Community open source logos versus commercial open source logos
November 18, 2019

Benefits and Drawbacks: Community vs. Commercial OSS

Open Source

Deciding Between Community Open Source and Commercial Open Source

Get the Insights Needed to Make an Informed Decision

There are community open source software (OSS) and commercial open source software (COSS) options for available for virtualization, operating systems, databases, and middleware. COSS is becoming increasingly popular as more vendors are commercializing its open source by building an enterprise edition on top of a community source core. The commercial versions have added benefits and features that come at a cost. It depends on your project needs to determine the type of open source your organization should choose. Both have similar capabilities but vary within the areas of cost, support, maintenance, security, and licensing.

This blog explains the OSS and COSS differences starting with their core properties:

Core Properties of Community Open Source Software

  • Free and open to the public.
  • Bound by a permissive or restrictive license.
  • Source code owned by a community.

Core Properties of Commercial Open Source Software

  • Requires a paid license.
  • Bound by the terms of a company’s license.
  • Source code is owned by a legal entity to generate revenue.

What are the Cost Differences?

Commercial open source provides added features and requires people to pay for a license. Community open source software is free but can involve hidden soft costs, such as time spent in fixing vulnerabilities due to slow community response times.

The Benefits and Drawbacks Within Security, Maintenance, and Support

Benefits of Commercial Open Source Software

  • Guaranteed support, depending on the support package, you can get 24/7 mission-critical services.
  • Legal indemnification and liability to rely on during crises.
  • Often more regular updates and patches.
  • The participation of the community can be limited which devalues the community.

Drawbacks of Commercial Open Source Software

  • Vendor lock-in can happen after development cycles due to difficulty of changing.
  • License changes could restrict your use.
  • Could encounter a liability risk if the product is not upgraded.
  • Features such as security, disaster recovery, and monitoring can be costly.

Benefits of Community Open Source Software

  • Ability to try various solutions without vendor lock-in, thus a low-stakes entry.
  • Information is shared readily within the community.
  • Quick responsiveness of the community for patches and potential vulnerabilities.

Drawbacks of Community Open Source Software

  • OSS can lack funding to maintain the software and fixing security vulnerabilities.
  • It may only provide a partial solution for your requirements.
  • Integrating multiple OSS products can be challenging.

Initial Questions to Ask When Evaluating COSS vs. OSS

  • What features are not included in the community edition? What do I need?
  • What kind of license does the software have?
  • Does my organization have the bandwidth or skillset to support the product?
  • Can I get community and commercial support?

Next Steps

The decision to choose commercial or community software comes down to the depth and breadth of the projects, budgets, and use cases. There are situations to invest in commercial backing for your open source development and other times to implement a free solution. Consult with your team or talk to an expert architect for advice before you make your decision.

For more in-depth coverage on software types, licenses, and how to evaluate a product watch this free webinar by enterprise architect, William Crowell.

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