Interesting developments in the open source ECM world this week as Alfresco announced a change in their licensing model - now using LGPL. Eric and I were dashing between customer meetings in Toronto when he read the news via Twitter (instead of navigating on Google Maps… but that's another story…). LGPL, of course, is the license model that Nuxeo has adopted for years.
As customers, partners and analysts know, it was a very deliberate choice to go LGPL early in our company evolution. LGPL is, in our perspective, the most business-friendly of the open source licenses for companies that develop software intended to be used as a platform. It is the right license for Nuxeo, who builds software products that are intended to be a foundation for applications.
LGPL strives for balance - carefully protecting the source by requiring publication of any modifications to it - but gives a liberal use policy ensuring that it can be mixed with proprietary code without risk. Our ECM foundation offering - Nuxeo EP - encourages a plug-in friendly platform, architected to be extensible and allowing a very wide range of horizontal and vertical applications to be built with it. LGPL is an ideal license for software providers who envision ECM as a platform deserving widespread adoption.
An LGPL license approach combined with a company focus on generating revenue from maintenance and value-added tools & services might actually offer better market adoption potential and growth opportunities. (This model was pioneered by JBoss and was the model Nuxeo chose to adopt and refine). The split-personality approach of GPL community edition vs commercially packaged supported offerings ("Commercial Open Source") can be a limitation when looking to innovate and extend core offerings with integrations and partner applications.
Collaborating with customers and partners, as well as building lasting technology alliances, are also simplified under LGPL. Customers help us stay innovative and respond quickly to new feature demands. A great example was the contribution of the code to support OpenSocial by a key customer for our Nuxeo DM 5.3 release in October. Bringing social software application integration into our Nuxeo ECM offering keeps us current with increasing adoption of tools to support Enterprise 2.0 initiatives, and gives customers the assurance that the features they need stay open and available. Partners and application builders can sell and package their value-added components in a way that makes sense for their business model - which might be quite different than ours. And that's cool - the domain expertise we're cultivating in Life Sciences, Education, Construction/Engineering, Public Sector…. these Galaxy partners know their markets and can price and package accordingly. Partners can make informed decisions about how to go to market with their content applications - they don't need Nuxeo to dictate a sales model.
So, "Welcome to the LGPL Tribe, Alfresco". As the two front runners in open source ECM, we are both seeing adoption success at exponential rates, strengthening a business model and license approach that clearly works. As more enterprises recognize that they are living in the knowledge-economy, viewing ECM as a platform for their content assets will become a mainstream view. We're offering a way to do this by mitigating the risk and unknowns often perceived in models such as GPL.
But ultimately, it is just a license model. An ECM platform needs to stand up to the full scrutiny of the technical architects and application builders who will deploy it. And that's where we'll see the differentiation. With large new customer deployments each month, a product roadmap driven by customer community needs, and our desire to stay ahead of the curve on ECM architecture, we all agree: 2010 is going to be a great year for Nuxeo.