As I noted in my post “Why No Billion-Dollar Open Source Companies?", one of the reasons there are no large pure-play open source companies is that their business model is based on giving back to customers most of the costs the latter have traditionally paid to software houses.
But there's another, and it's why I was careful to talk about “pure” free software outfits: because there is a further group whose business models depend critically on open source, but most people are unaware of this when they use their products. These are the Googles of the world, who deploy free software to create massive back-end infrastructure that would be simply unaffordable using traditional software.
That, in its turn, has allowed all kinds of new businesses to be created that hitherto would not be economically viable. Alongside Google, there is Facebook and Twitter, both of whom have been vocal in their support of the software they depend on. But I hadn't realised that LinkedIn was also part of this growing club until I read the following:
At LinkedIn, we love open source. We’re committed to contributing to Hadoop and Pig and giving back to the open source community through projects like Azkaban and Voldemort. We are determined to provide the open source community with the complete and painless data cycle that we enjoy – to enable even casual hadoop users to analyze data from their application at scale, to mine it for value and store it easily and reliably so that it can drive use and close the data loop. Look for new open source tools and projects from LinkedIn Analytics in the coming months that will help make this possible!
Hadoop drives many of our most powerful features at LinkedIn. About half of our Hadoop jobs are submitted by Apache Pig. This means that along with Azkaban and Voldemort, Pig is a large part of LinkedIn’s data cycle – the process behind features like People You May Know and Who Viewed My Profile.
There are several important points here.
First, is the fact that yet another high-profile online business depends on open source. This provides yet another data point – as if more were needed – that open source is serious stuff, and by no means for the hippie fringe these days.
Secondly, the fact that LinkedIn is contributing back to a number of open source projects not only means that it recognises the value of doing so, but that the habit is becoming almost widespread, at least among these successful companies.
Finally, the LinkedIn post above provides us with another clue as to why open source's victory is inevitable: with projects like Azkaban, Voldemort and Pig, it has by far the best names.