SpringSource, a division of VMware, recently announced its intent to shift development of the SpringSource dm Server project to the Eclipse Foundation.

In analyzing the announcement, The 451 Group’s Matt Aslett wrote:

“The move to the EPL appears to be motivated by a decision that there is more to gain by encouraging wider doption of OSGi approaches through more permissive licensing and collaborative community development.”

Prior to the announcement, SpringSource offered dm Server under the GPL and a commercial license.  SpringSource now intends to shift from the GPL to the Eclipse Public Licensed (EPL) and no longer offer a commercial license.  SpringSource will offer a support subscription for dm Server instead of attempting to monetize usage through a commercial license.

I was quite surprised to hear about this business model change.  While the support subscription business model has been en vogue since the open source vendor movement began, there has been a dramatic shift towards the open core business model.  The adoption of an open core business model is predicated on the belief that revenue potential is optimized through the sale of commercially licensed products.  I remain convinced that support is not a scalable business model and does not address the issue of customers reverting into free users.  The largest and best known open source vendors have shifted away from support subscriptions to variations of an open core business model.  However, Matt used data from VC investments in open source companies to suggest:

“….that we may be starting to see a return to support and other services, rather than commercial code and licensing, as the preferred mode to monetize open source.”

Is SpringSource an example of a vendor returning to support and other services to monetize open source?  On the surface, yes.  However, I think the dm Server licensing and support changes represent a small piece of a larger vision.  When VMware announced the SpringSource acquisition, delivering and monetizing a cloud platform was a key component of their vision.  It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that VMware is attempting to drive dm Server adoption through the Eclipse Foundation and monetize the adoption when operations team want to deploy dm Server applications on Cloud infrastructure.  The dm Server support subscriptions are a stop gap until VMware can build out their Cloud offerings and dm Server adoption increases.  This is a perfectly valid strategy, especially when considering the interest in cloud computing and open source.  However, it’s not a proof point against the open core business model.

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