The Open Source movement

Economic crisis seems to boost the demand for Open Source solutions, at least if you look at the news, blogs and articles in magazines.

For me it seems as one of those keywords that is put as headline to IT fares, like DMS, CMS, ECM and others in former years.

On important thing I notice is that even IT people often do understand: open source = free - This is not necessarily the case. Open Source means that if you get the product, you also get the source. That open source = free only applies for software that is licensed under GPL or the like. Especially now as open source topic is on the hype, many companies search for a way to put that keyword on their sites so the get found and so I stumbled upon a lot of open source products that cost a big amount of money to own.

Today I had a look at Google trends comparing search terms "free software" and "open source software". Surprisingly for people it seems to be important to be free and not to be open source. - Although this is a sample that market analysis often not fit real world. In this particular case I think the difference here is because of the private users that do search just tools for their own use and they know that they will not go to hack into the code (besides those who either do not know what open source is).

Although open source is a very good thing, a company thinking about to use open source alternatives, should ask the following questions:
  • Will I ever hack into the code or let others hack into the code to apply changes or will I just use the product as it is?
  • Do I want to heavily rely on the product?
  • Is there a long-term future for the particular product I am thinking of?
From my point of view Open Source supports long term IT planning and investment. It gives you the opportunity to support, fix and adapt a product to your needs even if nobody else is using it any more. This gives you somehow an independence from market evolution.

But there are some concerns:
  • It might be a big effort to implement the Open Source product - this might come along with high costs for buying services from other companies who will install and/or support the product.
  • If the product is not well documented and the code is not clean enough then there can be a huge effort necessary to do code changes.
  • If there is no company behind doing the main development and support for the product you do not have anyone to blame or take into charge when you have a serious problem with the product.
  • Depending on the community it might happen that the product evolves in a direction that creates incompatibility with your own changes.
  • You may need to have the manpower and knowledge for developing the product in-house (depending on how the product evolves over time).
So Open Source includes no guarantee to be cheap or to exist for a long time. But it gives you the opportunity to do everything yourself and with a large community the chance is higher that you find people who have knowledge on the product.

Related posts: IT investment, Economic crisis and IT, IT project costs explosion, The License keys, Paying for free and Open Source, The Open Source idea, The community, Ignorance of the different, Microsoft & Skype.

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