They say if you love something, set it free. As a developer, software you create is such a personal thing. From that first moment when you had that whacky idea for an application to the countless hours it's like your child. Tornado is my child who has now reached adolesence and I am reluctantly allowing into the world. This is quite a scary step for me. I make my living creating and selling software, the opensource model is one that potentially removes the opportunity for profit in the traditional sense of selling software. It is a fundamental change in business model. That scares me as we venture into the unknown.
Why are we doing this?
Tornado has been a great success for us. But only a great success in our small sphere of customers. We really want to reach out to others and build a complete software ecosystem on top of the great platform that is Tornado. We have neither the money (for full page Wall Street journal ads) nor the breadth of customers (who we can introduce Tornado to) to significantly increase the installed base. By moving to an OpenSource model we suddenly allow other software vendors to use the Tornado code to build their businesses with, safe in the knowledge that we cannot suddenly change the licensing arrangement and extort ridiculous amounts of licensing fees from them. There is a safety in choosing Tornado and it lowers the total cost of a solution, since most ISVs who sell web applications have customers buying their web applications, not the infrastructure. Lowering the infrastructure cost lowers the overall solution cost (or increases your margin depending on how you choose to look at things ;-) )
How will our revenue model change when we release Tornado under an open license?
mySQL seems to be the most successful company making money from OpenSource, so we'll pretty much follow their lead. They have a dual license, GPL and commercial and as a customer you can choose. Obviously if you choose the commercial option you get help and support and your life is generally easier :-) The GPL route means you have to find your own way. We will also offer training, support and consulting services. On top of that we have a few other products that work in with Tornado, such as Web Booster, Web Booster ESSO which will be available under a traditional closed source model.
Over the next few weeks we will be pulling apart and repackaging the source ready for distribution to coincide with the next release or Tornado.