Image via CrunchBase
Another area where Open Source can add value in the SaaS world is in building the confidence of the customers. There is definitely a huge risk in the SaaS world when customers put their data on the hands of third party vendors. There is always a possibility that a SaaS vendor can go out of business putting your data at risk. Not only the customers have to get the data out of the outgoing vendor, they also need to find a compatible SaaS application to keep going. Unless the old vendor is offering an option to export the data in an open format, the customers are in for a big trouble. Plus, many customers may want to stick with the same application due to various reasons. This is the kind of scenario where releasing the SaaS application as Open Source adds value to the customers. They could just install the app in one of the cloud infrastructure available and keep going as if nothing changed in their world. Mindquarry, a collaborative software, is a perfect example for this kind of scenario.
In fact, I have been pushing Open Source to be a part of the SaaS offerings for more than a year now and I have been suggesting that SaaS players should release the source code at least when they close their shop.
I hope that all the mom and pop web services startups take the option of data portability seriously and consider releasing their source code to public, at least, when they shut their shop.
In fact, there are some examples of companies releasing their code as Open Source before they vanished in thin air. Zoto is one example and Mindquarry is another. Yesterday, Google announced that they are closing the development of Jaiku, a
popular micro-blogging app like Twitter, and releasing it under an open source license.
As we mentioned last April, we are in the process of porting Jaiku over to Google App Engine. After the migration is complete, we will release the new open source Jaiku Engine project on Google Code under the Apache License. While Google will no longer actively develop the Jaiku codebase, the service itself will live on thanks to a dedicated and passionate volunteer team of Googlers.
With the open source Jaiku Engine project, organizations, groups and individuals will be able to roll-their-own microblogging services and deploy them on Google App Engine. The new Jaiku Engine will include support for OAuth, and we’re excited about developers using this proven code as a starting point in creating a freely available and federated, open source microblogging platform.
This is a pretty good move on the Google’s part. This ensures that Jaiku can live on even after Google has stopped supporting it. It is just a matter of time before Jaiku is ported to environments other than Google App Engine and could serve as a micro-blogging platform for enterprise customers. This is the beauty of open source. It not only reduces the risk for SaaS users, it also opens up new vistas in the marketplace.
I strongly encourage vendors to open source their SaaS applications much like Wordpress, Deki Wiki or Wikidot. If not, I would urge them to consider releasing the source code of their app under one of the open source licenses when they
shut down their service.