eZ Systems, eZ Publish eZ Systems is turning 10 this year -- a notable achievement in the open source content management world. And with the upcoming eZ Conference and Awards in Paris this June, we figured it was an opportune moment to have a chat with the eZ Systems folks and see just how the commercial open source world works, from their perspective.

After 10 years in the business, eZ Systems’ core product, eZ Publish (news, site) -- a PHP-based open source web content management system -- has undergone some major changes. As one of the early module based systems and a front runner of open source cms, eZ Publish has seen everything from a limited amount of allowed modules to major integration with other eZ Systems products like eZ Find and even the movement towards a SaaS Web CMS model.

We spoke with eZ's Bertrand Maugain about turning 10, what it means to be a commercial open source vendor and how eZ Systems stays at the top of their game at a time when others are struggling to stay upright.

A Chat with Bertrand Maugain

CMSWIRE: Hi Bertrand and congrats on eZ Systems celebrating their 10 year anniversary. For starters, tell us a bit about yourself and your history with the company.

Bertrand Maugain: Sure. I am a Frenchman from Lyon with an engineer background in Telecommunications. I started at eZ in 2004 as a technical consultant quickly moving to a more marketing/commercial oriented position towards the French market.

There, we built a community of partners and developers as a great platform for the eZ Systems office that we opened in Lyon at the end of 2005. Since that time, I have been the Global Partner Manager at eZ aiming at growing our partner channel and at developing our subscription-based business model through that channel.

CW: eZ Systems is a commercial open source web cms provider. Tell us what that means to you.

BM: Being a commercial open source WCM vendor means for us that we can make software and distribute it in a way that we believe is the future for mainstream software, building a very open community, and of course make a living at the same time.

We believe that content management is becoming a commodity that open source makes available to anyone. Unlike most commercial open source vendors putting more functionality in the commercial version of their software, we have only one version for everyone, and our business model is based on added value services only.

As creators of the software, we bring our expertise to both web-centric businesses expecting responsibility, support and maintenance from a vendor and to our partners via training, certification or assistance during implementation projects.

Since 1999, we are strong believers in a true enterprise open source business model. It allows us to build an enterprise level content management system at a lower price than our competitors.

CW: How do you position yourself / how do you see the other commercial open source vendors?

BM: In the last 10 years we have kept the same vision: making software, releasing it open source and involve a community of developers and partners.

It is a hard equilibrium to find between professionally controlling our development and roadmaps in line with our enterprise strategy and involving partners and community members to innovate faster and develop even better software.

We mean, we have the right enterprise open source model and unlike some other open source vendors, we are neither adapting the traditional proprietary model, nor have 2 different versions of our software. We are also not monetizing on an existing community where customers can struggle legally with the lack of clear IP rights.

In other words, we are not just surfing the current wave open source popularity. We were among the initiators in 1999. I believe that it also explains why eZ is a profitable company today with products, services and a business model in place -- while most other commercial open source vendors are driven off venture capital and are not profitable.

CW: Can you introduce and talk a little about the eZ Publish and the eZ Components (news, site) projects?

BM: The eZ Components project was created in early 2006 and it provides the building blocks that are designed to be the new foundation for eZ Publish. It is basically the components that on an API level are generic and not specifically only connected with eZ Publish, but that are useful as general purpose tools.

We release this so that others can build their software products on top of this stack, and there is even a competing CMS vendor (proprietary) being trained and is using eZ Components for his main product.

This project, lead by the core PHP developer Derick Rethans, is an important part of our next generation projects. We are investing and innovating for the future of eZ.

Diagram - eZ Components PHP Library
Diagram: eZ Components Library

CW: Let's talk a little about repositories. Some commercial open source software (OSS) vendors have two repositories -- one for the community, one for the paying customers. How does eZ Systems operate for eZ Publish and eZ Components, and how do patches flow into the respective repositories?

BM: The repositories are exactly the same at the point of release. We do provide a stream of selected updates to the paying eZ Publish Premium customers that get the important patches for the given version. We also treat patches that go into the eZ Publish Premium stream at a higher priority that what goes into the public repository.