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A Merger of SaaS and Open Source

Ben Kepes has some fascinating ideas about how to merge SaaS and Open Source.  I’ll admit, I posed the question to him in response to another post he’d made, but his answers are well worth thinking about.

One of the things Ben asks is why there can’t be a SaaS Open Source company?  In other words, why not open up the source of the SaaS offering?  Given that a tremendous amount of what SaaS provides is Service not software, that’s an intriguing proposition.  Perhaps they could afford to give up some source and open it for others to play with. 

Some questions would have to be worked out:

–  How do we keep SaaS competitors from springing up with the open source code?  My answer would be to keep some essential part of it closed, but to open up the interesting parts to work on.  For example, if we had Salesforce to do over again, Force the platform would be closed.  It’s the razor.  The Salesforce CRM application would be open.  It’s the blade.  This would make it dramatically easier for anyone to add new functionality to the core application.

–  SaaS wants everyone to run the same version.  Open Source allows tons of versions to co-exist.  This one is a trade off.  If you want the benefits of Open Source, new versions have to be able to coexist and customers have to be able to choose which version they want to be on and when to upgrade.  I would envision each version as being multitenant, however.

There are probably a lot of other questions, but I think Ben’s brought up a new business model that may just make a lot of sense to someone.

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