As I expected, Frank Karlitschek is forking ownCloud to create a new open source project called Nextcloud. In an interview, Karlitschek told me that he is joining with Spreedbox founder Niels Mache to create a new company with the same name.
The new company, Nextcloud, is being founded in Germany. Both Mache and Karlitschek will serve as managing directors.
The engineers who quit ownCloud, as well as Jos Poortvliet, the former community manager of openSUSE and ownCloud Inc., are joining Nextcloud.
First things first: Money matters
Karlitschek said that their primary focus is on creating a sustainable company. He praised Mache for his long entrepreneurial experience and said that Nextcloud will benefit from it. Mache previously served as the director of development for Red Hat where he led the development of Red Hat Linux in Germany. In addition, Mache has founded many successful tech companies in Germany.
Mache will be making a seven figure investment in Nextcloud to start and run the company. This will allow them to focus on what their customers and community members want without having to worry about answering to investors.
There are already two businesses for the company: Nextcloud, which, like ownCloud, will generate revenue through the paid enterprise edition. And Spreedbox that is selling like hot cakes in Asian markets, according to Karlitschek.
Karlitschek told me that they will work with partners to offer products based on Nextcloud. We saw a pilot with Western Digital where you get ‘cloud in a box’. While that wasn’t a commercial engagement, it offers a glimpse of the business possibilities around Nextcloud.
Cathedral and the Bazaar
There will be two editions of Nextcloud: the free of cost community edition and the paid enterprise edition. The enterprise edition will have some additional features suited for enterprise customers, but unlike ownCloud, the community and enterprise editions for Nextcloud will borrow features from each other more freely.
Karlitschek is a hardcore ‘free software’ guy and that is reflected in the way he is approaching Nextcloud. They are setting up a foundation for the project from the very beginning so that the project is not dependent on the company. The foundation will own the Nextcloud trademark and it will be licenced to the company for usage.
The biggest change that they are making is to eliminate CLAs (Contributor Licence Agreements) so that developers will not be required to sign a CLA to contribute to Nextcloud. CLAs have been a controversial topic within the open source community.
Nextcloud has also kept its doors open for existing ownCloud employees. Karlitschek said that he would welcome anyone from ownCloud who wants to join Nextcloud.
Engagement with customers, old and new
Karlitschek is concerned about the existing ownCloud customers. He told me that they can migrate to Nextcloud and their existing contract will be honored. They can simply move to Nextcloud without paying an extra dime and their existing contract will remain valid. Any company that signed a contract with ownCloud Inc. before June 2 can easily switch to Nextcloud. “So if you are planning to deploy ownCloud, your best bet is to get in touch with Nextcloud,” said Poortvliet.
How easy is it to migrate from ownCloud to Nextcloud?
Nextcloud is a drop-in replacement for ownCloud. So you can simply replace the ownCloud installation with Nextcloud installation and everything with continue to work as if nothing happened. Just think of MariaDB and MySQL.
But where is the code?
The first release of Nextcloud (both enterprise and community) is expected in July this year. The source will released under the AGPL-3.0 licence and will be published on GitHub, as usual.
Not repeating the same mistakes
As I wrote in my story aboutKarlitschek’s resignation from ownCloud, they failed to strike a balance between the community and company. Karlitschek said that Nextcloud will be set up in a very German style where the core focus will be on sustainability for decades to come and not just on immediate returns.
As I stated earlier, it is very hard to maintain a balance between an open source project and company, but after speaking with Karlitschek, I feel they have made all the right moves to maintain that fine balance. This is what ownCloud should have been from the very beginning. Since the original project (ownCloud) was founded by Karlitschek, I can clearly see hoards of those 1000+ ownCloud community members joining Nextcloud, which I consider to be one of the most important open source projects in the age of cloud.