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Will Companies Cut Open Source Investment Because Of COVID-19?


A lightly edited transcript of our interview with Rob Hirschfeld, Founder and CEO of RackN, a company that automates and integrates bare-metal infrastructure.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What impact do you think COVID-19 will have on the sustainability of open source?

Rob Hirschfeld: I would like to hear what the broad open source community has to say about it, but one thing I do know is that a lot of open-source projects are maintained by companies that aren’t their core profit items. And when you look at a retraction or a recession, where companies are looking for places to cut costs, one of the places that they’re going to look to first are places where they don’t have a profit motive. There’s no revenue from those capabilities.

The idea that big companies are maintaining open-source projects for the community good is going to get tested, as companies look for places where they can conserve revenue. I think that’s a really critical thing.

The same is going to be true with open-source startups that are hoping to monetize support or consulting but have no real gate across the front of their infrastructure. So, companies might decide they can use the open-source project and not pay the sustaining engineers that are working in that project. These are really serious concerns about the whole open-source model, which relies on the goodwill and free money.