Dana Blankenhorn suggests that add-ons make good business sense for Acquia and other open-source vendors, and he's dead-on. Zimbra climbed to $20 million in just two years on the back of a successful add-on strategy to its open-source Microsoft Exchange killer. SugarCRM is doing well with such a strategy, too.
It's not, however, simply a way to make money. It's also a way to better define and feed community.
Seem counterintuitive? Perhaps it is for those companies like Red Hat, Acquia, and others that are built to harvest preexisting open-source communities (Linux and Drupal, respectively). But for companies like Zimbra, MySQL, etc., an add-on strategy enables a vendor to focus wholly on delivering a quality open-source project while simultaneously creating a robust, scalable business.
SugarCRM's John Roberts has been saying this for years, and Marten Mickos of MySQL (now Sun) has been suggesting this strategy for the past year as MySQL looked for ways to strengthen its revenue while keeping its community strong. The two need not be conflicting strategies.
In fact, they're complementary. It's actually quite difficult to distribute a 100 percent open-source product and monetize it at the same time. Support doesn't scale. Determining how to make a "community" release compelling while also selling an "enterprise" release without selling "just support" is tricky.… Read more