The RapidMiner Philosophy is Open at its Core

Okay, so where were we?… On Tuesday I shared RapidMiner’s philosophy with you – “We want to empower anybody to do super-innovative analytics.” This philosophy is exactly the reason we made RapidMiner open source in 2003 already. Open source supports widespread use of the software because of its free price, but more importantly, it also gives users the freedom to innovate.  People can extend and embed the software and creating new innovations by doing so.  This is why open source is the natural fit for our philosophy.

I won’t dive into the fine differences between “free software” and “open source.” (And yes, Leslie, I’ll try to keep my Professor’s robe on its hanger). But I would like to briefly discuss the most important business models that organizations use when offering open source software, in order that I might illustrate RapidMiner’s open source journey. Here we go:

Open Source Business Models

Business Model What is open? What do you sell? Pros Cons
Open Source
(e.g., Red Hat)
All your software Services only like training, support, and guarantees Supports the original ideas of open source in the strongest way Very hard to create a scalable business. Most companies fail.
Business Source
(e.g., Jedox)
Older software versions Latest version of the software, support, and services Ultimately everyone get access to everything Majority of users don’t benefit from innovation. Maintenance of old AND new versions necessary.
Open Core
(e.g., MySQL, Talend, and Pentaho)
The core of the software Additional software features, support, and services Clear feature-based differentiation. A good balance between open source concepts and commercialization. Some features will never be available to the general community.

Interestingly, a pure open source model has seldom been a successful commercial business model.  In fact, maybe the only successful example is RedHat. Not a surprise since it’s an operating system and if it breaks down, everything running on the machine breaks.  So selling support and guarantees can be enough of a value proposition in this case.  But for business applications, like RapidMiner, this is generally not a sustainable business model.

The other two models, open core and business source, try to find a balance between open source benefits (widespread use and fast innovation) and commercial success for the vendor – most vendors have developers who, naturally, need to feed their families.

Over the past two years, RapidMiner has been using a business source model. We offered community members several options that we felt were reasonably attractive.  But, truth told, while we remain commercially successful, our user community hasn’t been quite as happy as we would have wished.  Many community members have pointed this out to us – and I truly appreciate that.

You see, when only older versions of RapidMiner were available to the open source community, this very important user group could no longer take advantage of RapidMiner’s latest innovations – it has kept the community at arms-length from us.  And even worse, this business model has hindered the community from creating its own innovations and perpetuating those across the broader community.

This is NOT the predictive analytics utopia that we at RapidMiner had envisioned.

So where do we go from here?

It is with very great pleasure that I tell you this… We’ve decided that business source is NOT for RapidMiner.  We want an open source business model that’s in complete agreement with our philosophy of empowering everyone to do super-innovative analytics (and also allows our great engineers to feed their families).

Does that mean we’re going back to an open core model?  Yes and no.  I can’t wait to tell you more details, but unfortunately I have to go pack for the RapidMiner Wisdom User Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Stay tuned!

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