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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PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

I’ve been thinking more about the Eclipse Foundation over the past day.  As many have written, getting 33 projects, consisting of 24 million lines of code, to deliver one day is truly impressive.

What’s more impressive is the collaboration across 44 competitors and vendors with their own plans and agendas that was necessary to deliver against the release schedule.

By in large, Eclipse projects are shepherded by employees from one or more vendors whose business are tightly linked to the project.  Each of these vendors across different Eclipse projects have different business targets and customer demands they’re trying to address.  As a theoretical example, the Mylyn project, driven by Tasktop, may have been ready to launch on June 1st with key features that their customer base was looking for, while the PHP Development Tools project, driven by Zend, may have needed a few more days to pull in a whiz-bang feature.  And yet, both projects released on June 24th. (I picked the Mylyn and PHP Development Tools projects because they came to mind first.)

In the commercial software world, or when a single vendor is driving the release schedule of an open source project that they control, cross project release planning is easy, or, at the very least, easier.  Anyone working at a large software company, with different divisions on different schedules will tell you about the fun of lining up releases into a complete and integrated platform.

The Eclipse Foundation deserves the accolades it’s receiving for getting 44 vendors to march in lockstep. Eclipse remains one of the top three examples of meritocratic open source driven by an open community (Apache & Linux being the other two).

And to think, all this started as an IBM Canada project.  Happy early Canada Day (July 1st) ;-)!

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Ian Skerrett just posted 6 Insights from the Eclipse Community Survey.  They’re all very interesting, but Insight #1 is really surprising.  Ian writes: “Insight #1 – Linux is doing really well at the expense of Windows.” Ian bases this on the following data:

It’s long been held that developers build applications on Windows regardless of which operating system the (server side) application will be deployed on.  This Eclipse data suggests a change might be underway.

Is anyone else surprised that nearly half (27 percent vs. 64 percent) as many Eclipse users build applications on Linux as they do on Windows?  Frankly, I’ve worked with more customers whose developers build applications on Mac OS X than on Linux; emphasis on the word “on” vs. “for”.  None the less, this data should definitely get some attention from folks over at Microsoft.

Yes, these results are based on Eclipse users and do not account for the Visual Studio developers who are 100% on Windows.  But let’s say Eclipse and Eclipse based tooling is used by (as little as?) one-third of all enterprise developers, it’s still a large enough audience that Microsoft needs to keep on Windows.  Maybe there is work that Microsoft could do to optimize Eclipse for Windows; much like Microsoft has done with PHP and Windows?

More worrisome (to Microsoft) is the fact that Linux has secured the #1 position for deployment operating systems amongst Eclipse users.  In related news, Sun Solaris/OpenSolaris fared no better, declining from 8% in 2007 to 5.2% in 2009.

My data analysis spidey senses are tingling.  I’d love to have more time with this data! But alas, life calls…

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