Shimel's 10 Commandments For Open Core

There has been much debate over Open Core and Commercial Open Source. Here are my 10 Commandments:

There has been a lot of discussion recently over so called "open core" business models.  Many people don't like the term, but the underlying principles whether called commercial open source, open core or something else are still valid.  Here are my 10 Commandments for a successful open core / commercial open source business:

  1. Do not hide behind open source. Acknowledge the commercial nature of your company and the fact that the commercial version or commercial functionality is not open source and is not free. Be upfront about what is open and what is not.

  2. Do not put out a “crippled” open source version that is either too hard or otherwise unable to be used. Your open source version should be useable and offer functionality that allows users to actually use the software and gain value from it.

  3. Do not stifle innovation and code contribution from the community. Innovation and code development is the life blood of open source projects. Do not stifle or otherwise discourage code contribution from 3rd parties

  4. Do not claim the IP for code not developed by you. You may have to buy it or otherwise license it to include in your commercial version, but claiming or taking other peoples IP without permission is wrong.

  5. There is nothing evil or wrong about a “commercial open source” model. Be open to your customers and the market in general. People realize that you are entitled to profit from your work.

  6. A support model alone is not going to be enough to support most open source business models. Therefore some sort of dual license or open core model is a necessity. Purists who argue that open source companies can make a go of it by offering support are just wrong and please don't use Red Hat as the poster child, they offer software for sale as well.

  7. Do not allow your commercial version to drift ever further apart from the open source version. Over time, make sure that your open source version stays on some sort of equilibrium with the commercial version. Allowing the commercial version to continue to accelerate while the open source version has no new releases is forbidden. You may introduce a new GUI in the commercial version, but your open source version should catch up to it in a not too later release.

  8. Make your licenses clear and easy. Use an OSI approved license for the open source version or parts of your product. Make your commercial license easy to understand and follow. And make sure it is clear which code is licensed under each.

  9. Do not abandon your open source roots. Being seduced by the profits of commercial software is tempting. But you cannot abandon your open source versions, users and community

  10. Never lose the open source spirit – It is great to have a successful company, but remember the goose that lays the golden eggs are the open source communities who support these products. They are not just developers, but users, consumers and even the lurker’s.

Now go forth, be fruitful, multiply and all that ;-)

Do you think I left anything out? What would your 11th Commandment be?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.