A new report from O'Reilly and Instaclustr draws a stark contrast between the advantages of open source flexibility compared to software sold under constrictive open core licenses. Instaclustr, which helps organizations deliver applications at scale by operating and supporting their open source data infrastructure, today announced the findings of The Benefits of Open Source and the Risks of Open Core, a report created by O’Reilly with collaboration from Instaclustr.
The 40-page report delineates the critical – but often misunderstood – differences between open source and open core models. It highlights the distinctive and specific advantages of open source, including global communities that collaborate to continually improve software, transparent communications and open archives, and licenses that guarantee the rights to use, change, and share software. Organizations leveraging fully open source technologies also benefit from the ability to own, port, and utilize their code however they like – and do so regardless of the vendors they work with. Open core, in contrast, mixes open source and proprietary code into what are ultimately proprietary offerings. While open core vendors often lure customers with the promise of both uniquely valuable proprietary features and open source freedoms, this is most often not the case.
Among the key findings from the O’Reilly report:
▪ Open source adopters like the flexibility and freedom as much as the free licensing.
Technology leaders with deep software procurement experience tend to prefer free and open source solutions for several reasons. Open source software enables organizations to avoid vendor and technical lock-in. Building their applications around open standards enables strategic shifts to alternative technologies, as needed, without the need to alter code or change established processes. Technology leaders also find that new staff can often work productively with familiar open source tools from day one, eliminating much of the time-consuming training required with less-known proprietary offerings. Community participation to steer healthy open source projects, adaptability, tool compatibility, and freedom from licensing limitations round out the open source advantages cited in the O’Reilly report.
▪ Customers of open core vendors often take on risks they don’t understand.
In part due to the similarity of the two terms, the report found that many organizations actually have trouble understanding whether they have access to open source or open core solutions. While honest presentations of open core offerings simply amount to a legitimate business model, many open core vendors are not as transparent. For example, open core vendors may draw in customers with fully open source community editions that aren’t actually viable, or suddenly end community edition support in an attempt to force customers into their paid proprietary offerings. Open core licenses then often restrict customers from owning their own code, sealing an intentional trap that captures users with vendor lock-in.
▪ Open core practices have negative long-term impacts on both customers and vendors themselves.
In addition to customers losing out on the open source flexibility and freedom they likely believed they were getting, open core often negatively impacts vendors as well. Open core vendors might begin with good intentions, but fall into their own trap when trying to balance community stewardship and commercial pressures. Those pressures result in incentives that then limit community contributions – especially when vendors fear losing control of their solutions to their more innovative communities.
“When we say open source software is free, that’s not just about the price,” said Peter Lilley, CEO and Co-Founder at Instaclustr. “The freedoms that fully open source technologies provide enterprises amount to transformative advantages for building powerful and versatile technology stacks. Unfortunately, many open core solutions serve as a cautionary tale on what can happen when end users (and even vendors) don’t prioritize freedom, flexibility, and community. The O’Reilly report digs deep to offer comprehensive clarity on the state of open source vis-à-vis open core, and is worth a read in its entirety for any technology leadership team.”
Read the full report here: https://info.instaclustr.com/OReilly_Open_Source_vs_Open_Core.html
Instaclustr helps organizations deliver applications at scale through its platform for open source technologies such as Apache Cassandra®, Apache Kafka®, Apache Spark™, Redis™, OpenSearch™, Apache ZooKeeper™, and PostgreSQL®. Instaclustr combines a complete data infrastructure environment with hands-on technology expertise to ensure ongoing performance and optimization. By removing infrastructure complexity, Instaclustr enables companies to focus internal development and operational resources on building cutting-edge, customer-facing applications at lower cost. Instaclustr customers include some of the largest and most innovative Fortune 500 companies.