Does Open Source matter for clients of hosting services?

In response to this article, I wanted to write a rebuttal. claims that open sourcing your platform is not something that matters to clients and I respectfully disagree. open sources their platform, but is giving their competition some room by saying that it’s a myth that open sourcing a platform should matter to clients… or at least that’s what it seems to me that they are saying on that page.

So should whether the platform that you are hosting your application on is open source or not matter to you or your organization as a client of a hosting provider.

Yes. The reason is not that complicated. If you have your application being hosted somewhere but you hate the level of support, the ineptitude of your provider, or any other aspect of their service you have the option to move the site to be supported by a different company or by your in-house staff. That essentially is a form of freedom from the tyranny of a certain hosting provider.

Currently with some providers the fact remains that the actual backend is a black box that no one has access to. Lots of stuff is going behind the scenes and it is not disclosed exactly how that stuff is even working. So if your application is working fine but you don’t like company or how they are running the show you have the choice to say “see ya” and immediately switch to someone else and get similar features and functionality at a similar cost. Without this option, no matter how inept the company servicing you, you don’t have a choice and have to put up with their terms and their treatment. So does it matter to consumers whether a certain stack is open source or not, sure it matters. As insurance for your hosting provider to actually do their job well… because if they don’t then you can leave.

It also creates possibilities of competitors moving in, but really it’s not that difficult to keep competitors as bay by using something like an Affero GPL 3.0 license which would force your competitors to open source any innovations that they make so you can improve your service with their efforts. It does not seem to happen that often that a VC funded company is driven out of business by an underdog just because they open sourced their code. Even in cases where a company has complained it can be seen from the success of the fork that they were really asking for it — SugarCRM comes to mind.

Ultimately, open source is about services and not products. To try to convert open source into a product entails lock-in and allows ineptitude and bad customer service to flourish which in the long run is not good for the industry or the consumers using the services. However, it may also entail more profits in the short term for its proprietors until someone else comes along and changes the game. In the meanwhile you have to put up with people just because they got there first.

Published on: 8 December 2012
Posted by: Sami K.