Open Source has influenced software development in many ways – some almost invisible. In the database arena I can now get very good database software from MySQL, PostGres, Firebird/Interbase, Apache Cloudscape among others for free development and mostly free deployment. But as a developer I also appreciate the fact that I can get for nearly free database and related software from IBM, Oracle, Sybase IAnywhere among other major database vendors. True the deployment will not be for free – but as a developer/consultant I can apprecaite and live with that. Open Source is pressed to the limit to deliver innovation, upgrades, services and support without an ongoing revenue model. With server software alternative revenue models are possible and MySQL and JBoss are the first of many Open Sourcers to pursue those alternative options.
Open Source Inspired Pricing Innovation
Responding to Open Source as well as commercial software competitors, Sun is offering Java Enterprise System which comprises 11 servers from Application through Directory to Instant Messaging and Clustering on Linux, HP-UX, Solaris, or Windows platforms for $100 per employee per year including support services. This is breakthrough pricing which matches and betters the Linux pricing from RedHat and Suse/Novell with equivalent support while providing a much wider application stack. It also leaves HP and Microsoft well behind. And the software is remarkably good and will get notably better after January 30th, 2005 when Solaris 10 is released to the public. Likewise when the new StarOffice 2.0 arrives the Java Desktop System will be a compelling offering with a similar pricing model. But without the pressure from Open Source, I doubt Sun would have come up with such a price for the software and service bundle.
Also on the licensing front, both MySQL and Trolltech now offer dual licensing terms that generally follow this paradigm: development use is free, and software for in-house use is also free; but any software developed for commercial use must be paid for: development, scripting and/or runtime tools. Again, this is a developer friendly pricing model which guarantees that software acceptance testing and development costs/risks are minimized. This is not only attractive to developers but also has to have had an influence on other commercial developers as indicated in our first paragraph.
Support and Upgrades
One of the nice things about upgrades from Open Source is a general (but by no means universal ) commitment to “no software before its time”. And Open Source, unlike commercial software, is not tied into an upgrade cycle and induced revenue streams therefrom – so they are more likely to adhere to the quality commitment. This may help to explain the move of commercial software vendors to subscription models. They get themselves off of a treadmill and onto a more rational upgrade schedule. Or do they ?
The upgrade philosophy of different Open Source vendors are miles apart. Some adhere to a systematic schedule; others to frequent updates pushing out for early test as much software as possible while a third tack is to let user update demands and internal innovation be the guide for major and minor releases. So its not clear that commercial ISVs have an upgade pattern to follow other than Microsoft which is doing security updates and patches so often they have put it on a monthly schedule – hopefully to match the patch turnaround time (but not distribution) that Open Source provides to its user base.
But it is in the arena of support that again the commercial developers may be taking another page from Open Source (but it also could be a general weblog pheneomenon – or both). In any case more commercial vendors are duplicating the type of support weblogs/bulletin board systems that Open Source provides its users with the feature that just as in the case of Open Source there are mentors scanning the message logs, intervening when required to make sure that problems are getting resolved and questions answered more expeditiously. Hopefully this is a sustainable trend.
In sum, Open Source is now for real in a number of software categories from Application Servers through Content Management to Office Suites and Scripting languages. And with Solaris 10 about to go Open Source, the OS space will never be the same – Solaris 10 is that good and cross harware to boot. And with Java Desktop Systems and Java Enterprise Systems, Sun has turned its software operations into a coat of many Open Source colors that really bears watching carefully. Open Source has changed software development, sourcing, and delivery irrevocably. And Sun is way ahead of the curve.