Dec 03 2007

On open source Myths

Over at ITToolbox Tarry has another blog . He posted an article where he tried to debunk some myths about open source. I feel he needs some help there :)

Let's start with his second Myth , Open Source is Free. Off course it isn't , you need to invest your own time to get familiar with it or pay other people to use it. Compare it to building a house ... you can build one if you have the skills and the time , but you still need to pay for the bricks and the mortar, or you can pay someone who has the skills to build one for you. With software there used to be a similar thing. You could buy software, then install and configure it yourselve, or you could hire someone more skilled than you to install and support it when you run into problems. Now take away the fact that you have to buy bricks and mortar , or for this case the software. That's Free Software.. you still need to spend time to get to know the tools or pay someone to do that for you. Depending on what the core business of your ogranization is .. the choice is your.

Tarry says
BUT it remains a product that you need to get support. Just like Windows or Oracle database.
Which I don't agree with .. the fact is that I never can get the same level of experience and knowledge myselve on a product such as Windows or Oracle as I can on Linux and MySQL , I can't dig in to the source code of the first 2 products
In fact, Oracle is a better example, its an open source, right?
Whoow, when did that happen .. during which long vacation did I miss Oracle being Open Sourced ? Yes Oracle contributes a lot to open source but Oracle itselve being Open ... I must have missed that..

People won't notice but you'd have a huge application running on it in no time and you'd be stuck to that "free version" for the rest of your life. Or you choose to eventually buy the software support and even end up paying the license fee. Ha! Vendor lock Alarm!
Now there is a skyhigh difference between a limited featureset product that is free to download but not free to use in a production environment and and opensource which is free to download, to use, to modify and to contribute to. Yes there are people making a business model of supporting that piece of software but they don't force you to buy anything from them. It's a pretty sensible thing to buy services from the people that actually wrote the code , but you are free to buy the same services from someone else, someone local, someone who speaks your languag And they will be able to read the code and fix the problems.

Look at a proprietary product where you want a feature changed or a critical bug fixed.
You can call your local supplier, who can't do anything else but call his reseller who will escalate to the vendor. There is no way your local integrator will actually be able to modify the product and fix the problem. However You or an open source integrator with the appropriate skills can take the code of the product, study it and fix the problems. After which off course they will contribute these changes back to the community. I see no vendor lock in there.

Simply because no matter how small you are, you wouldn't want to risk you application on this product, you'd rather go for a full support. Same applies to the "open source" cousin! Do you really think that running Centos, Whitebox, Ubuntu etc without licensing and regular patching is a sustainable option. no sweetheart, it isn't no where. There are however places where you can carry on for a while with this scenario, but not for long.

Yes you need to patch your system in a timely manner, but I don't see where you could License Centos or Whitebox or a big set of other Open Source projects such as Apache etc.
There are different good reasons to buy support and services , you might want to financially stimulate and support the people that wrote the code so they can continue to write it, you might want to have an insurance for your boss when things go wrong , you might have a long history of making too much IT expenses, or you are forced to buy a certified product because yet another vendor only wants to work on a certified products. But risk for instability on the open source side is not amongst the list of reasons. If you have the appropriate skills and time nothing is blocking you from supporting yourselve. There is absolutely no need to buy a license from someone . So carry on ..

On Open Source Innovation..
Innovation happens at the heart of the open source with as much fury as in a "Closed Source" shop.
Call me oldfashioned but I still think of most of the closed source shops as 9to5 developers that write code because their boss tells them. Their boss is being instructed by clueless marketing people that promise impossible features to customers with impossible deadlines. An Open Source developer writes code because he wants to fix something , because he needs a feature , not because someone tells him to do so. To there is much more passion to be found in the heart of an open source developer than in your average closed shop developer.

Innovation is not happening in the Closed Source shops anymore. Innovation is happening out in the open.

Tarry, guess we need to grab some beers to discuss this further , but I feel we'll have an opportunity coming up pretty soon :)

Nov 23 2007

ReInventing the wheel, over and over , and over , and over again

Over at CNet , Matt Assay found out about SimpleTicket.

SimpleTicket was developed by Architel in 2005 for internal use. We looked at Heat, Remedy and hosted solutions like Parature, but most of them were too complicated and expensive for our needs. Next we looked at lowend solutions like Intuit?s TrackIt and found it lacking in several ways. We needed a simple to use system that was flexible enough for us to add features on the fly. We decided to build it ourselves. SimpleTicket was the result....

So I don't know the guys over at Architel and I can't comment on their background or their real experience, so I`m a bit abusing this case as a worst case scenario.
But when I read something like that I wonder. Why didn't those people look at the existing Open Source alternatives in the first place ? I think we have been using OTRS since before 2003 (don't know the exact year) and there are other alternatives out there such as RT. And even if you don't like the features or you need some more.. that's wha open source is all about .. you should improve the product , add the functionality you need and contribute it back to the community.

When I read a n article like the one above to me it translates as Back in 2005 we were idiots not knowing about the whole other software world that was called Open Source, we were shopping
for a (proprietary) ticketing system and we couldn't find one that had a correct price tag. We decided to build ourselves, SimpleTicket was the restult.
Now 2 years later we realise that a ticketing system is not our core business and we decided to Open Source it. Doing so will not only free our time as we don't need to develop it ourselve anymore but it will also give us visibility on the market

I exaggerate a bit .. and while SimpleTicket might not be like this others are.. and it's just not the way opensource works.

I see too much people reinventing the wheel these days... maybe if we could all have a look at what's out there first, improve on that so we can use the time we have available to build something that really needs to be build ?

Like a good multilayer calendaring solution. Or a working Timesheet application ?

Nov 05 2007


So just when last weekend I started asking for a LinkedIn API , then ran into the Facebook API I ignored Google's OpenSocial announement.

And guess what .. the start for the OpenSocial Drupal is already there.. now when will the code show up ? :)

Nov 03 2007

VMWare feels the heat

Lots of people are commenting on VMWare's vision on Open Source
With statements like
What we want to do is fund ourselves to be able to build new stuff. If you're purely open source, there is no way you can do new stuff.
you'll lose credibility pretty fast.
It's clear that proprietary software companies can't keep up with the speed of open source development so they need to spread more FUD on a daily base.

Half a decade ago Open Source indeed was catching up on proprietary software and trying to implement features that the other side already had. We have long passed that moment .. Xen and KVM are the technology leaders of the pack. The rest is trying to keep up. (And it's not only in the Virtualisation area that we see this evolution)

Yes VMWare does similar things under the hood with a more fancy GUI as Tarry notes but in a way indeed they are heading the way Microsoft showed them they way. Or aren't they..? Apple did nothing really new with the iPod, apart from its slick interface. But today Apple is feeling the heath from people not wanting their DRM, wanting to play OGG , and people wanting to use their device from non Apple platforms.
So people clearly want something more open, not one tool that locks them in with a vendor. If you really are looking for a GUI to manage your platforms you'd better choose for one that can manage them all