This shared process is growing more common. OpenStack, a project sponsored by Rackspace, lets smaller cloud companies band together and offer a common platform that will be more attractive than the dominant cloud from Amazon. Not only can the customers choose between multiple companies, they can also install the cloud tools in their own data center. The same basic structure is found in all of the clouds, and the scripts work the same everywhere.
Open source profiteering strategy No. 5: Tapping open source to launch a competitor
The open source license makes one thing simple: Starting up a rival. All it takes to create a new company from scratch is access to the source code repository. After you download it, you can hang your shingle and start competing from the first day -- heck, the first few minutes.
Starting up a competitor, though, is far different from sustaining the effort. Downloading the code is easy, but gaining even the basic competence takes months. Becoming a true expert can take years. Really competing means building a team that can offer real expertise.
This is why competition only appears in rapidly burgeoning areas where demand far exceeds supply. When interest in Hadoop exploded several years ago, new startups appeared quickly. All began with the same Hadoop core, but they quickly began to specialize by offering their own special add-ons.
Open source profiteering strategy No. 6: Open-source to keep competition in check
Competition in the world of open source is a two-way street. While anyone can come along and snarf source code in seconds, they are often bound by a license that forces them to contribute all of their innovations back. If the new competitor does anything clever, all of the old teams also gain access to everything. Some of the most popular licenses like the GPL guarantee that everyone must share alike.
This share-and-share-alike rule makes it hard for any upstart to challenge an effective leader. Any neat innovations that come from the upstart can be absorbed by the leader, making it hard for the upstart to gain any real traction. The rule that makes it easy to start up a competitor also makes it impossible for the competition to flourish.
While this can sound like an evil monopolist speaking, the idea has limits. If the leader does a bad job, invests in silly enhancements, or squanders its revenue on worthless add-ons, a new fork can steal the momentum. It's not impossible.
This rule limiting the power of forks doesn't hold if there are two legitimate reasons for the separate code bases to exist. If there are two distinct uses for the software, two different groups can easily specialize in both. The competition can survive if it serves a different and distinct market.
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