- Commercial open source applications
Open source software is widely used for private and non-commercial applications. In addition, many independent software vendors (ISVs), value-added resellers (VARs), and hardware vendors (OEMs or ODMs) use open source frameworks, modules, and libraries inside their proprietary, for-profit products and services. From the customer's perspective, the ability to use open source technology under standard commercial terms and support is valuable. Customers are willing to pay for the legal protection (e.g., indemnification from intellectual property infringement) and "high-touch" support/training/consulting that are typical of commercial software with the innovation and independence that comes with open source.
Since GNU and some other open source licenses stipulate that derived works must distribute their intellectual property under an open source (copyleft) license, ISVs and VARs have developed legal and technical mechanisms to foster their commercial goals:
- A dual-license model, where a code base is published under a traditional open source license and a commercial license simultaneously. Vendors typically charge a perpetual license fee for additional closed-source features, supplementary documentation, testing, and quality, as well as intellectual property indemnification to protect the purchaser from legal liability.
- Functional encapsulation, where an open source framework or library is installed on a user's computer separately from the commercial product, and the commercial product uses the open source functionality in an "arm's length" way (under the argument that the commercial product was shipped without the open source library, even though it uses it). Vendors typically charge a perpetual license fee for the functionality that they provide under closed source, as they usually don't provide services or other direct value for the open source elements.
- A software as a service model, under the argument that the vendor is charging for the services, not the software itself (because the software is never shipped to customers or installed on their computers). Vendors typically charge a monthly subscription fee for use of their hosted applications.
- Not charging for the software, but only for the support, training, and consulting services that assist users of the open source software. Vendors typically charge an annual fee for support, per-student fees for training, and per-project fees for consulting engagements.
- Charging for the software as part of an information appliance or other hardware device. In this model, the software (e.g., development libraries, administrative tools, or example applications) is delivered as part of a proprietary chip, subsystem, or hardware solution with the binaries pre-installed (sometimes burned into firmware) while the source tree is posted on Sourceforge or other public open-source repository.
- Freemium Model, making a basic version of the software available for free and charging for premium features, or applications
The underlying objective of these business models is to harness the size and international scope of the open source community (typically more than an order of magnitude larger than what would be achieved with closed-source models) for a sustainable commercial venture. The vast majority of commercial open source companies experience a conversion ratio (as measured by the percentage of downloaders who buy something) well below 1%, so low-cost and highly-scalable marketing and sales functions are key to these firms' profitability.
There is considerable debate about whether vendors can make a sustainable business from an open source strategy. In terms of a traditional software company, this is probably the wrong question to ask. Looking at the landscape of open source applications, many of the larger ones are sponsored (and largely written) by system companies such as IBM who may not have an objective of software license revenues. Other software companies, such as Oracle and Google, have sponsored or delivered significant open source code bases. These firms' motivation tends to be more strategic, in the sense that they are trying to change the rules of a marketplace and reduce the influence of vendors such as Microsoft. In the case of smaller vendors doing open source work, their objectives may be less "immediate revenue growth" and more "developing a large and loyal community," which may be the basis of a corporate valuation at merger time.
Except for Red Hat and VA Software, no other pure open source company has gone public on the major stock markets. However, two firms on the list below may go public by 2012. The remainder are likely to be acquired, as is the norm for all pre-public software companies.
List of commercial open source applications and services
The purpose of this table is to provide reference information about the provenance and history of commercial open source applications. It is not to be used or interpreted as an advertisement for the vendors.
Product or Service Name
(business models used)
Commercial Vendor Description Current Version Open Source
Ver 1.0 Date AdverTool (3,4) AdverTool Advertising campaign management 1.1 Advertisement tool 2010 Abiquo (1,3,4) Abiquo Cloud management 1.6 Abiquo 2008 Avactis (1,3,4) Avactis eCommerce software 2.0 Avactis Shopping Cart 2001 Birt_Project (2) Actuate Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools 2.1.3 BIRT Exchange
2005 Alfresco (1,3,4) Alfresco Enterprise Content Management, Web Content Management 2.2 Alfresco 2006 OpenQuote (4) Applied Industrial Logic Online Insurance Quotation solution 1.3 OpenQuote Community 2011 AppStacks (3) AppStacks AppStacks Open Source application suites leveraging workflow, websites. 2.0 AppStacks 2010 OpenClinica (1,3) Akaza Research Clinical Trials Software for Electronic Data Capture (EDC) and Clinical Data Management (CDM) 3.0.4 OpenClinica 2005 OpenSearchServer (1,4) OpenSearchServer Enterprise Search 1.2 OpenSearchServer 2009 Bacula (1,3,4) Bacula Data Backup / Recovery 2.7 Bacula ? Bonita Open Solution (1,4) BonitaSoft Business Process Management Suite 5,3 Bonita Open Solution 2001 Ubuntu (1) Canonical Ltd Server and client Linux distribution 10.10 Ubuntu 2004 CSI TriSano (1,3) Collaborative Software Initiative Globalized Surveillance, Case Management and Outbreak Management for disease, bioterrorism and environmental hazards 2.5 TriSano 2009 Compiere (1,3,4) Compiere ERP and CRM 2.6.1 Compiere 2000? ProjeLead (1,4) Pragmatis Consulting Project Management / Project Collaboration 2.0 ProjeLead 2009 Open Workbench (1,4) Computer Associates Project Management / Governance Tools 1.1.4 Open Workbench 2004 db4o (1,4) db4o ODBMS 6.0 db4o ? Entrance (1) dbEntrance Software SQL-based data exploration tool 1.3.34 Entrance Community 2007 EyeOS (1,3,4) EyeOS Cloud computing operating system 2.1beta EyeOS 2007 Asterisk (1,4) Digium PBX server / Telephony toolkit 220.127.116.11 Asterisk 2004 Funambol Server (1,4) Funambol Mobile Email and PIM Synchronization 6.0 Funambol
2001 GAIUS: Generic Automated Integrated Universal System Imtech Machine Automation and Machine Supervisor, advanced SCADA 2.0
2010 Poseidon for UML (1) Gentleware Software Modeling Tool 6.0 ArgoUML 1998 Lotus Symphony (1,4) IBM Office Productivity Suite Eclipse,
2007 Rational Application Developer (1,4) IBM Software Development Tools Eclipse 2002? Websphere (1,4) IBM Web Server, Application Server, Middleware Apache 2002? Hyperic HQ SpringSource Application & System Monitoring 4.6 Hyperic Application & System Monitoring ? ITCOCKPIT (4) GmbH Proactive System- and Networkmonitoring Solution with SLA-, End-2-End- and Business Process Monitoring 3.0 ITCOCKPIT 2005 Ingres Database (1) Ingres RDBMS 9.3 Ingres ? Intalio BPMS (1,4) Intalio Business Process Management - Workflow 5.2 Eclipse, Intalio ? Snare (1,4) InterSect Alliance Log collection and analysis 4.0 Snare 2001 Jaspersoft Business Intelligence Suite (1) JasperSoft Reporting, Dashboards, Analysis, Data Integration; End to End BI solution 3.7 JasperForge 1996 Palo Business Intelligence Suite (1,3,4) Jedox AG Palo is a Open-Source BI solution for Corporate Performance Management and OLAP-based Planning, Analysis, Consolidation and Reporting. 3.0 Jedox AG 2002 Jitterbit Integration Server (1,4) Jitterbit Application Integration 1.3 Jitterbit 2006? Jumper 2.0 (4) Jumper Networks Universal search tool powered by enterprise social bookmarking 18.104.22.168 Project Jumper 2008 Kaltura (1,3) Video Platform Video and rich media management platform and applications 4.0 Kaltura 2006 KnowledgeTree (1,3,4) KnowledgeTree Document and Records Management System 3.4 KnowledgeTree 2004 Liferay Portal (4) Liferay Enterprise web portal 5.0.1 Liferay Portal 2000? LogicalDOC (1,3,4) Logical Objects Srl Document Management System 6.1 LogicalDOC Document Management - DMS 2004 LucidWorks (4) Lucid Imagination Open Source Search Platform Apache Lucene / Solr 2010 LogLogic 1 LogLogic Lasso collect Windows event logs 4.0.0 Project Lasso 2006 Magento Enterprise (?) Magento eCommerce 1.7 Magento 2008 Mendix Agile Business Platform (?) Mendix agile application lifecycle management PaaS 3.0 Mendix 2005 ManyDesigns Portofino (1) ManyDesigns Web framework 3.1.10 Portofino 2009 Mule (1,4) MuleSoft Enterprise Service Bus and Integration Platform 1.4 Mule 2003 Mono (1) Novell Open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET application framework 2.4 Mono ? MobileReflex (?) MobileReflex Enterprise Mobile Applications ? MobileReflex ? SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (4) Novell Enterprise server and client Linux distribution 11.1 OpenSUSE ? Openbravo (4) Openbravo ERP 2.33 Openbravo ERP 2001 OrangeHRM OrangeHRM HR Management 2.6.6 Orange HRM 2006 Open CASCADE Technology (1,4) Open Cascade SAS Software library for 3D CAD / CAM / CAE applications 6.4 Open CASCADE Technology 1999 Berkeley DB (?) Oracle DBMS engines 4.6, 3.2, 2.3 Berkeley DB, Java edition, XML edition
(Java, Ruby, Perl, PHP, etc.)
6.9 NetBeans 2000 Java Enterprise System (1,4) Sun Microsystems Application Server, Middleware, LDAP, etc. 5 Java 2003? MySQL Enterprise (1,4) Sun Microsystems RDBMS 5.0 MySQL Community 1995 Solaris (1,4) Sun Microsystems Operating System 10 OpenSolaris 2005? StarOffice (4) Sun Microsystems Office Productivity Suite 8.0 OpenOffice.org 2000 Sun Studio (1,4) Sun Microsystems Software Development Tools for C, C++ 8.1 NetBeans 2000 Talend Open Studio (4) Talend Data Integration 3.2.3 Talendforge 2006 Talend Open Profiler (4) Talend Data Profiling, Data Quality 3.2.3 Talendforge 2008 Tasktop (1,2) Tasktop Task-focused interface 1.6 Mylyn 2008 Terracotta Terracotta JVM level clustering 2.7 Terracotta ? Cruise Control Enterprise (4) ThoughtWorks Software Development Tools 1.0 CruiseControl 2007 RubyWorks (1,4) ThoughtWorks Software Development Tools /
1.0 Several 2007 blee(p) (1) Transverse Telecom Billing Support System 1.0 blee(p) 2009 Qt (1) Trolltech GUI development toolkit 4.4 Qt ? Untangle (1) Untangle Network Gateway Platform 8.0 Untangle 2007 UseResponse (1) USWebStyle Self-hosted Customer Support Software 1.0 UseResponse 2011 Vyatta (1,4) Vyatta Router, firewall, VPN VC3 Vyatta Community 2006 XAware (1,4) XAware Data Integration, Composite Data Services 5.4 XAware Forge 2000 Zarafa (1,3,4) Zarafa Email and calendaring solution 6.40 Zarafa opensource edition 2005 Zend Core / Platform(1,4) Zend Commercialized version of PHP language, infrastructure 3.6 Vyatta Community 2002? Zenoss (2) Zenoss Application, Network, and Systems Management 2.3 Zenoss Core 2006 Zimbra (1,3,4) Zimbra Enterprise Email Messaging and Collaboration 5.0.16 Zimbra Open Source Edition 2004 Zmanda Zmanda File / dbms backup and recovery 2.6.1 Zmanda Community Edition ? Zope (3,4) Zope Content management system and web portal 2.10.5 zope.org ?
- Business models for open source software
- Commercial open source software
- Open Source Development Labs
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