Today, Nikolay Harutyunyan presented some of our work on openKONSEQUENZ, a user-led open source consortium that develops software for local energy distributors. Below, please watch the talk (local copy); the talk is based on the same-name research paper.
Companies without expertise in software development can opt to form consortia to develop open source software to meet their needs, as an alternative to the build-or-buy decision. Such user-led foundations are little understood, due to a limited number of published examples. In particular, almost nothing is known about the ecosystems surrounding user-led foundations. Our work seeks to address this gap, through an exploratory qualitative survey of openKONSEQUENZ, from the German energy sector. We find that the technological goals are quite homogeneous, independent of a participant’s role in the ecosystem, but that economic conflicts exist between foundation members and supplier companies due to the consortium’s efforts to transform the software market structure to limit dependency on specific vendors.Continue reading “The Ecosystem of openKONSEQUENZ, a User-Led Open Source Foundation (OSS 2020 Paper)”
Abstract: When companies opt to open source their software, they may choose to offer the project to an open source foundation. Donating the software to an open source foundation offers a number of advantages, such as access to the foundation’s existing tools and project management. However, in donating the software, the company relinquishes control of the software and grants other foundation members—including competitors—the same rights to the software. Using a multiple-case study research approach, this paper examines how foundations manage conflicts of interest in the open sourcing donation scenario. We find that foundations primarily use a set of well-defined mechanisms to prevent such conflicts from arising, and that the use of these mechanisms can depend on the foundation type.
Keywords: Open source foundations, sponsored open source, commercial open source, open source software, conflicts of interest
Reference: Weikert, F., Riehle, D., & Barcomb, A. (2019). Managing Commercial Conflicts of Interest in Open Source Foundations. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Software Business (ICSOB 2019). Springer Verlag, pp. 130-144.
The paper is available as a PDF file.
I’m very much interested in the governance of open source projects, in particular if these are user-led projects. With this post, I’m proposing a basic terminology to talk about the formal organizational structure underlying the governance of such open source projects.Continue reading “A Simple Model of the Organizational Support of Open Source Projects”
The most important long-term trend, and my number #3 for the foreseeable future, is the sponsorship and management of open source software development by users, not vendors. The trend towards ubiquitous digitalization is leading users of software to take their software fate into their own hands, establishing informal communities or incorporating as non-profit user consortia to manage the development of the software they need. The Eclipse Foundation has been picking up this trend, supporting it with what they call Industry Working Groups; the Linux Foundation is also supporting this. Open source like this will not remove the need for commercial support, but it will reduce the effects of vendor lock-in, because products that are built on community open source can be switched more easily. Continue reading “My Top Three Trends for Open Source in 2019 (3/3)”
We are researching the governance of open source software foundations. We are specifically interested in what we call open source user consortia, that is, open source foundations where the users of the software are in the driver’s seat.
An open source software user consortium is a non-profit organization (foundation, consortium, working group) created for the purpose of funding and managing the development of non-differentiating open source software made available to foundation members and the general public. Its purpose is to establish a software ecosystem in which vendors and suppliers can provide products and services on an equal playing field to the software user companies. User companies are everyone who needs software and who is not a software company.
We are currently sampling what’s out there (and there is plenty, see recent prior posts on the topic). Examples are the Kuali Foundation or the openKONSEQUENZ consortium or the OpenMDM working group. For sampling, we want to understand the differences between these organizations.
Consulting company PTA reports about its development of open source software for the German energy software user consortium openKONSEQUENZ, which sponsors and manages the development of open source software for the energy sector. The Netzpraxis article start out with:
Auf der openKONSEQUENZ-Plattform steht seit kurzem Unternehmen der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft das Modul »Betriebstagebuch« zur Verfügung. Da es sich bei penKONSEQUENZ um eine Genossenschaft i.G. und beim Betriebstagebuch um eine Open-Source-Lösung handelt, können es Netzbetreiber und andere interessierte Unternehmen kostenlos nutzen.
Read the full article (available as PDF).
tl;dr: Existing foundations need a new kind of incubator to capture budding user consortia.
An open source user consortium is a consortium of companies who sponsor, steer, and possibly also develop open source software for their own use rather than as part of software products they sell. As explained previously, this phenomenon may not be widely understood yet, but the opportunity is large. The user consortia and their members stand to benefit, and so do those existing open source foundations that are able to capture this thrust and prevent the creation of separate consortia but rather manage to integrate these interests with their own governance structure.
tl;dr: The scope of the opportunity at hand is large, much larger than today’s impact of open source.
The software industry is large; all other industries together that need software are larger. Much larger.
Today’s open source software is mostly serving the needs of software vendors. When you look at the projects guided by the ASF, the EF, or the LF, you’ll see a lot of infrastructure, technology, and utility components for the software industry. There are not a lot of components for application domains, be it banking, energy, logistics, or agriculture.