Community open source
November 18, 2019

Community vs. Commercial Open Source Software: Benefits and Drawbacks

Open Source

For organizations who want to fit their software choices to the needs of their applications, comparing community open source vs. commercial OSS options is a valuable exercise. And, with an ever-expanding list of well-supported community open source projects, that decision is getting easier.

In this blog, we break down the key differences between community open source software and commercial open source software, including key considerations for teams deploying OSS in the enterprise.

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What Is Community Open Source?

Community open source is source code owned by a community.

Open source communities bring people with shared interests together to collaboratively build something. Community open source projects are free and open to the public. And they're bound by a permissive or restrictive license. 

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What Is Commercial Open Source Software?

Commercial open source is source code owned by a legal entity to generate revenue. 

Commercial open source software (COSS) refers to a category of companies that commercialize open source technology. This software requires a paid license, bound by the terms of a company’s license. 

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Deciding Between Community Open Source vs. Commercial OSS

What Impact Does OSS Have on Organizations?

According to a recent Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Perforce, 91% of companies who adopt open source either meet or exceed business expectations.

Want to learn more? Download the full study for more insights into how open source software can improve enterprise business outcomes.

Download the Report

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.

What Are the Cost Differences Between Community Open Source and Commerical OSS?

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.

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Why Choose Commercial Open Source? Benefits + Drawbacks

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of commercial open source software.

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.
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Why Choose Community Open Source? Benefits + Drawbacks

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of community open source.

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.
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How to Choose Between Community Open Source vs. Commercial Open Source

Here are questions you need to ask when choosing between commercial or community open source.

  • 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?
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Get Support No Matter What

The decision to choose commercial or community open source 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.



Additional Resources

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