Lightbend is committed to open source. Lightbend is open source to its roots. Our board of directors includes many people who are passionate about open source. Our leadership team is full of people who have spent most of their lives working in open source, not just people with engineering backgrounds such as Martin Odersky and Jonas Bonér, but people such as our CEO Mark Brewer who has spent many years in leadership positions in various successful open source companies. The engineers at Lightbend, who make up about 50% of the company, are just as passionate about open source. Most of the engineers at Lightbend voluntarily contributed to open source projects long before they joined Lightbend.
As a company that centers itself around making open source software, there is always a tension between doing what's best for open source, and giving people a reason to purchase from us. It can be a fine line to walk sometimes. At Lightbend, we have a no-compromise policy on open source: our open source products must be full featured, fit for purpose, with no functionality that is turned off or crippled for open source users, or anything of that sort. Everything we do to make money must work within that restriction. We believe strongly in the open source model. We wouldn't be where we are if it weren't for our open source communities, and so we see our open source products and communities as things that we must build and nurture. Our open source communities drive us forward: they contribute code, documentation and fixes to the project, they demand and help us to innovate, they help one another and encourage new users to join the community, and they validate and evangelize our projects. We greatly appreciate these efforts.
Another tension that exists between commercial open source vendors and the open source user community is how commercial offerings are marketed. We believe that Lightbend should stay out of the way of users who are content with the open source projects, which are free - that's one of the basic features of open source, after all. But we also want to advertise our commercial offerings to those we believe would benefit. We use Activator and the Lightbend website to make the community aware of what we offer, and we try to provide very clear data about the differences between the open source projects and the commercial products.
The most difficult challenge is defining where and how we draw the line between our open source projects and our commercial products and services. We differentiate on 3 general axes:
- Rate of Change — Open source users tend to be more leading edge. They demand the latest features and functionality. They run on the latest configurations. They try out our newest releases and upgrade regularly. They have rapid release cycles. Lightbend will differentiate commercial customers from open source users via legacy support. Lightbend will provide long-term support for the Lightbend Platform, beyond the period that is available via open source channels.
- Time — Open source users tend to invest their time rather than their money. Support is an excellent example of this. Open source users are comfortable submitting questions to broad groups or mailing lists, sort through multiple answers, and personally assess which answer is appropriate for them. In contrast, our customers receive targeted answers directly from our developers. Our products and services target people and companies with critical business challenges that require immediate attention, and are willing to purchase product or service in order to save them time.
- Commercial product integration — When integrating Lightbend products with commercial products, Lightbend will often charge for the integration modules. If a company has paid for another technology we feel it is appropriate for that company to also pay Lightbend for the software we’ve provided.
As an open source company we feel obligated to be open about our policies and philosophies, including how we differentiate between our open source projects and our commercial products and services. We don't always get the differentiation right, but we do ask that you bear with us and give us feedback when you think there is a problem. Our open source projects, including Scala, Akka, Lagom and Play Framework are as good as they are because Lightbend makes enough money to pay a team of people to improve and maintain them. But making that money is dependent on providing value to our paying customers, and that requires marketing to find those paying customers and delivering specialized products and services to them.
Open source works because people who are doing lots of different things, many or most of them commercial, mutually benefit by collaborating on technology. Our goal in the open source world is to be a good collaborator with you. We are not doing charity work for you, any more than you are doing charity work for us; we are working together as colleagues because we have shared goals. We hope to avoid disrupting our shared goals, and we strive to be good colleagues to work with.