a16z Podcast: Monetizing Open Source (Or, All Enterprise Software)

Here’s what we know about open source: Developers are the new buyers. Community matters. And there will never be another Red Hat (i.e., a successful “open core” business model … nor do we necessarily think there should be).

Yet open source is real, and it’s here to stay. So how then do companies build a viable business model on top of open source? And not only make money, but become a huge business, like the IBMs, Microsofts, Oracles, and SAPs of the world? The answer, argues James Watters, has more to do with good software strategy and smart enterprise sales/procurement tactics (including design and a service-like experience) than with open source per se — from riding a huge trend or architectural shift, to being less transactional and more an extension of your customer’s team.

Watters, who is the SVP of Product at Pivotal (part of VMWare and therefore also Dell-EMC), is a veteran of monetizing open source — from OpenSolaris (at Sun Microsystems) to Springsource (acquired by VMWare) to Pivotal Cloud Foundry — with plenty of failures, and successes, along the way. He shares those lessons learned in this episode of the a16z Podcast with Sonal Chokshi and general partner Martin Casado (who was co-founder and CTO of Nicira, later part of VMWare before joining Andreessen Horowitz). These lessons matter, especially as open source has become more of a requirement — and how large enterprises bet on big new trends.