Open source is not a business model and even if Fortune 500 companies are consuming the open source, that does not necessarily guarantee compensation. With several notable vendors deciding to change their open-source licenses lately, open-source licensing has been a hot topic. Is it a problem with the licensing being suited for the modern world, though, or a lack of sustainable business models around open source?
In this episode of TFiR: Let’s Talk, Dotan Horovits, Principal Developer Advocate at Logz.io, talks about the key trends in open source and some of the misconceptions around consuming open source. He discusses licensing changes, the impact they can have on organizations, and how organizations can mitigate the risks associated with licensing changes.
Key highlights from this video interview:
- Horovits gives us an overview of the trends he is seeing in open source, talking about open-source relicensing to proprietary such as with TerraForm, and how changes to the terms of services can also have a significant impact. He discusses how source-available licensing and the other flavors that are open-core, make the landscape more complex.
- Many people get confused with the definition of open source thinking that the term free and open source software (FOSS) indicates free of charge or free access to the source code. Horovits clarifies saying that “free” implies the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute the software for any purpose without restrictions or discrimination.
- Horovits discusses how much awareness there is about the right way to consume open source saying it can be challenging for even professionals. He talks about the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) needing to issue responses to Grafana Labs and Elasticsearch over licensing changes and the impact these sorts of changes can have on the open-source community and businesses.
- Having projects that are owned by a vendor-neutral foundation, like Linux Foundation can reduce a lot of the risk compared to those with single maintainers. Other benefits include clear governance around the projects to balance out conflicting interests, promoting transparency, diversity, collaboration, and cross-pollination between projects.
- One of the issues with open source is companies coming up with their own license which is not OSI approved or compatible with other licenses. However, Horovits feels the core issue is that open-source is not a business model so when they build the business around the open source they need to define the business strategy around it to ensure the open source has its own differentiated value.
- Horovits stresses that open-source projects do not necessarily lead to material compensation, even though Fortune 500s may be using the software. Furthermore, it is crucial to have a clear definition if you want to start an open source or to go down the money-earning path.
- Horovits feels that some of the negative trends of open source are part of the community and industry maturing. He emphasizes the need to work on building out sustainable business models around open source. He talks about how this may mean making licensing options more elaborate to accommodate different models.
- Horovits shares his advice for how companies can evaluate projects and decide if they can rely on that project such as looking at the licensing to understand what is behind the open source, and the governance policy around it, managing third-party licensing exposure and doing SBOMs to analyze dependent licensing. He talks about what to do should you need to extend the functionality of the open source.
- License changes can have a significant impact on organizations. Horovits talks about how organizations can mitigate that risk by going with distros and he talks about the benefits, such as the vendor being the legal owner of it, providing support and certification to run on specific hardware setups.
This summary was written by Emily Nicholls.