Open Source and the future of SugarCRM

The following is a comment I left on a blog posting by John Mark Walker at OStatic.

I would be delighted to see Larry Augustin acting as the CEO of an Open Source company, but my knowledge of his past actions makes me dubious. Will SugarCRM remain faithful to the open source model? Or will it be carved up into a mixed-up model of giving away freely that which the company deems to be “low value” and keeping proprietary what the company deems to be “high value”?

In my eyes (and those of the open source community), the “high value” stuff is the stuff you can improve, and the “low value” stuff is the stuff you cannot. If Larry draws the lines differently, SugarCRM will fail as an open source company.

Having recommended SugarCRM to some very important customers over the past few years, I would like to see those recommendations validated by Larry’s great leadership and good financial performance.

I should also correct John Mark’s perception that slashdot is the be-all, end-all center of gravity for open source development. The beauty of the open source model is precisely that there can be many centers that collectively interoperate. Thus, Red Hat and Fedora, as two separate centers, both draw strength and network effects from the centers that are GNOME and Mozilla and Python and of course, Project GNU. None of these projects needs to “own” the others in order to create true value within its own center. Red Hat chose a path of letting 1000 flowers bloom, and that strategic decision allowed both a richer field (for the community) and a greater harvest (for Red Hat). SugarCRM can be successful without creating a monopoly of open source development. But it can also fail if it divorces itself from the open source values that make it one of the best alternatives to other proprietary solutions today.

Let’s hope for success!