Open-core models should be treated with caution

The word “open” in open-core models is misleading: often the offers are not open at all and cause problems. Managed platform provider Instaclustr gives four reasons why open source software is the better choice. […]

Many companies today want to leave the chains of proprietary software behind. In their search for alternatives, they often come across open-core models that lure with the openness of open source software (OSS), but in the end turn out to be a costly and inflexible trap. Instaclustr explains how OSS and Open Core differ.

Open Core incurs costs

The most obvious difference between open-core models and true open-source software is proprietary and, most importantly, paid additional offers. Companies usually have to book these special features and support services, which the pure OSS does not cover, in the form of subscriptions. Before concluding a contract, companies should evaluate whether they really need the offered functionality.

Open Core is poorly expandable

If companies find out during the evaluation that the functionality of pure open source software is not sufficient, they do not have to rely on the inflexible open core version right away. Unlike most open–core offerings, OSS is expandable through open programming interfaces. In case of doubt, it is therefore worthwhile to provide developer resources internally or to buy them externally in order to supplement the open source software according to your own ideas. In the end, this investment may be cheaper than contractually tying yourself to an open-core provider.

Open Core promotes vendor lock-in

Another problem with open-core offerings is their lack of portability, because proprietary additional functions are not always platform-independent: the dreaded vendor lock-in is the result. For open-core providers, this technical dependency is part of the business model. In contrast, the migration of open source software is no problem thanks to open interfaces and open source codes.

Open Core contradicts the open source idea

When customizing open source software, companies can sometimes also rely on the biggest advantage of open source over open core software: the community. It is an important driver of innovation. Especially for large projects such as Apache Kafka or Apache Cassandra, the dedicated programmers are far ahead of the competition when it comes to new functionality.

Open-core providers naturally pursue a commercial goal with their products, so that the further development of the products is always reflected in the price for the users. Companies that need special features should therefore definitely consider supporting the community, for example by investing their own developer resources in an OSS project.

The initial costs for the active support of the open source community will pay for themselves sooner or later in the form of free assistance in the realization of your own desired features. Of course, there are open-core providers who also offer free “community editions” of their software and work closely with the open developer community on the further development of their offer.

“Open-core models are the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing,” emphasizes Ralph Völter, VP Sales EMEA at Instaclustr. “Convenient features that go far beyond the core functionality of the underlying open source software are of course attractive. However, companies should check whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages before committing to proprietary functions or services.“

*Bernhard Lauer is, among other things, a freelance editor of dotnetpro and manages the Basic Instinct section here, for example. He has been programming privately with Visual Basic since version 1.0.

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