Open-core model

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The open-core model is a business model for the monetization of commercially-produced open-source software. Coined by Andrew Lampitt in 2008,[1] the open-core model primarily involves offering a "core" or feature-limited version of a software product as free and open-source software, while offering "commercial" versions or add-ons as proprietary software.[2][3]


The concept of open-core software has proven to be controversial, as many developers do not consider the business model to be true open-source software. Despite this, open-core models are used by a large number of open-source software companies.[4]

Use of contributor license agreements[edit]

Some open-core products require their contributors to sign a contributor license agreement, which either dictates that the copyright of all contributions to the product become the property of its owner, or that the product's owner is given an unlimited, non-exclusive license to use the contributions, but the authors retain copyright ownership. In an open-core scenario, these agreements are typically meant to allow the commercial owner of the product (which in some cases, is ultimately the copyright holder to all of its code, regardless of its original author) to simultaneously market versions of the product under open-source and non-free licenses. This is in contrast with more traditional uses of CLAs, which are meant solely to allow the steward of an open-source project to defend its copyright, or guarantee that the code will only ever be made available under open-source terms, thus protecting it from becoming open core.[5][6][7]


  • Instructure's Canvas learning management software.
  • Oracle's MySQL database software is dual-licensed under a proprietary license, and the GNU GPL; proprietary versions offer additional features and enterprise support plans.[8]
  • Elasticsearch, the search engine, has an Apache 2.0 licensed core, while additional plugins are distributed under the source-available Elastic License.
  • Eucalyptus, private cloud software, has a proprietary enterprise edition which provides additional features.[9][10][11]
  • Gitlab CE (Community Edition) is under a MIT-style open source license,[12] while Gitlab EE (Enterprise Edition) is under a commercial license.[13]
  • Neo4j CE (Community Edition) is under GPLv3, while Neo4j EE (Enterprise Edition) is under a commercial license, providing additional features including clustering and hot backups.
  • Redis is under a 3-clause BSD open source license,[14] while Redis Labs offers Redis Enterprise is under a commercial license which provides additional features including a search engine and JSON support.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Phipps, Simon (July 2012). Open Source Strategies for the Enterprise. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 978-1-4493-4117-6.
  2. ^ Riehle, Dirk (2009). "The Commercial Open Source Business Model". Value Creation in e-Business Management. Springer Verlag. pp. 18–30.
  3. ^ Wasserman, Anthony I. (2011). "How the Internet transformed the software industry". Journal of Internet Services and Applications. 2 (1): 11–22. doi:10.1007/s13174-011-0019-x. ISSN 1867-4828. Some companies have only a single version of their software, while others follow an “open core” model, providing a community release of the core version, and offering proprietary premium features using a commercial license.
  4. ^ "Open Core Debate: The Battle for a Business Model". Linux Insider. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  5. ^ "MySQL mistake is a wake-up call on open source ownership". InfoWorld. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  6. ^ "FSFE welcomes KDE's adoption of the Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA)". 2008-08-22.
  7. ^ "6.1 Copyright Papers". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  8. ^ "Open core or dual licensing? The example of MySQL". The H. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  9. ^ Bort, Julie (18 April 2012). "This Startup That Angered A Lot Of Open Source Fans Just Got $30 Million In Funding". Business Insider. Retrieved 19 February 2016. It was one of the first commercial companies to champion a concept called "open core."
  10. ^ Bort, Julie (22 June 2010). "Marten Mickos says open source doesn't have to be fully open". Network World. Retrieved 19 February 2016. "We deliver a fully functional cloud with Eucalyptus software. You can download it on a GPL v3 license. But, additionally, we provide enterprise features only if you pay for them ... it's open core," he says.
  11. ^ Jackson, Jacob. "Eucalyptus Strengthens Its Back End". PCWorld. Retrieved 19 February 2016. To make money, Eucalyptus Systems uses an open-core business model, offering one version of the software free through an open-source license and selling a commercial version with support and additional features ...
  12. ^ " · master · / GitLab Community Edition". GitLab. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  13. ^ "GitLab Enterprise Edition license change". GitLab. 2014-02-11. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  14. ^ "Redis license and trademark information". Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  15. ^ "Licenses". Retrieved 2018-08-24.

External links[edit]