8. Summary

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The deliberate simplification of the diagrams shown on these pages show something important. If you reduce the workings of a proprietary software company and an professional open source company down to the fewest number of lines and bubbles it shows fundamental differences between the two.

By comparing the three diagrams you can see that the POSS model is a perfect combination of an open source project and a proprietary software vendor. I use 'perfect' in the mathematical sense: there is nothing left out and there is nothing in addition to the two other models.

Some people assume that the POSS model is flawed because the POSS company does not have direct control over its resources. This is not true with the POSS model used by Pentaho, MySQL etc. The only resource we cannot directly influence are our community who perform software-oriented roles for us at a scale and capacity that is orders of magnitude better than any proprietary organization could do on its own (keep reading). Community members do not participate in the 'Go To Market' program and so are not involved in the creation of the 'whole product' that customers require.

  • Professional open source = open source project + 'whole product' program*

The POSS model is a robust combination of an open source project, a professional open source company backing that project, and a complete Go To Market program. Not only does the model benefit from the advantages of each there are additional benefits for all participants:

  • The open source community benefits directly from the full-time engineering staff that exist because of the fee-paying customers.
  • The customers benefit from the increased quality of the software, quality of design, and increased traction enabled by the open source community.
  • The POSS company benefits by increasing its valuation when it meets the needs of both customers and open source community.
  • The model is powerful because the customers, partners, engineers, and open source communities are all self-motivated to behave in ways that are beneficial to themselves and, as a side effect, beneficial to all the others.

By combining the benefits of the open source and proprietary models the POSS model provides a strong alternative to both:

  Open Source Proprietary POSS
Rate of innovation Higher Lower Higher
Visibility into product design / implementation Higher Lower Higher
Quality of software Higher Lower Higher
Reliability of support Lower Higher Higher
Reliability of roadmap Lower Higher Higher
Ownership of solution Higher Lower Higher
Availability of professional services Lower Higher Higher
Availability of references and case studies Lower Higher Higher
Ability to prototype and 'try before you buy' Higher Lower Higher
Cost of license or subscription None Higher Lower
Ability to customize software Higher Lower Higher

As demonstrated by the Beekeeper diagrams and this table the POSS model, when implemented well, is a ideal combination of the methodologies, principles, and roles from open source and proprietary software development models. By combining these models carefully the advantages of each can also be combined to produce a result that is powerful and compelling.
Open source has been described as the biggest paradigm shift in computing in the last 20 years. I hope that the information I have presented here shows the disruptive nature of open source / POSS is due to the profound and fundamental differences that exist between the proprietary software development model and the open source / POSS models. POSS companies are a lot of fun to work at because of this. I don't know of anyone working in a POSS company today that wants to go back to a proprietary vendor. I know lots of people at proprietary vendors who would like to move out.

The POSS model is sufficiently open source to be disruptive, productive, and fun. Much evidence indicates that it is commercial enough to be sustainable. 

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  1. Apr 24, 2008

    Anonymous says:

    Typo correction:  The open source community benefits from directly from the...

    Typo correction:  The open source community benefits from directly from the full-time engineering staff that exist because of the fee-paying customers.