Based on the recent move by an open source company to offer it’s product only as a SAAS, it got me thinking about that move. What does it mean to the people who are interested in contributing to the software?
Open Source has several benefits to the people using the software, some of which are
a) if the company goes bust, the code is accessible to continue further
b) if there is a bug, access to the code makes it easy to fix it before it’s available through the vendor
c) review of the code from multiple developers reduces the security issues
d) and also, new features are likely to get added faster through contributions
Now, if the vendor chooses to make the code available to customers only as a SAAS application, then what incentive does the ecosystem supporting that software have any longer? For example, some one interested in consulting can’t do that any longer as the customers are not installing but using the SAAS offering. System Integrators have limited opportunity, if any, to develop and make money out of integrations.
So, it makes me think that an open source company choosing to provide only the SAAS model is at the risk of losing the developer community. Interestingly, right now both Open Source and SAAS are two interesting buzz words that the VCs are interested in. Lack of stellar revenue opportunity from Open Source model perhaps made some of the companies to mold themselves into SAAS providers (SAAS is perhaps inevitable even for their closed source cousins as well).