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Software as a Service: Speeding up adoption of OSS?

Drupal founder Dries Buytaert and Acquia CEO Tom Erickson believe in SaaS as business model.

By Amy Vernon on Mon, 07/19/10 - 5:31pm.

Whether you want to call it open core or open source or something else entirely, the software as a service business model has been gaining popularity.

Among the companies that have achieved financial success while having open source software at its core is Acquia, co-founded by the original developer of the Drupal Project, Dries Buytaert. I had the opportunity today to chat via phone with Buytaert and Acquia's CEO, Tom Erickson, about Drupal, Acquia's business model and the future of open source.

Right now, Acquia has Drupal Gardens in a private beta, where they hope to "change the way which people will adopt open source," Erickson said. But even in that closed circle, 10,000 new Drupal websites have been created.

The goal is to "lower the barrier to adoption," Buytaert said. It can still be difficult to install Drupal - too many pieces, too much technological knowledge needed. To get open source more firmly embraced by the public, it needs to be simpler.

That's where SaaS comes in, the duo said. Drupal remains a completely open-sourced CMS, but for those who need more help, they can get exactly what they want or need, customized and packaged as one.

Buytaert shrugged off those who might complain of that being an example of "open core" and therefore not open source. First off, "I don't think everything should be open source," he said. "I don't feel offended."

But secondly - and, perhaps, more importantly - all the source code is right there for the plucking. Anyone with the skills and desire to take it all in hand themselves still can.

I'm fascinated by the debate over the business model of open source, but the bottom line is simple: People who spend a significant amount of time developing in open source deserve to be able to put food on their tables at the end of the day. And if they're not the ones who figure out how to make money off it, the commercial providers will be.

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