Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Greg Schulz, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, CRM

Open Source Cloud: Blog Feed Post

Online Music and Open Source Business Models

Let’s take a look at our friends in the online music space and see what we can learn from them

In this part of our series on An Open Source Business, let’s take a look at our friends in the online music space and see what we can learn from them.

The Deal recently had an article about online music startups which should strike a chord with anybody who’s thinking about or trying to make a business out of open source.  Look at what they had to say:

“huge numbers, lots of hype, a surfeit of hope and a major chance of failure… some of the business models are inherently economically unfeasible… It’s completely unsettled and more and more fragmented…The rules of the industry and the economics of the industry have completely changed…Technological advances offer more and more delivery mechanisms, user options and wizardly new features…However, just who can make money off all this is almost as uncertain now as it was five years back…Everyone is gambling there will be a way to monetize distribution of recorded music, But no one has come up with the solution…Last year’s great hopes are this year’s busts.”

Sound familiar?  It should.  In a nutshell, open source business models share the same strategic problem that these online music startups have: how do you make any money when most of what you provide is available for free? Let’s look at the ways:

Free the Software, Sell the Services
Just about every commercialized open source project follows this business model.  The software is free, but the developers charge for services such as support, training, customization, and software development.  Sometimes the services are “productized” into manuals, seminars, installation CD’s, and packaged support, but the idea is the same.

This model works well…to an extent.  For example, we’re the main developers of opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM, and we’ve found that users are indeed willing to engage us for opentaps-related services because of our experience and knowledge with the system.  However, we’ve also found that users are willing to hire us mostly for customizations which are unique to their needs.  We’re still responsible for the architecture and user interface of opentaps ourselves, and that’s why since the release of opentaps 1.0 we’ve invested in everything from integrating Spring, Hibernate, and the Google Web Toolkit to building a Domain Driven Architecture.

Like the Free Version?  Please Pay Us for Even More!
Many open source software developers, and virtually all open source software companies funded by venture capitalists, engage in the “commercial/open source” model.  An open source edition is available free of charge to attract potential users, and a fancier commercial version is available for pay.

This is not an easy business model.  Let’s go back to music as an example.  I like Pink Floyd, but if you gave me The Dark Side of the Moon for free, would I pay you for Ummagumma, The Final Cut, and every other song by Pink Floyd?  No, I wouldn’t.  (Another example is travel: how many people actually pay for First Class?)

But perhaps the best evidence that this is a difficult business model comes from the commercial open source companies themselves.  Compared to a few years ago, their websites are de-emphasizing the open source version (sometimes you really have to look even to find the download page), and their “community edition” licenses are increasingly restrictive.

Nevertheless, I think this is a model which could be very successful if two conditions are met:

  1. You must have a very large open source user base.  Think MySQL.
  2. You must segment that user base carefully and identify the unique needs for your “enterprise edition” product.  The need must be fundamental — a little bit of eye candy and a few cool features alone won’t be enough.

Be careful, though: if you execute this model incorrectly, you could easily lose the goodwill of your open source users and unwittingly give away a viable commercial product for free.

The Alchemy of Open Source
There is a famous story of the Stone Soup, where many free ingredients came together to make an amazing finished product.  Lest you think it’s just a fable, Red Hat and Ubuntu do exactly that–they’ve combined major open source projects such as Linux, Gnome, Apache, Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, and MySQL and built major businesses from them.

This is the business model we’ve chosen for opentaps so far.  We’ve built opentaps from major open source projects such as Apache, Funambol, Google Web Toolkit, Jasper Reports, Pentaho, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and too many others to name here.  We’ve had to be patient at times, but over the years, we’ve grown as all those other projects have matured.  Amazingly enough, these open source projects have put us years ahead of many commercial ERP systems technically and enabled us to build opentaps sustainably, so that we now have a fully integrated ERP and CRM system with business intelligence, ecommerce, and mobility integration without any VC funding.

But this is not an easy business model to execute.  You must be willing to understand other open source projects and have the technical ability to work with them.  Most importantly, you need patience.  With this business model, you are growing with the community of open source projects.

In the End . . .  Just Make it Better
No matter what business model you choose, ultimately you’ll succeed if you make technology easier and better for your users. In the online music world, there actually has been a great success story — iTunes.  They’ve done it by making downloading music easy and fun.  So learn from them.  If you can make software easy and fun, you will be successful.  Next to a great product, the business model is just a footnote.

In the next part of An Open Source Business, we’ll take a look at marketing strategies for open source software.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Si Chen

Si Chen is the founder of Open Source Strategies, Inc. and Project Manager for opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM (www.opentaps.org).

@ThingsExpo Stories
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...
The 21st International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Interoute is the owner operator of Europe's largest network and a global cloud services platform, which encompasses over 70,000 km of lit fiber, 15 data centers, 17 virtual data centers and 33 colocation centers, with connections to 195 additional partner data centers. Our full-service Unifie...
In order to meet the rapidly changing demands of today’s customers, companies are continually forced to redefine their business strategies in order to meet these needs, stay relevant and continue to see profitable growth. IoT deployment and development is integral in this transformation, and today businesses are increasingly seeing the value of investing their resources into IoT deployments. These technologies are able increase ROI through projects such as connecting supply chains or enabling sm...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs ofte...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DivvyCloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DivvyCloud software enables organizations to achieve their cloud computing goals by simplifying and automating security, compliance and cost optimization of public and private cloud infrastructure. Using DivvyCloud, customers can leverage programmatic Bots to identify and remediate common cloud problems in rea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale, a global pure play Infrastructure as a Service provider and strategic partner of Dassault Systèmes, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2010, Outscale simplifies infrastructure complexities and boosts the business agility of its customers. Outscale delivers a secure, reliable and industrial strength solution for its customers, which in...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists will examine how DevOps helps to meet th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that A&I Solutions has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 1999, A&I Solutions is a leading information technology (IT) software and services provider focusing on best-in-class enterprise solutions. By partnering with industry leaders in technology, A&I assures customers high performance levels across all IT environments including: mai...
Every successful software product evolves from an idea to an enterprise system. Notably, the same way is passed by the product owner's company. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev, will provide a generalized overview of the evolution of a software product, the product owner, the needs that arise at various stages of this process, and the value brought by a software development partner to the product owner as a response to these needs.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tappest will exhibit MooseFS at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MooseFS is a breakthrough concept in the storage industry. It allows you to secure stored data with either duplication or erasure coding using any server. The newest – 4.0 version of the software enables users to maintain the redundancy level with even 50% less hard drive space required. The software func...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software in the hope of capturing value in IoT. Although IoT is relatively new in the market, it has already gone through many promotional terms such as IoE, IoX, SDX, Edge/Fog, Mist Compute, etc. Ultimately, irrespective of the name, it is about deriving value from independent software assets participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution.
SYS-CON Events announced today that EARP will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "We are a software house, so we perfectly understand challenges that other software houses face in their projects. We can augment a team, that will work with the same standards and processes as our partners' internal teams. Our teams will deliver the same quality within the required time and budget just as our partn...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).