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Exclusive Interview: The Core Of ownCloud Will ALWAYS Remain Free And Open Source

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The ownCloud project recently announce its evolution as a company. We reached out to the ownCloud team to understand the evolution of the project into a company. Here is an exclusive interview with Markus Rex, the new CEO, CTO of ownCloud and Frank Karlitschek the founder of ownCloud.

Swapnil: How do you define ownCloud Inc? What is the difference between ownCloud, the project, and ownCloud, the company?
Frank/Rex: The ownCloud project was founded by Frank Karlitschek in January 2010- 2 years ago because it was something he felt the world needed – an easy-to-use, secure, flexible way to manage data in the cloud, without being tied down to a storage vender. Your cloud, your data, your way. The project is at the core of all our activities. ownCloud Inc., the company, was founded to bring those principals to a wider audience. In this sense, both enterprises and individual users have the same need. This is why ownCloud is so powerful. It is built by users for users, by a community of users. The commercial entity is a logical extension of the community, providing the service and support enterprises expect in their solutions.

Swapnil: Rex you come from SUSE, how is that experience going to help the ownCloud as a CEO and CTO. What are going to be your KRAs?
Frank/Rex: For over 15 years now I’ve been working around Open Source projects – nurturing the projects while creating a successful business. That experience will help a lot with ownCloud, where we have an active community with a strong leader – Frank. I will focus on providing the business aspect of ownCloud Inc., building up the commercial business around the ownCloud project.

Swapnil: How do you plan to position ownCloud? Will ownCloud remain storage services or are there any plans to offer PaaS offerings?
Frank/Rex: ownCloud is a software solution (with emphasis on “software”) that allows our users to set up file sync and share on their own hardware or any other storage location of their choice. With availability of our products we’ll get more into the details of our plans.

Swapnil: What new products and service ownCloud will offer as a company?
Frank/Rex: We will announce our product plans at product availability during the first quarter this year. Notice the counter on our website?

Swapnil: Will ownCloud remain open source or is there a possibility that there may be some non-free components/ elements in the products to be launched by ownCloud?
Frank/Rex: The core of ownCloud will ALWAYS remain free and open source. We are not planning to launch non-free add-ons at the moment, but it´s an option for the future – extensions that are only useful for corporate users. We are too small to talk about an ecosystem of apps, app vendors and more either, at this point. The only thing we are certain about is that we will be launching support for ownCloud.

Swapnil: Who do you consider as your core competitors?
Frank/Rex: Probably Dropbox and box.net — EXCEPT, we are NOT a storage vendor, we supply the cost-effective software tools.

Swapnil: What USP ownCloud has other than being open source over Dropbox? [Being open source is great for those who understand the benefits, I am asking from an average Joe kind of user] Swapnil:What kind of eco-system /services we should be looking for around ownCloud. How different is it going to be from Dropbox?
Frank/Rex: As one would guess, we see players in related spaces – like Dropbox or Box.net. The differences are related primarily to the business model. We don’t sell storage, we sell software. We don’t want to control your data, we want you to control your date. We think you should have your cloud, your data, your way.

Open source: ownCloud is built by users, for users. The bottom line of that is twofold: you get innovative features and functions from hard core users of file sync and share, and you can have tremendous impact on what those features and functions are.

Services: To start, there are really three critical partners for the ecosystem (there is the community developing ownCloud.org – it goes without saying they are important). Beyond the community, there are channel partners that resell ownCloud support. There are systems integration and training partners, whose primary mission is to implement ownCloud for customers, and then train those customers. And finally, there are hosting partners who want to leverage ownCloud to stand up their own services. Clearly, because our business model is very different, the ownCloud ecosystem will look very different from what is already in the market.

Swapnil: As a company one of the primary goals will be to make ownCloud profitable. What is going to be the revenue generation model of ownCloud?
Frank/Rex: ownCloud Inc. will offer various products and services around the Open Source project ownCloud. We will follow the established Open Source business models, and announce our detailed plans together with our product availability.

Swapnil: You just received around $1.25m funding where is this money being invested?
Frank/Rex: Across the board. We are putting a lot of emphasis on Engineering, but are not neglecting the other parts of our company. You might have seen our recent announcement that Matt Richards joined as our VP Products.

Swapnil: Can you tell us about the organizational structure of the new company? Are you hiring?
Frank/Rex: Yes, we are hiring! Please check our website at http://www.owncloud.com/jobs for our current openings. Our organizational structure is fairly standard with Frank taking care of all engineering and our great community, Matt Richards of our features and markets and me of our vision and everything else.

Swapnil: Also, can you tell a bit about where the teams (sales, marketing and development) are going to be based at – Germany or the USA?
Frank/Rex: Our corporate HQ is in Boston, USA, Matt Richards and myself are based there. Frank works in Germany. Our other team members are split between both locations.

Swapnil: As a company what are the markets you are targeting? Who are going to be or are your customers?
Frank/Rex: Our commercial offerings are primarily targeted at the enterprise and business customer. Many customers have a requirement for universal file access and file share combined with full flexibility around where to store their data. We deliver that capability.

Swapnil: How are you planning to engage partners or build an ecocystem around ownCloud? Can you name some companies you have partnered with and how they will bundle ownCloud with their products.
Frank/Rex: We are in discussions with many partners to create a very active ecosystem around ownCloud – large and small. We will talk and announce those partnerships in the future.

Swapnil: Who are you looking at your paid customers – individuals or enterprises? Can you please elaborate a bit?
Frank/Rex: Our offerings will be mainly targeted at business and enterprise customers. Once our products are available we will announce more details.

Swapnil: What is the road-map of ownCloud?
Frank/Rex: ownCloud 3 will be released at the end of January with many improvements. For example encryption, big improvements in calendar and address-book, a new photo gallery and a lot more. We plan to release ownCloud 4 in April with versioning as one of the main features and hopefully an improved web interface for phones and tablets. We also plan to release Android and iOS apps and a desktop syncing client for the first quarter of 2012

Swapnil: Considering the broken patent system, do you think US is safer for a start-up anymore?
Frank/Rex: The decision about where to start a company is driven by multiple factors, such as market factors, talent and available capital. The legal system plays an important role as well, but is not the only aspect. So given the multiple factors it depends on the focus of the specific new business which location is the best choice.

Swapnil: ownCloud is about storage how would SOPA affect you, if passed?
Frank/Rex: We will provide tools for our customers which allow them to decide about where and how to store their data. So we are not affected by SOPA in its current form.

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