Cloud software is impeding open source software companies from making a profit. Tom Merritt explains the five things you need to know about open source and the cloud.
Open source software has revolutionized how companies work, but cloud software like AWS has been making it harder for open source software companies to make money. When you can get cloud services based on open source software, there's no need to pay a company for the services around that software. Here are five things to know about open source and the cloud.
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- Open source licenses are about keeping code from being locked away. Open source licenses are built on the idea that if you take open source code, you can't make something proprietary with it. This is to make sure that companies share work on the code with everyone else who wishes to use it.
- Support contracts aren't always enough. While Red Hat has built a successful business from support offerings, other companies have found the idea of offering services that run open source software more lucrative. But AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure have eaten into that kind of business.
- Open source licenses didn't imagine the cloud. A cloud service doesn't make a new project with open source code--it just implements it for clients as part of the service. This doesn't violate the license since the idea was that you could build a business by using open source software.
- Some open source software providers are turning to proprietary licenses. MongoDB created the Server Side Public License, which says you can't build a service that competes with the company's MongoDB Atlas software as a service--though they haven't implemented the license. Redis Labs has, in fact, put some modules under a license that restricts what kind of applications can be built with them.
- Going proprietary will cause forks. XFree86 was replaced by X.Org and OpenOffice by LibreOffice. These modules that Redis put under a restrictive license have now been replicated as GoodFORM, starting with the code before Redis changed the license.
In the end, it's about how these companies and the open source community adapts to change. Redis Labs and MongoDB are both healthy, successful companies, but the motivation behind open source changed for them and they had to adapt. As cloud services continue to become huge, it may affect other systems as well. If nothing else, it's interesting to see that open source software principles seem to be holding on during what is a significant test for them.
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