Cisco buying SourceFire. What’s the future of Snort? Will the piggy die?



After watching Oracle make a mess of  many of Sun’s Open Source projects, with Open Office being sent over to Apache, OpenSolaris discontinued, and MySQL team members leaving and creating a new fork, it’s natural to look at the future of the Open Source initiatives that propelled SourceFire, most notably Snort, and wonder what the future of Open Source will be at SourceFire.

On the one hand, you have SourceFire, who grew out of an Open Source  initiative, and very smartly gained market share by putting our and supporting a very good, free product. Snort signatures have become the defacto standard in much of the Federal Government and the private sector as well.Snort generated name recognition for SourceFire, and  SourceFire gave their clients value by offering an upgraded solution that had a fuller feature set, a nice GUI interface, enterprise management capabilities, and (arguably most important) an official support channel. In the meantime, they made money by offering training for both the Open Source and commercial versions of their products.

Cisco is a very big contributor to the Open Source community, but their business model differs considerably from that of SourceFire. The Cisco model is based upon selling commercial hardware products, training, and support,. Open Source contributions are used largely to influence the standards committees, as opposed to being a market share generator.

It’s going to be a very interesting dynamic to watch. Will the sales driven Cisco team see the Open Source users as freeloaders, and wish to disengage them as much as possible? Will they push for upgrades on the commercial products without taking care of the Open Source core?

On the one hand, I see a large number of engineers at Cisco who are dedicated, contributing partners in the Open Source Community. On the other side, I see a company that has a very motivated, to the point of being cutthroat sometimes, sales force. If the latter group wins, SourceFire and Snort loses.

Well, we are probably safe for at least the next six months or so, why they digest this acquisition. Then the internal battle at Cisco begins.

Here’s hoping that Cisco allows SourceFire to keep doing what they are doing,

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