Opsview ® is an award winning Open Source application and infrastructure monitoring software that provides comprehensive system management capabilities used to monitor the health of today’s most complex data centres.

Last year we adopted an Open Core business model for Opsview. This article explains why we decided to take this direction and the benefits to our enterprise customers and user community.

Traditional Open Source business models

The traditional Open Source business model is to give the software away for free and sell services such as support, training and consulting. This approach can support a small team of developers but relies on good community involvement and donation of code but does not offer the resources to provide major enhancements to the software.

Feature sponsorship is part of the answer to this, but it is rarely possible to secure funding from end users for the entire development effort, especially as the software matures.

Alternative Open Source business models have emerged in order to address these issues. Some are considered more ‘open source’ than others.

Sell hardware: Companies such as Sourcefire and Vyatta sell their software packaged in the form of a server. Their customers are happy to pay for the software when delivered in a tightly integrated and fully supported form. Since hardware is a physical asset it is often easier to justify these fees than services and support fees alone.

Dual licensing: There are several variants of the dual-licensing model but essentially the software is released simultaneously under both Open Source and proprietary licenses. MySQL sells their database software to customers who don’t want to follow the GPL license.

Other companies such as SugarCRM offer their premium level product under a proprietary license, while releasing the basic version under an Open Source license. The cynical view is that the Open Source ‘lite’ version exists for marketing purposes only.

The ‘Open Core’ model

The Open Core model shares similarities to the dual license model but it also addresses some of the shortcomings. The Open Core model also allows a reasonable balance between the commercial aims of the software developers and the needs of the user community.

The Open Core Licence model is based on providing a free core version of the software containing fully featured and comprehensive functionality and then extending this with specific functionality in paid for modules. Usually the software ‘core’ contains frameworks and other common components used by the modules. Over time the functionality provided by modules may be integrated into the core product or the module is made available for free.

The Opsview Approach

Our direction was inspired by the ‘freemium’ model adopted by many Web 2.0 companies. Their strategy is to build a large user base around a free product then offer premium priced services to those users who desire the extra value, functionality and risk management these services provide.

We offer a common feature set between each software edition and differentiate between Community and Enterprise versions via the software release process and service offerings. Opsview Enterprise contains mature features, has a predictable release schedule, a clear road map and is well suited to large, business critical monitoring requirements. Opsview Community is aimed at startups, developers and anyone wanting to evaluate our software or try the latest features.

The functionality offered by the Enterprise version is also extended through Modules. These have the following characteristics:

  • Modules are free standing software with their own feature set and documentation
  • Modules provide functionality aimed at large systems and enterprise customers
  • Modules provide integration with other systems or software
  • By adopting this model for Opsview we are able to serve our enterprise customers by delivering a software edition targeted at their need for maturity, predictability and accountability; and our community users by continuing to develop and release a free, fully featured product.

Conclusion

The Open Core model provides us with a sustainable business model and solid platform for the continued development of our products in a manner that benefits both our enterprise customers and user community.