The Importance of the “Commercial” in Open Source…

Matt Asay made some strong comments to a note from a SpringSource commentator in his most recent blog post. The original thought was “How Open Source is Spring?” because so many of the core contributors are employees of Spring.

Matt argues that many commercial open source entities have a very centralized development team, sometimes existing only of employees. In the commercial open source model, the core team develops the code, and the community help test, debug and drive insight and product direction going forward. It’s a model that, so far, has worked very well for SugarCRM.

And I think this is important to note. As so many detractors try to hit our prospects with FUD surrounding the “dangers of open source,” so many go against this model in their messaging. They instead paint Sugar as a product set derived from a few hacks compiling code bits they found on SourceForge. This, as many know, is the furthest thing from the truth.

In the business world, users want – scratch that – need, a few key things when it comes top software. One is top tier support for piece of mind, and more important, they need highly stable, scalable and available software. Commercial open source fits these needs to a T.

Now, what Matt does not point out – at least in the case of SugarCRM – is that the community DOES contribute serious amounts of code in several ways. The most popular in Sugar’s case is – where the community can upload extensions to the centrally created and managed CRM system. Or they can simply consume any of the more than 500 projects up on the site. Also, inside the core product, Module Builder allows users to create brand new extensions, all under GPL v3 code, with ease.

So, while the core product is centrally managed by the Sugar team, there are a lot of creative minds working out there extending Sugar in new and interesting ways. Essentially, Sugar is a platform that has a very strong base, which allows businesses and individuals to use their creativity to run with what we give them to be successful.