Concursive Corporation

  • Norfolk, VA
  • 23510

Why pay for a commercial open source license when there's a free version?

Posted by Dave Richards on June 9, 2009 9:30 PM EDT
Dave Richards photo

The OSI edition of Connect is great for certain uses... not all 

A question many have for us is  "why would someone pay for a commercial version of Concourse Connect when there is an OSI-licensed, source code version of the product you can download for free?"  A great question.  The answer is, it depends upon who you are, what you're doing, and why you're doing it.

If you're implementing a community or collaboration environment where (a) it's not mission critical, (b) you have enough in-house (or contracted) technical staff trained on Java / Linux / PostgreSQL... (c) it doesn't need to scale or require high availability, (d) there are modest data "manageability" requirements, (e) you're not overly worried about IP issues as it relates to connecting to a "viral" OSI license, and (f) you're highly cost conscious, then the OSI license can be great for you. And that profile fits A LOT of implementations.  If some number of these do not align with your particular situation, then you should consider the commercial option.

The commercial version of Connect should be considered when:

More mission critical:  We don't (really, we can't) support the open source edition to any great length as a practical matter.  Why? we don't know what you might have done to it.  We try and answer questions in the public forums, provide documentation, but we can't do much beyond that.  So if you have an important use of the software and you need a "throat to choke" when something isn't working, then the open source edition may not be for you.

Limited technical staff:  Connect and the allied management console are a TON of code.  And not to be fooled with by the faint of heart.  The commercial version comes compiled, with installers, services plug-ins (e.g. DimDim, Jajah), and live support if you run into trouble

Scalability:  If performance may be an issue at some point, the commercial version comes with the ability to be upgraded with a performance package that handles clustering, caching, etc.

Data Manageability:  The commercial version of Connect comes with the ability to attach it to Concourse Suite.  This is a huge plus and one of the things that makes us so unique.  The latter acts as a management layer and allows a range of abilities to handle data, communications, perform analysis, follow up on what happens in the community, etc.

Intellectual Property (IP) Issues:  The underlying license of Connect is the AGPL. The AGPL is what is commonly referred to as a "viral" OS license.  In fact, it is one of the most viral.  Modifications that touch Connect must be licensed under the AGPL and thus they have to be made available to others as such.  It's very simple.  So, if you want to NOT license your mods under the AGPL, you need to speak to us around how we might find a solution with the dual-licensed, commercial edition. This is a real issue for some enterprise uses and needs to be considered seriously. We can't accomodate every case, but many we can with a bit of creative thinking. If in doubt, PLEASE consult your attorneys before undertaking a lot of work on the OS edition.

Cost:  Yes, a commercial license costs money.  No denying that.  It's how we stay in business and are able to create this great code.  But consider two things.  First, our commercial version is less expensive than similar, comparable proprietary offerings.  And second, we generally find that a commercial license saves money on a TCO (total cost of ownership) basis even against our own Open Source edition when all cost factors are fully considered for a reasonable size system.  How?  With the commercial license we're effectively doing work your engineers will otherwise have to undertake. 

There are 3 comments



Your last sentence sums it up well:

"With the commercial license we're effectively doing work your engineers will otherwise have to undertake." That's a real and measurable value.

While ConcourseConnect is easily adapted to different use cases, the open source version does require some proficiency with the components. The issues you identified apply to any production environment, whether enterprise or community-based.

What's unique with Concursive is the logical progression of cost. We're leveraging the open source version to both build community and drive new business. That leads to the need and ability to license the commercial version, and take our business to the next level with CRM integration.

When business booms, I don't have time to manage software platforms - I need them to just work. I'm really looking forward to spending my money wisely, and appreciate the opportunity to start small.

Fred E. photo
Fred Engelmann

9 years ago

(1 person found this comment useful.)


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Yao chunying

9 years ago

Fred, your use case pretty much sums up how open source works. One has to work a bit more to get the OS edition working and go solo (not for guys like me with no technical chops), but it's free and a great way to start. When things get more "serious" from the deployment's point of view (e.g., more revenue, or users, or data, or....) then stepping up to a commercial supported edition is easy to justify.

Dave Richards photo
Dave Richards

9 years ago

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