With recession biting, open source provides a route to continue ambitious business development plans and it’s good for the environment too!

As belts tighten, ambitious and expensive business software plans are being viewed in a new light. Yet in a time when competition becomes increasingly tough businesses can ill afford to take a bunker mentality and simply sit out the turmoil. Un-watched business management software systems quickly turn into legacy problems further compounding and delaying hopes of recovery.
Businesses who have taken an irreverent attitude to the status-quo, looking beyond the marketing scare tactics of the big vendors to make their own judgements on open source technology find their technology plans in rude health. Angus Gow, Technology Programme Manager for iwantoneofthose.com, explains “open source was a no-brainer for IWOOT, for the price we were quoted for a single year’s license from a big proprietary vendor, we have been able to deploy and continuously refine our back-end systems allowing us to make big savings while maximising control and responsiveness to changing business needs”.

The darkening market conditions, leave IWOOT’s technology partner Open Plus Ltd similarly unperturbed. Andrew Sykes, CEO of Open Plus cheerfully reports “businesses don’t want to shelf long anticipated retail software plans, but big price tags from proprietary vendors don’t stack up against a bleaker cost benefit landscape. This doubtlessly explains the near five fold increase in enquiries coming through http://www.openplus.co.uk.”

Open source software adoption was already accelerating before the phrase “credit crunch” was coined. Apache, the open source web server has 70% Market share; corporate desktop administrators have migrated users to the vastly more secure Firefox web browser finally laying to rest years of security threats from Internet Explorer; and even Carphone Warehouse and Tesco are selling crunch-busting laptops with Linux operating systems, challenging the Windows XP status quo.

For businesses the cost savings invoked in choosing an open source route are so profound they often invoke incredulity. Further, due to the permissive licensing of open source the ways in which money can be saved, or investment recouped are limited only by the imagination. The headline cost savers include:

Licensing: typically, though not exclusively, use of open source software is free. Experienced technology managers know that buying a license is not a solution, but rather, it is permission to begin tackling the problem using the vendors toolkit. Six and seven figure price tags on licences alone are common and frequently accompanied by a similar implementation cost. Finding a comparable open source product to that proprietary application can slash a project budget by 50% at a stroke!

Maintenance: Angus Gow comments “maintenance costs are a real innovation inhibitor, each time you want to bring the vendor’s generic solution closer to your business, maintenance costs take an upward leap”. Open source is different, because the product is continuously being developed by a highly motivated community, you pay only for that customisation that adds specific value to your business, the base product is the responsibility of the community.

Hardware: Commercial software vendors typically have a “preferred” hardware vendor and lock the customer into hardware upgrades. Proprietary software is typically compatible with a far smaller subset of hardware, so the ability to recycle is limited. By comparison open source software by nature of it’s diverse community of creators has a “run anywhere” mentality. Couple this with the greater reconfigurability that accompanies an open software architecture and you have a system that not only drives down your hardware budget but allows you to reduce your environmental impact into the bargain.

Customisation: Software professionals themselves are not immune to the powerful revenue generating techniques of the proprietary vendor. With a promise of higher earning potential, they pay premiums for training and certification and annual fees to retain membership to special information networks. All of this is free to the open source technician, little wonder their rates are lower!

Re-licensing: choose your open source project carefully and you can turn a liability into an asset. Not only is it possible to implement your technology project at a fraction of the price, but some open source licenses such as the Apache Software Foundation’s ASL license allow you to sell the customised product to others.

Every cloud, it is said, has a silver lining. Open source technology offers an egalitarian approach, driving out the big margins of the traditional vendors and empowering businesses to develop at their own pace while reducing hardware consumption demands and therefore carbon footprint. The gains of open source are hard to ignore in a bear market.