hortonworks wsj headline

For about five hours Friday night, the Wall Street Journal made a startling prediction: “Hortonworks to Offer Proprietary Software.” 

Those who follow the company, which has been emphatic in its commitment to the open source Apache Way, could hardly believe what they were reading.

Roman Shaposhnik, director of open source at EMC-owned Pivotal Lab, tweeted:

Say What?

Shaposhnik, like 200 of Hortonworks’ employees, is a member of the Apache Software Foundation, a community of volunteer developers who build free and open source software (FOSS) for the public good.

Jonathan Natkins, a field engineer who at one time worked for Hortonworks competitor Cloudera, has a visceral reaction when he saw the headline:

Appropriate Skepticism

While their shock was appropriate, there are times when a little skepticism is warranted.

This was one such time. Within hours of original publication, the Wall Street Journal changed the headline, the subhead and parts of the story itself.

The new story suggests Hortonworks plans to collaborate with others on proprietary software to address cybersecurity. Hortonworks will likely provide more details during a previously planned event tomorrow that is expected to address a new product approach and strategy.

Fact Check

CMSWire contacted Hortonworks to find out if the company had changed its position on keeping its software open source.

Here’s what Shaun Connolly, vice president of corporate strategy, Hortonworks said:

"Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) is 100 percent open source, Hortonworks DataFlow is 100 percent open source and our new incubating CyberSecurity effort focused on Apache Metron is 100 percent open source.”

In other words, Hortonworks does not write or sell proprietary software.

It earns its revenues by providing services and support around its 100 percent open source big data crunching Hadoop platform HDP as well as DataFlow. Hortonworks does not provide a product around Apache Metron at present.

To some this may seem much to do about nothing. But many, many companies and technology providers have chosen Hortonworks big data crunching platform, HDP, over competing offerings largely because it is 100 percent open source.

Hortonworks primary competitors Cloudera and MapR build and sell, at least some, commercial software around Apache Hadoop.

Why Companies Like the Apache Way

Many companies like buying 100 percent open source software because it does not lock them into relationships with specific software providers.

Some also believe that software built by a community of developers has higher quality.

Hortonworks customers likely viewed that original WSJ headline as a sign of betrayal. Natkins expressed this in his second tweet:

Natkins and everyone else anxious over the Hortonworks news can rest assured that there has been no change in strategy.

The Wall Street Journal cited Hortonworks’ Connolly as its source. He is the source we’ve used for this article as well.

It begs the question how the idea for the initial article came about. WSJ reporter Deborah Gage has not responded to our requests for comment.