Tag Archives: open source

Can Anyone Get Rich from Open Source?

Open Source Initiative Logo

Can any company make money from Open Source?  The idea of open source work is like charity – it’s a great service for the community, but it won’t make anyone rich like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Larry Ellison.  That thought may be right and wrong.

One example was MySQL. It was not capable of beating, or even competing, with Oracle Database.  However, it was the cheaper (free) solution to run web sites for bloggers (like this one) or SMBs. Since then, Oracle decided to buy MySQL’s Innobase engine because of the large install base. The same with Java which was once touted by Sun Microsystems as the ideal platform for Enterprise open-source language, was acquired by default when the Oracle bought Sun. No doubt, Larry Ellison had a thought that with this many users, there was a potential revenue to be made.

A decade ago, there was a speculation that an open source operating system like Linux is a possible money maker.  Back then, enterprise customers were still mostly invested in Solaris (Sparc) and Windows (x86) OS.  Red Hat was the biggest name in Linux distribution, and they were making money from providing support for it.  Now, IBM saw the Linux adoption kept going up, so it was only logical for IBM to acquire Red Hat, and the growing customer base along with it.

Linux adoption became bigger when Microsoft decided to include Linux as part of Windows 10 distribution, and contributed a large chunk of their code as open source.  The thinking is that contributing to vibrant and open community brings a sort of likeability to giants like Microsoft.  It’s no surprise Microsoft is touted to be a better technology innovator than Apple, Samsung, IBM, or even Google.

Speaking of likeability, or “coolness” factor, another example is Elastic offering a solid product based on Lucene open source search engine. With customers like Uber and SpaceX adopting their (based-on) open source search engine, Elastic is poised to make plenty of revenue.  So much so, they’re gaining competition from Amazon Web Services offering the same solution based on Elasticsearch open source software. The potential revenue is definitely available for the taking.

Can anyone get rich from Open Source?  Absolutely.  As long as there are mass adoptions, rich use cases, growing libraries, and plenty of community experts, open source is now becoming the standard for technology adoption in Enterprise environments.  The most successful companies will succeed in the open source game, only if they can make a compelling product that works really well and be able to support it. The customers are there – just make them happy!

[EDIT 8/1/2019]: Wired has a nice write-up on how companies should take the “moral” ground and mutual benefits when it comes to licensing open source software. My thought this can be tricky because of the old saying: “It’s just business, nothing personal.” Although it’s nice that we expect people to play nice, making money is a dirty business.

Green IT

computer_green-s2There is a big push by every company to go “green”.  The initiative started with the rising energy prices.  Another reason for the effort is to reduce pollution and waste.  Nowadays, it looks like the overall purpose for this push is to improve public relation and corporate image.

IT is certainly the first (and best) place to start for going green.  The savings are easily measurable and the latest technology allows the reduction in expense.

Shared Services

This model works best when a company has divisions around the globe.  A centralized data center, with excellent resources, needs to be chosen to handle the IT needs of the regional offices.   The consolidation includes servers and experienced IT teams.  With one data center, IT will save money by cutting the expenses of maintaining multiple sites.

Professional Open Source

Much of the open source products out there are excellent.  The support of the community made them a valuable source of technology.  The cost of open source software is free to begin with, so comparatively, building a professional version of it will be much less than a proprietary one.  The value in professional open source is in the tech support, which is the main reason a company purchases an Enterprise product.


With increasing CPU power, and decreasing prices for memory and hard drives, building a powerful server is easy and affordable.  Hardware capabilities have now outpaced the software requirements.  Modern operating systems are now able to “virtualize“, or carve out sub-sections, within the same hardware, to multiple software applications.  In a data center environment, the reduction in server hardware will be apparent by cutting power, rack space, and licensing requirements.


Software as a Service (SaaS) is valuable when IT resource is severely limited.  One example is outsourcing a company that does e-mail newsletters.  For a company to run an in-house mail server, it will require a lot of resources.  Running bulk mailing lists through it will burden the infrastructure even more, possibly running the risk of an outage.  Outsourcing the software will also off-load the hardware, as well as the man power to maintain it.

The real benefits are to cut costs, reduce duplications, and streamline processes.    These should be standard operating procedure for every company.  Whether or not these steps are considered “green” is a matter of opinion, but everyone needs a renewed purpose to refocus on saving money.  It’s especially relevant in this slumping economy.  Going green is a great idea – only if it’s implemented efficiently, without much bureaucracy, paperwork, and politics.