Friday, November 2, 2007

The Incredible Growth of Open Source

Getting Hooked on Open Source

Open source is kind of like M&Ms. It's hard to have just one. Once people understand open source, they start looking at more ways open source can be used in their organizations. The cost savings can be dramatic. In the old days people would say "You won't get fired by choosing IBM". Those days are over. You may not get fired by buying a large vendor solution, but a lot of people may get laid off or outsourced due to large vendor costs and licensing.

Open source by definition is a "sharing" environment. Every class I teach students are sharing different open source products they use for Wikis, ticketing systems, communication, monitoring software, operating systems, database servers, application servers, development environments, etc. What's more they are also sharing scripts, ideas and planning on collaborating more after the class ends. This is a very cool environment for a technologist.

The Microsoft Word Effect

I look at it as the Microsoft effect. You go out and buy Microsoft Word for $329.99. Most people use Word for setting bold, a few fonts, spell checking, italics etc. People pay over $300 for one vendor (Microsoft) product and 95% of all users don't even use 5% of that product. I went and bought iWork that has Pages, Keynote and Numbers, the Apple equivalents of Word, PowerPoint and Excel for $99 for a five system family pack. This wasn't an open source solution, the point being that why keep paying large amounts from vendor software if you are not using a lot of their features. Arguably by going to iWork I not only saved a lot of money but also got a lot more functionality that the vendor (Microsoft) product. It took being able to think out of the box and thinking I had to buy a large vendor product.

I also bought Notebook software for my Mac to help keep myself organized and to take notes. One of my students then showed me Tiddlywiki and I can use it for free on all platforms. I keep a copy of it on my flashdrive and I take it everywhere with me. There are a lot of points if you look at open source, you have a lot more options and will likely save a lot of money.

Open Source Can Dramatically Reduce IT Budgets

Companies are seeing that open source solutions such as Linux, MySQL, JBoss, Apache, Eclipse, RT, etc can save them tremendous amounts on their IT budgets. If you need all the feature functionality from a major vendor then it makes sense to pay their prices. In most companies their are numerous project areas where open source can provide large cost savings and still meet core functional requirements. Using open source may not only keep you from getting fired, it may also keep most of your employees from getting outsourced or laid off.

The Fear of Open Source

Don't misunderstand what I am saying. The features provided from the large vendors can be very important to an organization. There is a reason you pay large amounts of money for large vendor features. If you need an aircraft carrier and you have the money for it, go get it and you'll sleep soundly. For extremely large mission critical systems I would highly recommend looking at the best solutions money can buy if you need it. What I'm saying is if you don't need an aircraft carrier then look for the right sized solution that will meet your needs.

A lot of managers are scared to move off the security of large vendors and to look at open source. In the future you are going to see managers looking for more flexibility, nimbleness and the need to manage costs more effectively as growth occurs.

Globalization has allowed large corporations world wide to compete with U.S. companies. Open source is growing significantly in popularity in places like Europe and China. With low cost solutions like open source, in the future you will see smaller companies begin to compete more effectively in the U.S. as well. U.S. companies need to look not only at the strength and flexibility of the IT organizations but also at the costs of their IT organizations to compete locally as well as world wide.

Good Articles on Open Source Growth

Different industry groups are predicting up to 27% growth annually in open source software by 2010. Small businesses have always been a core component of the U.S. economy. Small businesses and individuals can often compete against much larger companies at a fraction of the large company costs by using the Internet and open source. Why shouldn't large organizations also leverage these costs benefits? Especially since your competiton is probably using open source.

Here are a few interesting articles on open source growth.
I always welcome hearing about different open source solutions.

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