Enterprise Initiatives

This blog focuses on Enterprise IT topics such as Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Change Management, Business Process Management, and recaps various technology events and news.

According to opensource.org:
the promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.
But that it is not the biggest driver for our Open Source strategy at my shop. One of our biggest drivers is budget constraints. Every year our IT budget remains flat or increases modestly. When you throw in merit increases, promotions, rising health care costs, and maintenance on software and services acquired during the year, you must get creative to stay within budget. With the exception of Linux on some of our back end servers, most of our enterprise software comes from the major vendors like IBM, Microsoft, BEA, Oracle and many other big names. But when it comes to developing software, it is hard to justify spending big dollars on the large numbers of tools we need to do our job when there are cost effective alternatives.

Our Open Source strategy that we are putting together addresses this. The purpose of our strategy is two-fold. First, we must educate our peers in the enterprise about Open Source. There are many myths that must be addressed to get everyone on board and feeling comfortable when leveraging Open Source. Tim O'Reilly listed 10 myths about Open Source in this 1999 article that still prevails today. Here are a few myths that we will address in our strategy:

Myth #1. It's all about Linux versus Windows.

Myth #2. Open Source Software Isn't Reliable or Supported.

Myth #3. Open Source projects are written by a small group of amateurs in their friend's garage.

Myth #4. The Open Source movement isn't sustainable, since people will stop developing free software once they see others making lots of money from their efforts.

Debunking Myth 1
Go to this page on Sourceforge.net and you will see the wide range of software categories that have active and established Open Source projects. If you wanted to, you could run your entire enterprise on Open Source. There is more to Open Source then Linux on the desktop.

Debunking Myth 2

For well established Open Source projects, it is not uncommon that you can get faster and better support in forums then from the expensive "Gold Support" that the major software providers charge you an arm and a leg for each year. It is not uncommon for small and medium customers to see unacceptable levels of support despite being a paying customer. The less money you spend with a vendor the less pull you have escalating support issues. There are plenty of Open Source service providers who provide support for a suite of Open Source products which is an extremely cost effective way of doing business. Traditionally, we pay vendors 18-20% of the cost of the original purchase price of each product. Support and maintenance can take up a huge chunk of an IT budget. With the service provider approach, we can pay the provider one flat fee and get support for several products at a much cheaper rate. What is even better is that the service providers core competency is support. That's all they do and their mission is to do it well. For purchased software, support is pure overhead and usually not the strength of the company.

Debunking Myth 3
Some of the most popular Open Source projects have hundreds or even thousands of developers world wide contributing to the overall code base. Scores of people respond to questions and support issues often within minutes after posting on the forums.

Debunking Myth 4

I wrote an article called Still Afraid of Open Source a while back that discussed how companies like Google and Yahoo are leveraging Open Source while the big guns like IBM, BEA, and Sun are investing big money in support of open source initiatives

The second purpose of our strategy is to identify software needs that we currently can't fulfill with our existing budgets. There are many development, testing, and software development lifecycle tools that we could benefit from but never have the funds to acquire. We need additional testing tools for our SOA initiative, a new defect tracking system, a portfolio management suite, and many others.

By putting a strategy together that identifies needs while addressing the concerns that people might have with Open Source products, we stand a better chance of fulfilling our team's needs with the support of our management.

Once we create a culture that sees value in Open Source, then we can start talking about evaluating Linux as an alternative to Windows when Microsoft drops support of XP in the future. I wrote this article called Open Source and Microsoft Free that discussed why I believe it is important to at least test Linux to understand what the issues would be in a production environment.
The worst thing that can happen with a small pilot is that you discover that Linux won't work for your organization. At least then you can sleep at night knowing you did your homework and made a strategic decision based on real information.
So what is your Open Source strategy? When you evaluate software, are Open Source products even considered? If it was your money, would you think differently or do you always buy the biggest and most expensive toys? As IT professionals, our job is to bring value to the organization. If you are not even considering Open Source alternatives for any solution, are you really looking out for the best interests of your company?


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