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Open Source vs Enterprise

Ionic's app development platform consists of a mixture of Open Source projects (Ionic Framework, Capacitor, Stencil, etc.) and an enterprise offering that provides additional support, software add-ons, cloud services, and access to advisory/consulting services.

As a commercial provider of frontend and mobile development tools and technology, Ionic is uniquely positioned in the market. Today, most frontend platforms are either fully built and maintained by volunteers, or built for internal use cases at large companies but made open source as a side effect for some other benefit (hiring, reputation, etc).

Ionic, in contrast, is in the business of selling software and services to teams building with its technology. Ionic generates most of our revenue through subscriptions to its enterprise app platform, as well as self-service plans for indies and small teams on its cloud services (Appflow).

For teams that are new to working with a commercial vendor for frontend or mobile technology, this guide is meant to serve as an introduction to our approach, the benefits over simply consuming open source or free libraries/plugins in the community, and why we think Ionic hits the sweet spot for enterprise app development teams building important or mission-critical apps.

Ionic's Open Source Strategy

Ionic was started as the company that created the popular Ionic Framework, a UI kit for web developers to build native-quality mobile apps for iOS and Android using standard web technology and development approaches. Created in 2013, Ionic Framework is incredibly popular and powers over 15% of all apps in the app stores today. In addition, over 200 Fortune 1000 companies have invested in Ionic to design and build internal and customer-facing apps.

The team behind Ionic had a strategy for building a business around Ionic Framework since the very early days of the project. By focusing on a flagship open source project, in this case Ionic Framework, the team predicted that adoption would happen across the entire app development market, from students and indies all the way up to the Fortune 1000.

Naturally, if enterprise teams adopted the technology, they would end up using it to build very important apps for both their customers or for their own internal use cases. These teams would be making significant investments in these apps and would require additional support and software for enterprise-specific challenges, and the prediction was that there would be a meaningful business opportunity in helping these teams be successful not only with Ionic's technology but in building apps in general.

Today, that strategy has been proven out, with a healthy customer base of enterprise and fast-growing businesses adopting both Ionic's open source technology and its commercial, enterprise-focused products and services.

How Enterprise Customers are Prioritized

One thing that's important for teams evaluating Ionic's enterprise services to be aware of is how Enterprise customers are prioritized.

Ionic receives hundreds of requests for help each week from users of its open source technology across myriad channels (social, GitHub, email, etc). Volume is high enough that issues filed on GitHub are processed initially using automated tools, with the team monitoring for patterns across several repositories to look out for serious issues, but not always being able to spend time with individual users or issues.

While this enables the team at Ionic to support a massive developer community, it is not sufficient for enterprise app development teams with pressing needs. Additionally, the needs of indie developers, of which there are considerably more than enterprise developers by sheer volume alone, are often significantly different from the needs of an enterprise team.

For those enterprise teams who need a higher level of priority and service, Ionic offers an industry-leading enterprise subscription, and is the only open-source company in the market to do so.

With an enterprise subscription, customers are given a dedicated Customer Success rep and access to the app development experts here at Ionic. Issues are prioritized, and higher subscription levels have enhanced SLAs.

Enterprise subscribers also have access to Ionic's suite of enterprise-ready solutions across the Build, Secure, and Deliver pillars of the Ionic enterprise stack.

As an enterprise app developer, the value of your and your team's time and energy is considerable. Utilizing Ionic's enterprise services is one of the best investments your team can make over the long term.

In our opinion

The history of app development has been a pendulum between closed-source, commercial, proprietary technologies, and fully open-source, non-commercial technologies.

In the enterprise, teams that used to purchase developer tools and technology have swung to the other side, fully embracing open source and the benefits it brings. At all sides they are being told that open source is the future and to fully invest in it.

But something's been lost in the process. Before, teams worked with vendors that were in the business of enterprise app development, and were on call to help with any issues a development team faced or provided software specifically designed for enterprise environments. Today, with teams fully embracing open source, they're finding that their showstopper issue for a multi-million dollar project is treated just as seriously as one from a student or indie developer. Even worse, the volunteers building the open source technology they rely on don't have experience or the interest in adding features that only enterprises care about. This is true even for projects that are sponsored by major tech companies who have no interest in commercializing their technology or catering to enterprise developers. They're satisfied with the goodwill and hiring benefits that come from having successful open source projects in the wild.

I see Ionic as the sweet spot between these two options. The foundation of the Ionic stack consists of industry leading open source projects with large communities and permissive licenses with close to zero restrictions. But unlike most open source projects, Ionic gives enterprise app development teams what they've lost in the move to open source: priority support and enterprise-specific features.

This means Ionic is incredibly aligned with the needs of enterprise app developers. We're not simply funding open source because it's good for hiring, we're funding it because it's the entire foundation of our business and product strategy. We're literally in the business of helping your team be successful. And, on top of that, because we work with hundreds of enterprise customers across nearly every industry on earth, our expertise is growing at a fast rate and we can pattern match to help your team.

I believe the pendulum between open source and commercial is going to stop swinging, and will rest somewhere between the two, and that's where Ionic is. We offer the best combination of open source and standards-based, while giving enterprise teams the priority support and enterprise features they need.

Max Lynch
Max LynchCo-founder & CEO, Ionic