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Open Source: just another licensing model

In the end, it's all about lucre

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Let's be clear about this. There are four different reasons for choosing an open source solution. First, because you want to play around with the code; second, because you have ethical concerns over the extent to which proprietary vendors should be allowed to profit from their products; third, because you think the product is better or more suitable for what you want it for than any proprietary equivalent; and fourth, because it is cheaper.

Now, as far as most businesses are concerned, they are not interested in the code and they couldn't give a tinker's cuss about the philosophy. The third point is worth consideration but I don't think you could point to any open source product that was demonstrably better (or equivalent in most cases) than all of its proprietary counterparts. This is not to say, of course, that some of these products are not significant players within their respective markets. They are, but they probably wouldn't be if they weren't cheap.

The bottom line is that open source is all about lucre, filthy or otherwise. In other words, from a business perspective it is just another licensing model. Now, I wrote recently about Microsoft and Linux and I am not going to repeat those arguments. However, what will make a dramatic impact on the market is Computer Associates' recent announcement that Advantage Ingres R3 is to be made available as an open source database.

First, it is important to appreciate what parts of Ingres will be available as open source and what will not. The core product will be, as will replication, the Web deployment option (formerly ICE), the distributed query option, and basic connectivity (but not EDBC). On the other hand, Visual DBA (which will be available as a free download), security and a variety of add-on tools, including OpenRoad, will not. In other words, Ingres will be available as an open source platform but the company hopes to make additional money out of licensing further products that work with Ingres.

How successful will this venture be? To a certain extent this will depend on the support fees that CA decides to charge, which have not yet been finalised. However, assuming that the company pitches these at the right level, then there is no doubt that Ingres will rapidly become the open source database of choice. While the existing vendors in the market have decent enough products, they have nothing like the strength of features and pedigree that CA can offer with Ingres.

Whether or not you agree with this assessment, assume for a moment that this comes to fruition. What will happen? Clearly, the other database vendors will monitor the position and it is likely that a number of them (especially those targeting the SME market, as is CA) will follow suit. Thus we might see the likes of Progress and Pervasive following this model. IBM might also consider the same route for its U2 (UniVerse and Unidata) databases.

It is unlikely to end there. Once the viability of moving from a proprietary to an open source environment has been demonstrated, then the whole space is up for grabs: the big boys will move in to all the areas that have been opened up by open source vendors, and the latter will be crowded out or pushed into market niches. Once that happens we will end up with the same choices we used to have - just a different licensing model.

Copyright © 2004, 0

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