Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

April 3, 2012

3 Min Read
Open Source Cloud: ownCloud Releases Commercial Offerings

The transformation of open source projects into business ventures doesn’t always proceed smoothly: Witness Mandriva Linux and, to name just a couple examples. But ownCloud, which began the launch of a commercial entity in December 2011, seems to be off to a decidedly successful start, with the release of the company’s first commercial products. Here are the details, and their implications for open source cloud computing.

ownCloud remains a small company, but it stands poised to make big waves, particularly within the open source channel where it arguably represents the only serious answer to wildly popular proprietary cloud computing platforms such as Dropbox and iCloud. True, ownCloud, which develops only the software for building clouds but doesn’t offer hosting services itself, isn’t quite the same thing as those products. But in conjunction with its partners, ownCloud could provide the basis for real open source alternatives to proprietary file-storage solutions.

ownCloud Commercial Offerings

While ownCloud’s moves in the time since its transformation into a commercial entity have thus far focused on building partnerships and pushing out enhancements to the core ownCloud software, the company reached a new milestone with the April 2, 2012, release of its first commercial products. Currently available in two editions, ownCloud Business and ownCloud Enterprise, the offerings provide value-added functionality over the basic Community version of the platform, which, according to ownCloud, enjoys 400,000 users.

While the Community edition of ownCloud remains free, pricing for the two commercial products starts at $100 and $1,500 per month, respectively. The licensing terms vary slightly, with the Business version available under the Affero General Public License and ownCloud Enterprise shipping with its own commercial license. According to ownCloud representatives, the commercial licensing terms mean, in basic terms:

You can make customizations to ownCloud without having to open source the results. So, for example, as a partner you can create custom plug-ins with the ownCloud license that you do not have to open source. Or, as an enterprise, you can create proprietary changes to merge ownCloud in with your environment that you do not have to share with the community. These are just examples.

Saving Room for Partners

In many ways the release of these ownCloud commercial products represents the culmination of a classic story we’ve seen hundreds of times before, wherein open source projects develop commercial sides by selling value-added, licensed versions. ownCloud’s genre sets it apart, but its modus operandi is tried-and-true.

Yet one key point to note is that ownCloud so far has not gone down the path pursued by many other open source companies of developing revenue streams by offering services in addition to software. Its value-added products include enhanced software features, but not support contracts or other services.

That’s important, because it means the door remains open for more partners to take advantage of ownCloud’s offerings by selling their own services for the platform. ownCloud shows no signs of trying to shut out third parties. And in the open source channel in particular, where collaboration and integration are key to success in broad terms, that’s a good thing.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

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