Hortonworks seeks salvation in proprietary software

Three years ago Hortonworks led a chorus of open source Kumbaya as it sought to differentiate itself in the rapidly growing Hadoop market. Today, Hortonworks has significantly changed its tune, embracing proprietary software as a way to improve its financials.

The only shocker here is that it took so long.

Last month I declared that “there’s no money in open source.” While open source has become essential for every business, selling open-source software is an exercise in self-hurt and business model gymnastics. Hence, the most successful open source companies aren’t open source companies at all: They’re companies like Facebook that liberally embrace and contribute open-source code, but don’t sell it.

Hortonworks tried to beat these odds and follow Red Hat, the one company that has managed to build a profitable, ever-growing open-source software business. Though the company has delivered impressive top-line revenue growth, it remains far from profitability in a fiscal environment that increasingly demands sustainability. With Hadoop adoption nearing 100 percent, according to Forrester, Hortonworks needs to find a better model for getting paid for all that adoption it has helped to foster.

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As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Hortonworks “will [soon] offer proprietary software, built by other companies or in partnership with Hortonworks, that would run on an open-source platform.” While the company appears to be trying to keep its hands unsullied from that proprietary software by having others develop the code that it sells, it’s definitely a big shift in strategy.

After all, this is the company that fretted about proprietary software fragmenting the Hadoop ecosystem, and chided those that adopted an “Open Core” model.;

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