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Buoyant CEO on Linkerd's existential question

Buoyant CEO William Morgan said project viability and long-term funding underpinned recent changes to Linkerd, problems other open source projects are likely to face.

Linkerd recently found itself confronting an existential problem -- one that caused changes in how the service mesh was distributed.

In February, Buoyant, which sells commercial services and SaaS support for Linkerd and employs all of the project's maintainers, ended free stable release artifacts for users with more than 50 employees. In Episode 2 of IT Ops Query: Tech's Tragedy of the Commons, William Morgan, CEO and co-founder of Buoyant, said the change stemmed from a fundamental flaw in Linkerd's value cycle -- essentially that users were never incentivized to contribute back to or help fund the project.

It's another example of a mature open source project struggling to make the economics work. Unlike HashiCorp, Buoyant chose to change its source code distribution model rather than its licensing model, allowing the company to continue its longstanding relationship with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. In 2017, Linkerd became the fifth project to be adopted by the CNCF, which was established to support open source software development for container technology.

Regardless, as Morgan tells TechTarget Editorial's Beth Pariseau, host of the IT Ops Query podcast, the long-term funding dilemma for open source projects remains. Morgan's solution is straightforward but reflects how open source has moved away from its grassroots beginnings, which he acknowledged could be uncomfortable for some. Indeed, one of the issues to surface from Linkerd's recent decision caught Morgan by surprise: an ideological debate about what free software really means.

Nicole Laskowski is a senior news director for TechTarget Editorial. She drives coverage for news and trends around enterprise applications, application development and storage.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism covering DevOps. Have a tip? Email her or reach out @PariseauTT.

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