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The commercial open source failure

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This post was also published in BusinessWeek. So what happened to open source as a business? There was a wave of “commercial open source” companies that were going to change the world, including SugarCRM, Alfresco, Jasper, Pentaho, and ActiveGrid, a company I started in 2003 to bring open source software into businesses. Each of these companies were going to lower costs with the open source business model and displace existing vendors in categories such as CRM, Document Management, Reporting, and Business Intelligence.

It’s been over six years, and no commercial open source companies other than Red Hat, MySQL, and JBoss have had liquidity events. So what happened? Oracle and IBM, which derive the vast majority of their software revenue from proprietary software, have an increasing share of the software market. And there’s a bunch of commercial open source companies still trudging along.

1. The only successful open source companies sell commodities. Linux, MySQL, and JBoss are the only …