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 :)