We take pride in the open source work that we do, as a way of showing the quality of our work, and of making better technology available to more people. We support several open source projects with both work and donations, including in particular FreeBSD, WANProxy and libuinet. These projects matter to us, and we enjoy working on them whether on a volunteer basis or when doing work for hire.
We are grateful that today so many companies understand the value of supporting open source software with paid development effort. Back when we first started, companies uncertain of what to do with kinds of intellectual property they’d never had to think about would default to simply not release any improvements, and maybe not even critical bug fixes, back to the original upstream repository for open source software. In some cases, companies refuse to do this even when they are required by license. We take a different approach, believing that companies profit most when they focus on their core strengths. If a particular technological innovation, algorithm or software enhancement is the core of a company’s business, we think it makes sense for them to retain ownership of it, and to charge for access to that source code as they see fit. Many improvements made to open source software, however, don’t fall into this category — even many things related to core business function may not themselves need to be treated like trade secrets.
If we’re working on a networking device for you, we’d hope that minor improvements to extant open source drivers would be contributed back, and maybe even new drivers altogether. We typically won’t enter into agreements that keep us from being able to contribute back critical bug fixes with security implications, certainly. We think that everyone thrives when what is available in the public arena is of the best quality.
In keeping with this spirit, we also will typically offer discounts for work which is entirely intended to be open-sourced, and which might have some meaningful value to the broader community. A plugin layer for your proprietary application, for proprietary plugins, is probably not something which has value as an open source component. But maybe you need a protocol module for WAN Optimization software, and you don’t need to sell that optimization yourself, you just need the benefit of it, as soon as possible and on your terms. We’re happy to charge you less when we can create something that meets your needs, and which helps us to serve our open source goals and ideals. It may be that the work we do for you will help us with another customer in the future, or will catch the eye of someone who will bring us in for an interesting project we wouldn’t have heard otherwise. And it is certainly the case that many of our customers have had the benefit of open source work that we have done for little or no compensation.
If you’re thinking of retaining our services, we encourage you to contact us and discuss whether open source licensing might make sense for our participation in your project, and whether we might be able to offer you a discount on our usual rates if the work is open sourced. We aren’t able to provide legal advice on license compliance, liability or other issues you should speak with counsel about, but we can share our professional perspective on the kinds of open source licenses we like to work with, and the open source software projects we would encourage you to use.