Is EnterpriseDB an Open Source Company

Sparked by a post mentioned here, there is now a healthy debate going on about whether companies like EnterpriseDB are Open Source or not. Allison is one who says yes, while Matt Asay says no. As usual, CBR has some very good coverage.

I’ve thought about the topic a bit and have come up somewhat in the middle of the two opinions and think a new segment of company may need to be defined. I’d agree with Matt that companies like this are not true 100% Open Source companies. Allision makes a good point when she says the following though:

It seems a bit hypocritical to extoll the greater freedom offered by the BSD license (as its supporters do), and then look askance at companies who use the rights granted to them.

To me it’s clear that companies like EnterpriseDB are also not what I would call true proprietary companies either. Not even close. It’s not just that they base their product on Open Source that makes me feel this way. It’s that they donate to the greater Open Source project they are part of in significant ways. They employee some people full time to work solely on the Open Source code, they donate money and resources and they are a part of that community. While not all of their code is Open Source, they absolutely live and die by their ties and reliance on an Open Source project. Some companies simply extort Open Source for their gain. Those companies to me are in no way Open Source, whether or not they use or support Open Source code. It all comes back to intent here for me.

So, what do we call companies like this? I’m still thinking about that, but I do think that companies that truly benefit the ecosystem they are a part of and really do foster the Open Source project(s) that they work with do deserve a large amount of credit. The distinction between “true” Open Source company and Open Source company is not clear enough. We need a name IMHO. Any ideas?

Whatever you call companies like this, I do think they deserve a shot at being at OSCON.


2 Responses to Is EnterpriseDB an Open Source Company

  1. Anonymous says:

    At EnterpriseDB, we've also been looking for the right name to explain the idea behind our approach. Conceptually, it's similar to the “Intel inside” campaign. How about Open Source Inside? kidding… ;-)
    Another idea we've heard (thanks to Raven Zachary of the 451 group) is “powered by open source.” That starts to get to the idea, but I don't think it's quite clear enough yet for a market-making term.
    For now, our approach is to simply and honestly explain the differences between (a) open source code (we are not), (b) open source-based product (we are), and open source company (we are).
    Come to think of it, perhaps that's it exactly… Open Source-Based…
    Suggestions are welcome!
    Andy Astor, CEO

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the response Andy. I'd agree that “powered by open source.” isn't quite clear enough. “Open Source-Based” is a little bit better, but probably still a bit too nebulous. That being said, I've been tossing this around mentally for a while and I've not come up with anything better. If I do, I'll be sure to post here.

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