Open source for charity or profit
May 18th, 2006

A lot is said about open source being good for mankind — with an implication that the good done is at a loss of financial opportunity. In the quotation below, a senior Sun executive says what amounts to the opposite. When you think about it, don’t you suppose open source can be and is often both: it contributes to the general good and creates a ecosystem, as Sunil Joshi aptly puts it, that generates some money?

Open source is a business model, not a charitable contribution to mankind, according to Sunil Joshi, senior vice president of design tools, performance and OpenAccess at Sun Microsystems’ scaleable systems group.

“It’s about making money,” Joshi said. “I think that is often misunderstood.”

Speaking to a group of mostly chip designers at Synopsys Inc.’s 17th Interoperability Forum here Wednesday (May 18), Joshi said that embracing the open source business model requires relinquishing complete control of the open source technology and depending on that technology’s infrastructure to generate revenue.

“If you are building a business, recognizing the importance of open source is very important,” Joshi said. “Openness is not about free everything. It’s about reducing the barriers, but still figuring out a business model to make money in it.”

A key to this strategy, he said, is to enable the community that comes together around an open source technology to take that technology where the community wants it to go.

As a case in point, Joshi referenced Sun’s December 2005 release to open source of its UltraSPARC T1 processor. Everything needed to build an UltraSPARC, including RTL code and models, is available to users who complete a simple licensing agreement through Sun’s Web site.

“The number one question I get asked is, ‘What’s the catch?’ There is no catch,” Joshi said. We don’t make any money directly from this. We make money from the ecosystem around it.”

Thanks Greg

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