ActivePython vs. Open Source Python: What’s the Difference

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We recently stumbled upon on old forum question inquiring why someone would use ActivePython instead of Python. That prompted us to write this blog, because it’s important to remember that our language distributions are “more” than just the language itself. Having been around for over a decade, ActiveState language distributions are now used in several mission critical applications at some of the largest companies in the world. And when an enterprise relies on software that much to power their business, naturally they need to be careful. While we all love open source software (and it’s being widely used by enterprises today), there are still risks associated with it.

Open Source Risks

In business, risk is a four letter word and generally companies focus on mitigating it. When people are looking at using our distros, they are looking to reduce risk in a number of ways. By using our commercial language distros they get:

  1. Quality assured builds of precompiled language distributions
  2. Commercially supported software with SLAs
  3. Support and active maintenance of older versions
  4. Software they can standardize on
  5. Faster time to market

In some situations, the use of pure open source is not allowed in the organization (such as the US Gov) and the software must be supported commercially. For other companies, it’s the legal requirement of indemnification coverage.

Since companies have a varied level of tolerance for open source risk, our ActivePython, ActivePerl, ActiveTcl language distributions have been created and maintained to meet these various business requirements. We offer a “flavor” for any use case, whether you are building business- or mission-critical apps, or a new developer just test driving some languages.

Enterprise Edition & OEM

Enterprises naturally have more complex requirements–product stability is critical and minimizing risk is a must. As a result, our Enterprise Edition lines include extensive customization, premium support, and regularly scheduled builds. It also gains you access to enhanced phone and email support. It is also the right product if you’re looking to use our language distributions (current or legacy versions) on several machines. The Enterprise Edition includes unlimited internal use for development, testing, and production, including use for file share and terminal servers.

With Enterprise Edition we also do some of the legal work for you. We do a thorough legal review and guarantee no GPL/GNU. This means that companies who purchase Enterprise Edition from us avoid the nightmare of having to review each individual module or package license (for compliance and restrictions). For instance, in the case of ActivePerl 5.16, there are approximately 200+ individual modules. That’s 200+ unique licenses to review–we’ll handle that for you.

Companies also turn to ActiveState Enterprise Edition if they want the reassurance that comes with indemnification. If you haven’t heard of the term, license indemnification provides protection against potential IP/copyright/patent infringement lawsuits from community contributors to open source code. When a product is based on open source (like our code is), vendors can’t provide indemnification “out-of-the-box” the way a proprietary vendor can because there are a large number of added checks that need to happen to protect both the vendor and the vendor’s customers. Think of ActiveState indemnification as a sort of insurance policy, protecting you and your company.

And finally, if you are looking to redistribute any of ActivePerl, ActivePython, or ActiveTcl as a part or subsystem used in your company’s end product, you’ll need to obtain an OEM license from us. We allow the bundling of our software within yours, but only with a specific license allowing you to do so. Feel free to reach out to us to find out more about your OEM options.

Business Edition

For small to medium sized businesses, ActiveState Business Edition is often all you need. Business Edition is nearly identical to the Community Edition build (see below), but includes access to older versions of the software that no longer accessible via the Community Edition. If you plan to use ActivePerl, ActivePython, or ActiveTcl on production machines or external-facing servers, business edition is the right choice. (Community Edition should be used for development and testing only).

There is a fee per installation (whether server, desktop, or VM) which gives you the license to use on your production servers (internal and external) and/or customer facing servers. In addition to support from the community, users receive email support from us (2 business day response times) and it unlocks any PPM, PyPM or Teapot modules that require commercial licensing. (If you’re not sure if you should be buying Business Edition or Enterprise Edition, let us know and we can help ensure you make the right choice.)

Community Edition

Our most popular edition (and completely free to use for development and testing environments – no production or external-facing servers) is the Community Edition. This build uses the latest (non-experimental) code check-ins for all supported modules and the core language. Modules provided as part of the core deliverable are based on demand, utility, the module’s license, and whether or not they can be built.

Community Edition is licensed for development and testing only and typically only the two most current versions are available. This edition includes builds (think installers) for Windows, Mac and Linux with access to Package Managers (PyPM, PPM, Teapot). While we don’t provide direct support, end users with questions are assisted by the community.

Open source doesn’t have to be a scary undertaking for an enterprise, and depending on the application’s environment and the level of risk you are ready to assume, there is a language distribution that’s right for you.

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Title photo courtesy of Marius Masalar on Unsplash.

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