Translation (to German) of Interview on Open Source in the Public Sector

I recently was interviewed about open source in the public sector and blogged my answers here:

t3n magazin now (liberally) translated these to German. Check it out: Ich denke, dass Software mit offenem Quelltext längst gewonnen hat. (local copy).

Free-to-Use, Unless You Are a Cloud Provider (The New Strategy?)

On the heels of my talk about the current licensing challenges to single-vendor open source firms, I want to discuss the resulting strategy for vendors selling to developers.

Single-vendor open source firms go to market by providing software they developed to the world under an open source license. The goal is to create a large non-paying user base, from which customers are acquired using a variety of incentives. One type of single-vendor open source projects are application component projects like MongoDB (a NoSQL database) or Confluent Platform (a stream processing platform based on Apache Kafka). It is these types of companies which ran into licensing problems.

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Why Now? And Who? The Struggle Over Single-Vendor / Open-Core Licensing

In yesterday’s talk I reviewed the current licensing struggle of single-vendor open source firms. Single-vendor open source firms go to market by providing software they developed for free, under an open source license, while also offering a commercially licensed version of this software, possibly with extensions and services that customers may want to pay for. Because of the open source version of this software, large cloud vendors can compete with the original vendor for running this software as a service. They did this so well that some single-vendor firms decided to change their future licensing to a proprietary license to stall the competition, irking the open source community and creating a backlash on many sides.

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Single-Vendor Open Source at the Crossroads (Slides) #lfosls

I’ll be giving a presentation on single-vendor open source today at the Linux Foundation Open Source Leadership Summit 2019.

Abstract: Most venture capital funding in open source flows to single-vendor open source firms. With the struggles over licensing in the cloud, these companies find themselves at the crossroads: Stay true to open source or move to proprietary licenses, abandoning the goodwill and opportunities that come with open source? In this talk I will review how this business model works, discuss the challenges posed to vendors by large cloud providers, and review the options on the table.

If you liked the slides, you might like the paper as well.

Next up: Why now? And who? The struggle over single-vendor / open-core licensing.

The Importance of Product Management

Another role or function that is often confusing to Germany high-tech companies is product management. Startups tend to get it right these days, but large organizations often remain unfazed by a lack of strong product management.

A product manager is responsible for defining the product innovation and associated business plan (strategic product management) as well as working out features to a level of detail (technical product management) so that they can be passed on to engineering. As the saying goes,

A product manager is responsible for building the right product, while an engineering manager is responsible for building the product right.

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Too Many Points of Failure (at Theranos)

I just finished reading John Carreyrou’s book Bad Blood, which presents the story of the rise and fall of one-time Silicon Valley unicorn Theranos through his eyes as the journalist who broke the story. In case you missed it: Theranos was a healthcare company promising to sell a machine that could perform quickly and reliably a large number of blood tests needed by medical doctors to aid their patient care. The hitch: The technology never worked and Theranos managed to hide this from investors and the public for a long time.

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Why Open Source is Good for Your Economy

Today, at FOSSC 2019 in Muscat, Oman, I gave a talk about the benefits of sponsoring open source software development to about anyone who isn’t the software vendor whose product is getting replaced by that open source software. These are the slides. I will be repeating the same message at the German Forschungsgipfel in March. Also, here is a slideshare version:

Stock Options Case in Software Product Management Course at @UniFAU

Software product management by case is a college-level course that I created for teaching product management to computer science students. Using the case method, it helps students understand complex real-life situations in product management as well as the strategies and methods used to deal with them.

Some cases are not about product management, though. An example is our case about stock options. Using the IPO situation of one of the dotcom bubble darlings, Caldera Systems Inc, the case helps students understand employee incentive systems and stock options. We were fortunate enough this time to have Stefan Probst in class, who ran Caldera’s German subsidiary.

Stefan answered students’ questions after we finished the case analysis and shared war stories of the dotcom bubble days. Thank you, Stefan, for teaching us!

Shouldn’t a Public Government Stay Out of The Software Market? 4/4

This is the last of four questions posed to me by a journalist about open source and the public sector. The original question was: If a government develops open source software, it becomes a vendor of that software. Shouldn’t a public government stay out of such business?

A public government that develops or sponsors the development of open source software does not automatically become a vendor of that software. Development or sponsorship only means that public funds are converted into software under an open source license. I would not advocate that a public government start providing services to a market for that software. It should leave the provision of such services to for-profit companies! If the open source software is any good and meets user needs, such businesses will spring up soon and there will not be a need by any government to provide commercial services.

What a public government can and should do is to investigate unserved needs and sponsor the initial development of software to meet those needs. Making such initial development open source means that any company can now build a business on top of the software and compete for customers. Using an open source license is an effective way of acting in the public interest without unfairly benefitting any one particular company. Sometimes such initial investment is necessary to get over the investment hump that keeps companies from servicing the unmet needs.

Start over with the first question: Should the public sector use open source software?