Sustainable software? Look down under!

A few months ago I was sipping a drink with friends, and I was asked what would I do should I ever leave Sourcesense. I answered that I would hope I’d make enough money by then but assuming it wasn’t the case, I would most likely start a new company or, failing that, I would contemplate moving to Sidney and send my CV to Atlassian.

There is more than surfing Australian waves in my admiration for that company: I’m watching with great amusement the debate on Open Source sustainability, how making money is tied to proprietary extensions, how Open Source is not a business model, and all the yadda-yadda that regularly pops in when someone dares to comment how, really, the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. Such commentaries are being filed in the “Firm grasp of the obvious” category, but they make for a fun read anyways: meanwhile, as the Commercial Open Source world is out there frantically looking for the Holy Grail of software sustainability in an open and collaborative ecosystem, it seems to me that a happy bunch of Aussies are filling it with Foster’s and passing it along.

While most Open Source companies try to make money by providing a free all-you-can-eat Sunday roast buffet, as long as you carve it yourself and bring your own gravvy, Atlassian is showing the beef by providing great food at reasonable prices, all the gravvy you want and a tab with no hidden charges, surprises or discretionary service fees attached. Not to mention a recipe book and access to the grill to cook to your own taste. Can you really argue with that?

I know, I know: it’s not Open Source, you need to pay to play and the ball is theirs. Yet their model is so upfront and clear that it feels like a breath of fresh air when compared to the amazing lot of commercial Open Source/crippleware in disguise out there:

  • pricing is clear and reasonable, mesured on real value instead than on what it takes to send a salesman to your premises to measure your spending ability, then provide you with a quote.
  • you pay for what actually drives value. Do you have 50 developers with software installed on their machines to build and test locally, plus a build and a staging server? No problem, here goes your unlimited free development license key to go along with the one you purchased for your production server.
  • do you want to tinker with the source code? You get all you need and then some to fix stuff yourself. And no, they won’t withdraw support just because you messed up with the code.
  • do you fancy ecosystems? Just browse the amazing number of plug-ins, add-ons and extensions that have been built by developers all around the world, or just ask for assistance in the user forums.
  • do you want to use their technology to support your Open Source effort? Here, get a free license and have fun. Oh, and by the way have a look at the notable number of contributions that Atlassian did to Open Source software and libraries they are using.

Can your Open Source vendor do this? I will need a few more fingers (and toes!) than I have access to if I wanted to count how many quote-Open Source-end-quote companies out there are doing their best to play the baitware game, providing astonishly little value for amazingly high prices and playing hardball with customers. While the Commercial Open Source world is talking about hybrid revenue models, here comes a pragmatic shop that just nails it. May I suggest analysts to pick up the phone and give Mike Cannon-Brookes a call?



7 thoughts on “Sustainable software? Look down under!”

  1. Gianugo — Kind kind words from someone who really understands developing with open source, and who runs a highly competent firm. Much appreciated. Hope to buy you a beer sometime in Amsterdam this year.

  2. Devdas,

    I’m sorry your comment shows up this late, it got stuck in Akismet’s spam queue. However, what is exactly the bit of “I know, I know: it’s not Open Source” that you don’t understand?

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