Is open source lock-in possible?

Earlier this week, open source software company Suse announced that it is strengthening its presence in the Asia-Pacific region following its acquisition by growth investor EQT from Micro Focus.

Well-known for its Suse Linux distro that got me into Linux during my student years, Suse faces strong competition from its bigger US rival Red Hat.

The two open source software companies have similar offerings, starting with Linux for the infrastructure piece, to container orchestration and OpenStack in the platform layer. But unlike Red Hat, which has Red Hat Ansible under its fold, Suse does not appear to have a commercial version of the Ansible open source automation tool.

In its public communications on its APAC expansion plans, Suse took the chance to stake the claim that it is now the industry’s largest independent open source company – in light of Red Hat’s impending acquisition by IBM.

During a recent meeting with Suse executives, Andy Jiang, Suse’s vice president for Asia-Pacific and Japan, touted the company’s independence and claimed it would not lock users into its platform unlike other open source rivals.

While Jiang did not provide specific examples of how its rivals were locking in enterprises, any open source company that does so will be going against the ethos of free and open source software, that is, users have the freedom to choose an open source vendor and switch suppliers easily if things don’t work out.

Of course, as commercial open source software vendors, the likes of Red Hat and Suse are concerned with profitability and have the right to employ ways to maintain their customer base.

But they should base those efforts on their innovation chops and strength of their service and support offerings, and not try to lock a user to their platform – like Apple does with its ecosystem. After all, isn’t open source software supposed to be open and interoperable regardless of which platform you choose?

Have you been locked into – or felt like you were being locked into – an open source platform by a commercial open source vendor? Tell us more in the comments!

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