In news that will be of interest to both open- and closed-source developers, Canonical is about to open a new revenue stream by offering a suite of commercial services for deploying and managing Bazaar, the open-source version-control system.  Here's the scoop, with some thoughts.

In a press release shared with WorksWithU and set to be made public on December 10, Canonical announced its plan to offer a series of commercial services centered around Bazaar.  The details of the three services--named Consultancy and Conversion, Training and Support--are as follows, according to the release:
  • Consultancy and Conversion Services - Canonical consultants and engineers are experienced in converting a wide range of version control systems to Bazaar. Following a thorough analysis, they will design and implement a customised migration process that ensures businesses and development teams can get up and running rapidly.
  • Training - In addition, Canonical is now offering comprehensive training in Bazaar to get staff up-to-speed quickly and transfer best practice knowledge. Both the content and delivery are tailored to meet the needs of individual teams and development environments, so developers can get the most out of the training sessions.
  • Support - Canonical’s Global Support and Services Centre works closely with Bazaar development engineers, making it easy to access their expertise. For more complex cases, users are put in touch directly with Bazaar engineers. Companies interested in support should visit http://www.ubuntu.com/support/services.
Canonical will charge for the services on a per-day and per-developer basis, and will make them available to both open- and closed-source projects.

Building Canonical's cathedral

Clearly, Canonical is hoping to push more developers to adopt Bazaar for version control, and make some money while it's at it.

Given the number of alternative open-source versioning solutions available--git and subversion are the most popular--as well as the hassle associated with migrating from one system to another, that task could prove difficult.  It will take a lot to convince many developers to make the switch from what they're already using.

But Bazaar offers a number of attractive features, such as a de-centralized management model and greater scalability than many of its competitors.  Moreover, Canonical's new services will go far in making the conversion to Bazaar easier, for projects that have the cash to pay for assistance.

It's also important to note that there are already some big-name projects using Bazaar.  Besides Canonical's own endeavors, like Launchpad and Ubuntu itself, GNU Mailman, Emacs and MySQL deploy Bazaar.  Those projects are major players in the open-source world, and their developers may well be likely to take advantage of Canonical's new offerings.

Engaging closed-source developers

Perhaps the most interesting line in the press release is the one noting, "Although bzr itself is open source, there is no requirement for commercial projects to make their code publicly available."  In other words, Canonical seems to want to emphasize that it's happy to work with closed-source coders, as well as those already in the open-source ecosystem.

Proprietary development, of course, is nothing new for Canonical.  Much of its own code remains closed, or was developed initially under a closed-source license.

While many Ubuntu fans tend to have qualms with Canonical's lack of universal commitment to the ideals of the free-software world, they should keep in mind that the company is one of the only major players in the ecosystem that has consistently put pragmatism before ideology.  The decision to offer the Bazaar services (and Bazaar itself) to closed projects is an example of that commitment to practicality, and there's a lot to be said for it.