Mesosphere: Creating Lasting Value on Top of Open Source Software

By Robert Siegel, Ryan Kissick
2016 | Case No. E600 | Length 19 pgs.

“Mesosphere: Creating Lasting Value on Top of Open Source Software” explores the challenges associated with building a company on top of open source software.  In 2013, Florian Leibert, Ben Hindman, and Tobias Knaup founded Mesosphere.  By combining proprietary software products with an open source software called Apache Mesos, Mesosphere developed a single platform called the datacenter operating system (DC/OS).  With the DC/OS, companies could easily deploy, operate, and scale workloads and applications across multiple servers in a datacenter.  In an era of big data analysis and software containers, companies were thrilled to find a solution that simplified the management of these complex services.

For Mesosphere’s co-founders, there was little doubt that Apache Mesos and the DC/OS could provide tremendous value to thousands of enterprises around the globe.  However, the trio faced several challenges associated with building a successful organization on top of a free, open source product.  Specific obstacles addressed in the case include: building and managing open source software communities; understanding distinct customers and customer needs; creating products (and a product release schedule) aligned with customer needs; determining how to monetize Mesosphere’s products and services; aligning on what product features to open source (versus what features to make proprietary); and responding to major competitive threats.

Learning Objective

Through an in-depth examination of the challenges associated with building a company on top of open source software, the Mesosphere case highlights several learning objectives: 1) Managing open source communities; 2) Understanding customer needs; 3) Determining how to monetize an open source product; 4) Responding to major competitive threats.
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