Open or Closed Source Software

Raised eyebrows are the norm when people realize that I have developed a Closed Source Software (CSS) application by integrating a number of Open Source Software (OSS) systems. Before we explore the Symscape business model, keep in mind that everyone needs shelter, food, and health-care, i.e., even software developers need to be paid.

Caedium: State-of-the-art plumbingCaedium: State-of-the-art 'plumbing'

Most of the development I do within Caedium is system integration - some consider it mundane, unexciting plumbing. Cross-platform simulation environments, such as Caedium, while sounding grandiose, just don't cut it compared to a moving in-cylinder combustion simulation - at least in the circles I move in. Yet the need for an easy-to-use and affordable Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) simulation environment is genuine - judging by the interest in Caedium - it's just that no one wants to pay for its development upfront. Further, there aren't many software developers (if any) willing to donate their time in support of such mundane activities either. So the idea of starting an OSS project to develop Caedium didn't seem like an option when I started out.

Instead I have invested 6 years developing a state-of-the-art plumbing system supporting CAE simulations such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Hopefully this effort is not in vain and, judging by the enthusiastic support I've received, it isn't.

Now the question moves on to whether, now that I have a working system, I should release it as an OSS project. I still don't believe that there's a viable community of developers willing to help develop such a system - nothing has changed - it's still mundane, unexciting plumbing. Another alternative source of development for OSS projects is research grants, but no one is likely to receive funds to 'merely enhance' a unified simulation environments that transcends many disciplines.

The main benefit of OSS - that of an enthusiastic development community - just isn't likely to happen for Caedium. Essentially then Caedium would be a free (as in free beer) OSS project rather than a free (as in freedom) OSS project - meaning I'd have to get a day job with little, if any, time for further Caedium development.

Based on the arguments presented here, I think the most efficient way for Caedium to advance is through the support of a user community willing to pay yearly subscriptions. So for the foreseeable future Caedium will remain CSS, but there are benefits:

  • The plumbing will get better and better
  • I'm the only one who has to deal with the tedious compiling and integration of disparate software systems on multiple platforms
  • Given enough interest or requests I can fund specific development of the OSS projects Caedium uses and, where applicable, contribute directly through developments such as OpenFOAM on Windows


Not sure I agree

I've never had to make that choice to give away a great deal of personal investment or my life's work, but I can imagine it would be difficult. Notwithstanding your freedom to choose and the need for food, shelter etc, I can see the dilemma but I don't think your choice is very bold. It may work to you satisfaction if the potential market is always going to be small or the product is interesting but not exciting, but it will probably underperform if the product you've created is as attractive as you suggest.

You mention the lack of a community to make a bazaar model work, but consider that OpenFOAM uses the cathedral model supported by consulting and support contracts from medium-large industrial firms. Potential users aren't that interested in how many years you have invested in your code (the main OpenFOAM developer has invested 10+ years). Most OF users use it because its free but the early adopters were the highly technical proficient types who recognised the paradigm shift it created. If you can win over a few of those types, they become product champions, as valuable as an OSS product. But this will only work if the software is good enough.

OpenCFD are performing well out of this approach and I am one of those who raises their eyebrows when someone chooses to break the chain and close their work, even though they may be free to do so. But it does depend to some extent on the software and the market involved.

Symscape makes a complex

Symscape makes a complex environment accessable. Although the programm is in an early stage (specially al the problems with complex shapes), and not in verry "real life stage" it would contriubut in the long term to such powerfull but difficult to handle programs like OpenFOAM. It's fast, simple and has an excellent price/performence ratio. I would not be surprised if in a few years a lot more companys would decide to buy Caedium instead of high price, hardware demanding, complex programs to get results that in many situations need only to be approximative (and in even more cases are wong since you need to be verry verry experienced in the CAE sector not a butten pusher). Continue!

I sympathize with the tough choice between free beer and FOSS

Good discussions here. Personally, I get the dilemma. In a perfect world, the idea of FOSS in the engineering community especially with regards to CFD would be a dream. But, it is a very difficult to have that dream come true.

The OpenFoam folks have fit a niche with very high end, specialized CFD users that are thinking above and beyond the box. So, they are able to build a community of zealots that are uber smart and willing to invest in the "cause". The cause itself is not very easy to define. You either get it or you don't.

Let's take a simple example. My personal computer is a netbook running ubuntu. I could have easily purchased a mac. Perhaps I am the minority, but I didn't go with ubuntu simply because it was free. It is a nice benefit that it is free, but the driving factor is that I am interested in learning, participating and being a part of the FOSS environment. That is my main driving factor. So, in my sense, I get it. I understand and want to be a part. But, I am the minority.

But it is very difficult to make this scalable to feed, shelter a growing organization around this idea. One could argue that the $$ side of it gets in the way. But, fact is we all need to sleep and eat.

Look at Red Hat, how are they so successful? For the most part via services. But if you look at the size of the market from the number of users to the number of talented developers that they have to choose from, the numbers are in their favor.

But, if you look at the same number of users to the number of folks that are capable and willing to help develop in an open source environment. The numbers just seem to not be there, in my opinion. It doesn't mean that companies like OF won't be tremendously successful. It just means there is a certain market footprint and penetration they can expect to achieve over a certain period of time.

Clearly Symscape Has Added Value for OpenFOAM Users

I do not use OpenFOAM presently but am very interested in using it. I don't have the time or patience to make it work on Windows myself and to patch together pre- and post-processing and meshing capabilities. Hence, a reasonably priced tool that gives me easy access to the OpenFOAM solvers along with pre/post processing adds value (i.e., I save time, which I value).

I think the real question is how much value is added by RANS Flow add-in ? At $999/year (for the Pro package), I must spend time evaluating the value to make sure it's worth it, in terms of the present functionality. At the RANS Flow add-in pre-release rate of $299/year, it's a "no-brainer" for me.

Bob Gordon


Guys rethink your strategy. V2 with RANS to is an improvment... but your way of making money is to enter first the minds
of the technician (in his free time) and students and through them in the pocket of the bosses. With onetousand dollars/year!??! price you will lose the technicians and private ones. Only a few bosses will autosise the buy of a program that has no manual, nearly no video tutorial, no courses, no famous name and no repuation. A program that may YOU seem easy to use, but a new customer needs weeks of study.
I'm sure the development did you cost a lot of time and money. Hope you have the chance to induce a healthy growing of Symscape with a healthy affordable price increase.
But maby I'm wrog and your selling numbers are so good theat you
dont' need you poor old custumes any more. Cool tool the V2! but I'm a Caedium enthusiast not an objective calculating boss.

Thanks for your feedback

Thanks for your feedback. I'd just like to respond to some of the points you raised.

While we have increased the price of Caedium Professional from $299.99/year to $999.99/year, it is due to the significant increase in capabilities that adding Caedium RANS Flow provides. You are welcome to mix and match individual (à la carte) add-ons (e.g., Caedium Panel Flow at $99.99/year) that constituted the previous version of Caedium Professional. Also all existing users of Caedium Professional can receive a free update to the latest version, that includes Caedium RANS Flow.

We offer a 50% academic discount.

We offer full product (no element limits or other hobbling), free 30 day trials.

Even at $999.99/year Caedium Professional is excellent value if you are just looking for straightforward fluid flow and heat transfer, when compared to many of the other commercial CFD tools available.

We have a fairly extensive collection of documentation in the form of online tutorials. Rather than try to document everything all at once, we are responding to specific requests, to most efficiently use our limited resources.