Is open source the right road? This is not an easy question. I can relate it to my own experience in that I was in the commercial product business (for 20+ years) with tools and infrastructure so I fully understand the challenges and questions of making something and having it succeed as a commercial product. On the commercial road there is the huge up-front investment combined with concerns about small companies delivering crucial infrastructure, marketing costs, long sales cycles and the risk of being eclipsed by open source. On the open source road there are all the business model questions, what is open, what not, under what terms to support a realistic business model.
So this is where we are going and why; As I said, I have had commercial products and was along the way to developing more. It became increasingly obvious how hard that direction would be to sell, fund, market etc. In that we are trying to be part of making an emerging technology pervasive, we also look at the potential for a “big win”, something that really has an impact in the marketplace. So our conclusion was that without (at least) $40 Mil it was a non-starter, even with such funding it is risky. The open source road looks better. The only way what we are doing may become a “happening” in the industry, is open source – if it becomes a happening, we will find the ways to profit from it.
The odd fact that seems to be now proven is that by giving it away it doesn’t mean you can’t also sell it!
So we have done a reversal on “I.P.”, anything we do (or use) we want to be open source so that we have the best chance of being behind something that is pervasive and compelling. We call this “funded open source”, we are not in it for fun and games. The business model includes funded development of assets, related projects to apply the technologies, supported commercial versions, training and “community income” from a (potentially) active community. Of course there are also buyout options. We are not opposed to commercial products at all, and see a lot of opportunity in helping to promote products and services that work with the open source base. Part of what we are trying to build-out is the capability for fully executable models – models that become applications very easily. There seems to be a great opportunity for open source models and both open source and commercial application components built on these models.
Then there is also the business model of commercial licensing – using an open source license that is sufficiently restricted (like GPL) that commercial users must pay. We have not yet done this, but is something we are thinking about – I am interested in peoples thoughts about this.
So this is why we are starting “modeldriven.org“, it is not really active yet because we are just getting to the point of having sufficient open source assets – but we will be announcing some very soon. Modeldriven.org will focus on embracing all things around models – this includes “MDA” (Model Driven Architecture) kind of models and the semantic web. We want open tools, infrastructure and open domain models (with the corresponding executable applications). A lot of this is being funded by the visionaries at GSA (www.osera.gov) like George Thomas and Richard Murphy.
So this is why we are going open source and would be interested in others thoughts.