that way by any viewpoint other than their own. The developers and FOSS advocates who are offended by open core generally seem to be opposed to any proprietary software.

Presented with a solution that mixes the two, it might seem like a setback to advocates who want to see all software as open source or free software, and the cognitive dissonance provokes a reaction that's understandable but misguided. Also unfortunate, as it expends energy that could be used more productively and does little to encourage vendors that have invested in open source to some degree.

A world where all software is open source may be attractive, but it's not likely in the next decade. Rather than focusing on a Quixotic quest of nothing but open source, many vendors, including Likewise, opt to pursue a strategy that benefits as many stakeholders as possible.

As I mentioned on the Likewise Blog about open core this week, the reason Likewise pursues an open core strategy is to best serve our customers and the open source community while pursuing a stable revenue stream to continue development of our open source and proprietary solutions.

So far, this strategy seems to resonate with our customer base and users of Likewise Open -- it provides the open source community with a way to use their favorite OSes in a Microsoft Active Directory environment. The open source community is welcome and fully able to build solutions on top of Likewise Open, and our enterprise customers have the ability to make full use of their investment in Microsoft Windows and UNIX, Linux, and Mac OS X. In our opinion, this is far better than pursuing a proprietary only strategy.

We do believe in being up-front about our licensing choices, and agree that companies that ship an open source release need to do so in good faith. We feel that Likewise Open is a solid offering that serves the community well, even without any of the additional features present in Likewise Enterprise. Since we've had more than 50,000 downloads of Likewise Open, I don't think we're alone. We're a company that does its best to work in both worlds, open and proprietary. We're focused on being a good open source citizen when working with the community, and providing solutions that work for our enterprise customers who need the full suite of Likewise features.

The open core debate is an important turning point for the business of selling software and the social movement behind open source. It's also extremely unlikely that it will be resolved anytime soon. In the meantime, we'll continue to focus on developing a strong open source offering and enterprise-ready solutions. We feel confident that the partnership between open source and proprietary software is the best solution right now for everyone involved.