As questions continue to swirl around the future of open-source software licensing and business models, Chef co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Adam Jacob wants to figure out a way to keep the best parts of open source while ensuring those principles have a financial future.
Jacob launched the Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities project Thursday, the last day of the KubeCon open-source conference in Chef’s hometown of Seattle. The project is really a forum for discussion about how software developers can stay true to the community-oriented aspects of open-source software development without resorting to restrictive licenses that some companies now believe are their best way to stay viable in the cloud computing era.
“The power of communities, of people coming together to help and support one another, and to solve their problems with software: that’s the best thing in my professional life,” Jacob wrote in a Medium post launching the project. “I’ve also, through Chef, grown in to a business leader. … In that part of my life, my job is to create a business that is worth the investment that has been put into it, and that can sustain itself now and into the future,” he wrote.
After years of watching cloud providers build managed services around open-source projects without contributing to the development and maintenance of those projects, a few companies have decided this year that open-source software is maybe a little too open. Two GeekWire stories this year about changing licensing practices from Redis and MongoDB have sparked a lot of discussion about the future of the open-source movement, which has been one of the biggest drivers of enterprise technology for more than a decade.
Jacob spoke to us at length for one of those stories in November, arguing that moves to put restrictions on how open-source projects can be used by cloud providers destroy the value gained by developing software in an open way in which multiple contributors can participate.
“What makes (open-source software) great is that it recognizes that software is unique: it can be changed by the user, and it can be shared infinitely without damage,” Jacob wrote Thursday. “When we grant each other the right to do that, we grant each other the right to solve our problems.”