Assistance with Open Source adoption

So, you decided to adopt Open Source business software?
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Adoption of open-source software (OSS) is becoming pervasive, with 85 percent of companies surveyed currently using OSS in their enterprises and the remaining 15 percent expecting to in the next 12 months, according to Gartner, Inc.

So, you decided to adopt Open Source business software. First of all, like a good salesman, I have to say something similar to “Congratulations! You've made a wise decision!” I do believe that most enterprise business automation software just must be open source. But let's return to your choice:

Let's make assumptions, why you have done this. Here are some:

  • OSS seems to be much cheaper since it probably does not have a license fee and offers a free community support
  • Using OSS is safer because you have a code in your hands. Also, you can adapt it exactly for your own needs without any compromise (or at least you feel that you can)
  • You are not tied to any proprietary technology
  • Many OSS products fit well with each other even if they are produced by different vendors
  • Finally, OSS products are often of highest quality, sometimes even better than leading commercial products

Having so many advantages, OSS definitely should win the corporate market. However, as usual, there are some cons as well.

Usually the biggest concerns about open source software in an enterprise environment are:

  • You have to have a support contract to cover your butt
  • FREE does not mean "at no cost". Commercial vendors claim that TCO for OSS is even higher than one for their products
  • Often you cannot have all (good) OSS products from a single vendor. It also might be hard to have a single support agreement for all your products
  • Similar to commercial software, it's still hard to find someone in charge to implement your specific project requirements for a reasonable price

All these concerns are common when speaking about OSS on the whole. However, you don't need all OSS products. You rather need several specific applications for your very specific needs. Indeed, there are at least three types of software:

  1. Desktop applications (like Open Office, 7zip, GIMP, etc.)
  2. Infrastructure and development OSS (Linux, MySQL, Apache, Tomcat, PHP)
  3. Business automation, enterprise software (all those ERP, BI, CRM, BPMS, BRMS, ETL, DWH, CMS, ECM mysterious abbreviations)

Undoubtedly, when we talk about the concerns above, the desktop OSS category has them all. Traditional desktop software vendors profit 99% from license fee and may be less than 1% — from support. Switching to OSS model, vendors lose at least 99% of their income. So it's very hard to have a profit from developing OSS directly. That's why most popular open source desktop applications belong to private enthusiasts rather than corporations. No profit — no responsibility, no service. Thus you'll probably not have a good support for free desktop OSS applications used within your organization except from you local system administrator or some other software guru. But do you really need it?

The "infrastructure" type OSS is very different. There are plenty of jobs for the support staff starting from usual technical hardware/software problems to software optimization and customization. The demand is so big that the number of companies, providing support for most popular OSS packages like LAMP seems to exceed the number of Microsoft partners. Indeed, I don't think anyone can claim RedHat Linux to be poorly supported. The above guarantees a successful long life for the user of "Infrastrucure" OSS products. You might even easily find a single company to support all your "LAMP+" zoo.

Finally, let's look at the  business automation OSS. It should be mentioned that OSS in this category began to seriously compete with their commercial brothers only recently. The only exception is CMS subcategory, in which OSS products have been much more popular for years. Serious talk about Open Source CRM, ERP, BI, BPM, etc. systems is possible only in the last 4 years or may be even less. Most of them have a dual-license model. One of the licenses is usually some sort of GPL (but BSD and Apache licenses also can be found) for a Community version of the product; the other one is some sort of special proprietary license. The commercial version sometimes also provides you with full source codes. Usually vendors of this type of OSS still pretend not to charge for the commercial license. Instead, they provide a commercial support subscription, which includes access to the commercial version of OSS. I believe this policy is very similar to shareware business in which the community version is sometimes just to "try before you buy". Sometimes, the community version is good enough to be used in production.  In such cases, there is a "problem" with selling the vendor's commercial version, but it's still possible to profit from support and implementation. As I have already mentioned, this type of OSS is still new. Thus, only a few packages have a huge number of users and partners for support. Actually, you still might have a problem with finding the right company to implement your project, using enterprise OSS. However, things change really fast and a demand for having "under $100,000 project instead of over $500,000 project" is really big. Hence, we can expect fast growth of software consulting companies within this specific area.

So, why should the enterprise OSS win the game? Let's take a look at the vendor's revenue and expense sources. At least 80% of the revenue for commercial solution providers comes from customization, installation, implementation and support, and less than 20% comes from license fees. What makes commercial business automation software so expensive? The answer is high development expenses with a relatively small number of customers. Thus, if a vendor could dramatically reduce the development cost, it would be much more competitive. The solution is probably an OSS model. By making their product Open Source, vendors receive significant contributions to the software development by the world community. And the price of this trick is not so high i.e. less than 20% of the income.

It looks like the future of the business-oriented OSS is bright. The only problem for you as a company that would like to use OSS is a necessity to have several support contracts for each OSS vendor. You will be able to solve this problem by finding an independent OSS consultant company.

Issues with open source

Issues with open source business software are viruses, hacking through loopholes and spamming.  How can this things be prevented?  Although recently, Apple announce that they are not 100% virus free anymore, still, the number is pretty minimal as to compare to OSS, microsoft and androids.