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The biggest Open Source Software acquisitions ever

Posted by bryan on January 26, 2014 in E-Business with 1 Comment

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Logo Open Source Initiative

Logo Open Source Initiative (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Open Source Software (and more recently, even Open Source Hardware) have become not just rising trends but the de fact standard for true technology innovation. Open Source accelarates innovation due to the way it fosters a creative, cooperative environment and is usually (especially when compared to traditional IT) much more inclusive of ideas from people of all types, genders, races, nationalities, income brackets, etc.

When it comes to Open Source, the best ideas and most efficient solutions are typically those which get adopted. Contrast this to the way things work in Enterprise where a specific managerial opinion or corporate agendas often trump efficiency or quality of solution, and you can see why Open Source can offer many benefits to developers (especially independent developers, consultants or those in Enterprise who are luck enough to have some degree of autonomy). Whereas flashiness, certifications or accreditation (i.e. “reputation” of the company/technology being proposed to work with) can be most important in Enterprise; the ease-of-use and low cost for implementation/maintenance become top priority for Open Source. In addition, every commit, push/pull or merge is scrutinized for adhering to the very principles of Open Source; more than can be said in Enterprise where Code Review process may be extremely fickle, inconsistent or non-existent.

That said, Open Source is also quickly becoming big business. Major Enterprises from Fortune500 companies all the way to Government organizations are quickly adopting, utilizing and/or acquiring open source for their own business purposes. We’ve seen a particular heat-up in flat out acquisitions of Open Source companies, which presents some key questions, such as:

  • What happens to the community built around the project, library, or tool? Shouldn’t it be protected from being absolved and having blogs, forums, FAQs, docs, code repositories, and official website URLs taken down so they can live on somehow?
  • How about the community members who’ve contributed to the technology? Don’t they deserve a cut of the sales that the parent organization previously presiding over the open source software may have enjoyed in the acquisition?
  • When do current users of the software need to be legally given notice that the software will be commercialized and what their options are for continuing to use the software? Should they be “grandfathered-in” for continued access in some cases? Why not all cases?
  • Should there not be a requirement to maintain & support the last version before acquisition in the very least?

Here’s a quick summary table showing the top 20 of the biggest Open Source technology acquisitions of all-time (to date):

eBay Magento E-Commerce/Shopping-Cart platform $180 million REF
Novell SuSe Linux Operating System / Enterprise OS $210 million REF
IBM SugarCRM Customer Relationship Management platform ~ $350 million REF, REF
Citrix XenSource Server / Desktop Virtualization $500 million REF
Google Android Mobile Operating System / Development tools ~ $50 million REF, REF
Microsoft Powerset Semantic Search Engine / NLP ~ $100 million REF
Apple PrimeSense 3D Sensor / Kinect Motion-detect Dev tools $350 million REF, REF
AOL Netscape Web Browser / Internet software $4.2 Billion REF
AOL Nullsoft Internet Radio / Streaming server, Winamp $400 million REF
HP Palm WebOS, Telephony/Mobile Hardware $1.2 Billion REF
Samsung Boxee TV set-top box / Streamin media service $30 million REF
Intel Mashery API Development platform > $180 million REF
VMware SpringSource Integration / Development tools $420 million REF
Yahoo! Zimbra Customer Relationship Management platform $350 million REF
RedHat GlusterFS Big Data Analysis tools $138 million REF
RedHat JBoss Application Server / Development tools $350 million REF
Stratasys MakerBot 3D Printer Hardware / Software $640 million REF
SUN Microsystems MySQL Database Server $1 billion REF
Oracle SUN Microsystems Database/Application Servers, JAVA platform $7.4 Billion REF
Cisco Sourcefire Security software $2.7 Billion REF
Dell Enstratius Virtualization / Platform-as-a-Service $6.9 billion REF

Also, there have been several instances of Open Source software implementers and licensees being acquired for their innovative application of a particular Open Source technology, here are some of the biggest ones:

(October 9, 2006) Online Video destination site YouTube was a long-time user of the JW Media Player by Jeroen Wijering. They reportedly paid a grand total of $50 to license the player back in 2005, and, were (as just about everyone and their dog knows) acquired by Google for over $1.65 Billion.

(July 16, 2010) Google was at it again, this time with Semantic Web database and data analysis company Metaweb to the tune of roughly $200 million. Their Freebase service used free/open source data from Wikipedia, GeoNames, MusicBrainz and a number of other open source databases and content sources to build its massive “database of things”.

(June 18, 2012) Image Recognition provider Face implemented and greatly extended the popular OpenCV Image Analysis library and was acquired for approximately $60 million by the obvious company (by name, if not corporate goals) Facebook to help jump-start their “Automatic Photo Tagging” functionality.

(July 24, 2013) Developer training platform Pluralsight acquired popular Open Source software development training and educational content provider PeepCode.

(August 13, 2013) Twitter bought an Open Source training company called “Markana”.

Countless others:

Pentaho Acquires Visualization Developer from Its Open Source Ranks
Japanese E-Commerce Giant Rakuten Confirms Acquisition Of Video Site Viki

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