Tomitribe's Blog

Feed the Fish



The announcement of the end of commercial versions of GlassFish has a lot of people pronouncing GlassFish, in general, dead. While GlassFish is definitely not dead, the open source version will live, there are definitely going to be some challenges.

This move closely follows IBM’s similar actions in slowly backing away from Apache Geronimo, the basis of IBM WebSphere Community Edition for which IBM discontinued commercial support in May this year. The two giant software companies seem to be following each other lock and step.

Who is to Blame?

While it’s tempting to wag our fingers at these two giants for their decisions to divest in any commercial interests in open source Java EE, we might want to save a few wags for ourselves.

If you are a GlassFish user, how would you compare Oracle’s contribution to GlassFish to your own contribution to GlassFish?

If you had any answer to that question, good for you. If you find yourself shocked and not knowing how to respond, you are probably in the majority. What this says to me is that we as an industry still do not fully understand Open Source.

Open Source Isn’t Free.

Anything involving humans is never free. Software costs money to both consume and create. There is both a cost of ownership and a cost of creation.

The concept of total cost of ownership of Open Source is something we as an industry are learning and accepting. We’re getting good at supporting ourselves. The concept that Open Source costs money to make, however, is almost completely unnoticed. We are not good at supporting the people and communities that create the software we use. Someone must be doing it or it wouldn’t exist, right?

Simple Economics

Using Open Source and contributing nothing in return is unwise. You are letting someone else decide your fate in blind faith that all people, except you, are supporting the creators of the software you use. It’s never safe to assume other people are doing the thing you are not doing. If you’re wrong, your cost savings go out the window.

Supporting your open source communities isn’t charity, it’s good business.

Even if a project appears to be doing fine without your support, it’s a safe bet that if the project creators did have your support the software you get would be better. Giving it further thought, even if the software is already “perfect”, you are enabling people you know to be smart to solve more problems for you at an attractive price. Win-win. Supporting your open source communities isn’t charity, it’s good business.

Industry Change

For as much as we throw money around in our companies, it’s shocking we do not think to direct some of it at the communities of Open Source software we use. There has to be a middle ground between paying extreme prices for proprietary software and nothing for Open Source software.

This is the lesson we need to learn as an industry over the next 10 years. We must find this balance.

Not even IBM or Oracle can pick up the bill for Open Source forever. All Open Source communities need your support.

  • Jan Bartel

    This is something that really needed to be said, and broadcast widely throughout the industry. Congrats for getting it out there.


  • Chuk Lee

    Well said.

  • LukasEder

    That is well put. “Open Source Isn’t Free”. It should be repeated many times until we finally learn this. At Adobe, Roy Fielding is often cited having said that there is essentially no difference between commercial and Open Source software (don’t have an actual reference, unfortunately). But Open Source needs to be someone’s business. Taking it for granted as a consumer is not very far-sighted.

    I’ve recently blogged about a similar topic:

    As an Open Source vendor, I’m constantly facing the same questions. Whom do I give my product ( to for free and whom will I charge? As soon as a vendor sells dual-licensed software, the notion of Open Source becomes more focused on the fact that a large “community” of free software consumers gets *enough* content for free, hopefully contributing back, whereas a smaller “community” of commercial software consumers can count on bugs being fixed by that larger “community”, other than “just” the vendor. At the same time, everyone can count on a vendor actually making money with everyone’s business:

    - By cutting costs in maintenance and marketing, offloading some work to the “community”
    - By offering services, added value in the “premium” section

  • Henry Sampson

    +1 on this…It is definitely good business

  • Derrydean Dadzie

    I totally agree. We have wrong misconception of open source leading to the neglect of the community and the services they offer.

    • David Blevins

      Well said.