The Importance of “Commercial” Open Source

I still get asked the usual questions when i tell people I work for a commercial open source software provider.

“So – how does your company make money?”

“Can ANYONE simply check in code to your solution?”

“Do businesses really buy open source software?”

I take the time to answer these questions fully, since you never know who might be your next customer. But it does surprise me that there is still a lot of fuzziness around open source models. There is especially a lot around SugarCRM’s solution. And I am sure our competitors are not helping matters.

Our VP of marketing Chris Harrick gives a nice explanation in a recent interview on TMCnet here. The most important part of his responses, I believe, is this:

There is a misconception about code contribution with open source. My company, and I’m sure others in the field, are careful what is committed to the code base with an eye forIP rights, code quality, security and scalability. The community involvement occurs around quality feedback, language translations, and product complements and extensions of which there are over 500 today.

Too many people think we have this “out there” code base that anyone can add to or change. Not true. We have a very centrally managed IP – because after all we offer a Commercially-licensed version based on the same code base.

And when it comes down to it – to address the last question above – businesses Don’t Care if a product is open or not – they just want it to work. They want it to fit their businesses with the same flexibility they expect in their human capital. CRM is a living, breathing initiative in any organization, and the software must match that. Lucky for us, by leveraging the open source manufacturing process and lifting artificial limitations on our solutions, we can offer the type of speed, power and control (to the user) that a modern CRM system needs.