Big company open source behavior patterns

This post was also published in InfoWorld.

Open source has definitely challenged the business models of existing infrastructure software players. Following is an ontology of different types of big company reactions to open source, and an example of each type of behavior pattern.

Join the Party - IBM

"Join the Party" open source players contribute extensively to existing open source projects, even those that are competing with their proprietary products. IBM has regularly made major contributions to open source technologies that compete with their own products. Examples include IBM's support of Linux, which competes with their AIX UNIX operating system, and Geronimo and PHP, which compete with its WebSphere business. IBM is clearly the most sophisticated large player in the open source space - IBM follows its customers, and if the customers want open source, IBM is going to be the one to deliver it to them, and make money with services along the way.

Run like Hell - Oracle

"Run like Hell" open source players move out of rapidly commoditizing open source areas and into new markets. Oracle knows more than anyone that databases are quickly becoming a commodity. That's why they are moving into applications, snapping up Peoplesoft and Siebel to build marketshare in a growing, high margin business.

Screw with It - SCO, Oracle

"Screw with It" companies inherently dislike open source and do what they can to sabotage it. Some people like to kick puppies that can one day grow into big dogs. Which is why SCO sued IBM over Linux, and Oracle buys little companies that MySQL depends on. None of this will do much, but it makes the folks running the companies feel a little better about their respective declining UNIX and database futures.

We're Open, Too - Sun

"We're Open, Too" players open source their competing proprietary products long after a successful open source project has eclipsed their proprietary alternatives. Sun open sources their products in this way to much fanfare, but not much avail, examples include Solaris vs. Linux, NetBeans vs. Eclipse, SunONE Application Server vs. JBOSS, SPARC vs. x86, etc. This strategy is a stark contrast to the IBM "join the party" strategy, where IBM takes the best of their proprietary products and adds it to existing successful open source project like Linux.

Buy Your Way In - Novell

"Buy Your Way In" players acquire successful open source technologies and attempt to sell and service them through their existing channels. Novell has aggressively acquired open source technologies, including Ximian and SuSe. While their stock has been stagnant, it is not as stagnant as if they had still been selling Netware all along.

Open Source Trashcan - BEA, SAP

"Open Source Trashcan" companies are completely tone-deaf to open source software, regularly state that open source is insecure and not going anywhere, and basically have no open source strategy beyond orphaning failed products into open source, like BEA's Beehive and SAP Database.