I attended the panel discussion entitled “The Open Source Promise” at Red Herring Spring 2007 yesterday. Here are the aspects I found most interesting:
Marriage of SaaS and Open Source
Most of the panelists do a mixture of traditional Open Source model (software + services) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Seems like this becomes the mainstream business model for Open Source products that are useful for end users/consumers. At Mindquarry, we’ll offer a hosted solution of our Open Source product as well.
Ranga Rangachari (Groundwork Open Source) sees a general move away from the typical use of self-hosted Open Source software within enterprises towards SaaS.
Bill Soward (Adaptive Planning) described that there’s a successful path for lead generation from those who download and try out the freely available Open Source product and then simply buy a subscription for the SaaS offering to use it in production.
Bob Walters (Untangle) made a highly interesting general comment on the “marriage of Open Source and SaaS”: The central issue here is that e.g. a (the?) major SaaS provider, Google, made several great improvements to the Linux kernel but does not give them back to the community. Here, SaaS works against the community spirit of Open Source. GPL v3 is supposed to help avoid this issue.
Community is your main business
Bob Walters made a good point in saying if you miss attracting a developers community, you miss 75% of your business.
Linux will win the mobile market
Dells recent announcement to ship their computers packaged with Ubuntu lead to the question of Linux on the desktop. Michael Sikorsky (Cambrian House Inc.) stated that Linux will definitely win the mobile market, even if it won’t make it on the desktop.
How to provide support for all Linux distributions
Mike Guiterman (SourceFire, the company behind Snort) made a general comment on what the diversity of available Linux distributions means to his Open Source company: They make sure that their product supports the main distributions and have the community provide solutions and services for all other.