Harness, a startup from AppDynamics founder Jyoti Bansal, has been building a platform of developer tools over the last five years. In 2020, the company made its first foray into open source when it bought continuous integration tool Drone. Today, they embraced openness further with the release of a free and open version of the company’s continuous delivery product.
Bansal is reluctant to use the term “open source” because it carries some big connotations with it and he doesn’t want to misrepresent what the company is doing. But starting today, he is making the source code for the community edition of the continuous delivery tool available for any developer to use under the “source-accessible PolyForm Shield license.”
“We are doing everything [in the same way] as what the power of open source would be, but we are using the source available licensing strategy, where we are putting 100% of our source in open repos…Everything is similar to a fully open source project except that our competitors are not allowed to monetize it,” Bansal explained.
Over the last several years, companies like Elastic and MongoDB saw some cloud providers like Amazon taking advantage of the open source license to create their own versions of the same product. They took exception and created a slightly more restrictive license to prevent wholesale poaching by competitors.
Stefano Maffulli, executive director at the Open Source Initiative (OSI), says Harness is being careful and respectful when it comes to how they frame this product. “Harness is doing the right thing by making clear where they are using an OSI-approved license and where they are not. Doing so respects the community and builds trust,” Maffulli said.
Bansal said they are trying to balance the idea of having an open and available product, while protecting the significant investment they have made into building the product. He believes that by making it open, he can remove any friction from the process, allowing developers to download the open version without having to check with a manager or get permission, which is often the case when a purchase is involved.
“We have provided a free version of our product since the beginning, but we wanted to take it to the next level of where we just remove the barriers so there is no reason for a developer to ask for permission from their managers. They can go and download and try it and use it. And only when the product starts working in their environment and they’re successful will we have the commercial discussion if they need to,” he said.
Harness also offers a paid enterprise version and a hosted version of the product in addition to the open product. Bansal says the plan is to eventually move every product on the platform (where it makes sense) into this model, but they are starting with the continuous delivery product because the Drone continuous integration product is already open source.
Bansal adds that the Drone founders really showed him the value of a community and how having outside developers involved in a project can improve the product.
“What [the Drone founders] brought to us was showing us that you could build a great community. We have been building great products, and we know how to build great products, but if we can involve our community of users much more closely and the developer community outside of the company, we can even build even better products.”