Is Open Source Profitable

Open source is everywhere. It is almost unheard of for a developer to start a software project and not consider using open source components in it. In fact, 90% of software projects developed today rely on open source components for, well, pretty much anything. All developers use these incredible pieces of software, freely available online, but rarely think about the developers behind them. Open source developers spend countless hours of their spare time, coding, debugging and documenting, only to get paid exactly $0 for their talent and hard work.

The open source movement has never been more popular. While it’s a great way to build community, there are also some tangible monetary benefits from releasing software as open source.  One company in particular has done so and became a hugely successful and profitable organization in the process. Here’s what you can learn about monetizing your open source projects from them.

There are certainly a wealth of examples of open source solutions that are free. However, we live in a world where money matters, so open source wouldn’t be nearly as popular if there was no money to be made in it. The fact of the matter remains that in order to continue existing, companies need to be profitable.

It’s not always obvious, however, what the value of that is to our customers. The four freedoms of the free software definition which personify open source software – the freedom to use, study, modify and share modified copies of the software – at first glance appear to benefit only participants in open source communities. If you are a customer of a company like Red Hat, does it really matter that you have access to the source code, or that you can share the software with others? Aren’t customers, in some sense, paying us to “just take care of all of that stuff?”

By using and building on open source software, we see an opportunity to offer our customers a better experience, and better value for money. Some aspects of working with open source benefit us directly, and by allowing us to provide better service, benefit our customers indirectly.

First, by engaging with a community of developers, we increase the rate of development: working as a group, we make better software faster than we could working alone. Second, because open source enables wider adoption and distribution of the software we base our products on, we’re able to “punch beyond our weight,” making a bigger impact than otherwise possible. Third, open source software development has been shown to set the benchmark in secure, high quality software.

In addition, users of products built on open source software can benefit directly. You can engage the upstream developer community to influence the future direction of the software, as the NSA did with SELinux. You can start using the software for free, from the open source project, and move to a commercially supported version when you decide it’s time – paying at the point of value, as Simon Phipps has put it.

Open source projects are generally developed within communities of enthusiastic programmers who often voluntarily contribute their time. Still, common sense belies the fact that there would be open source companies, like Red Hat, capable of generating more than $1 billion of revenue by offering free products. So while there are many open source solutions that can be legally obtained and utilized without opening your wallet, there are also a slew of them that cost money.

Businesses also make money off open source products in a variety of other non-traditional ways which we’ll explore later in the article. But before doing that, let’s take a look at why the confusion surrounding the costs associated with open source software exists in the first place.

It’s not “Free”, It’s “Free

According to the Open Source Initiative, “free software” and “open-source software” are interchangeable phrases. It’s just that the word “free,” in this case, doesn’t mean “without cost.” Instead, it has to do with being liberated from the traditional walls of proprietary solutions, as programmers are able to use open-source code as a foundation upon which to build.

That’s one of the primary allures of open source technology: rather than having to invest countless hours into building code from the ground up, programmers are able to collaborate and build it together, or at the very least, use someone else’s code as a starting point for their project that will then also be released back into the open-source community.

In these kinds of environments, code is reviewed and edited regularly so as to ensure its best iteration.

Many open source projects like OpenStack have a diversity of companies who offer services and support for them, giving you the freedom to choose a different supplier if you are unhappy with the service you are getting from your current supplier. In addition, if your supplier loses interest in a project you have come to depend on, the community may well decide to fork the project, and provide you with a compatible alternative – as happened with both LibreOffice and MariaDB. Open source is the ultimate in code escrow.

While the first-order freedoms you have as a user of open source might, at first glance, appear useful only to community activists and developers, the second-order benefits which you get by being able to see and participate in the development process, by having an open market for vendors offering support and productization of the same source code, are clear benefits to all users of the software, whether you have ever looked at a line of source code or not.

Therefore, the answer to this question is that yes, you can make money with open source, but the process involves much more than just publishing code. There are a lot of people who have managed to make their living entirely off of open source work, so it’s certainly possible. But it takes a combination of knowing your audience, understanding the market and doing something differently from what everyone else is doing. This blog post should help you along the path towards successfully making money with open source software.

Conclusion

As you can see, the notion that open-source software won’t cost you a cent is simply not true. It very well might be free in some cases, but money makes the world go-’round, and people, for the most part, do not work for free. Above are just a few ways that open source companies generate revenue, despite the misconception that open source is equivalent to cost-free.

Open source is a viable way of doing business, and it’s an option that many companies and individuals are taking advantage of. It can be profitable, and those who hold the rights to their software are set up for success. Open source offers several advantages when compared to proprietary software, thus making it a good place for businesses to start. When used correctly, open source software can reduce costs and offer a wide audience, thereby boosting profits and expanding reach.

0 Comments

No Comment.