By Amit S.
Open Source has been one of the favorite topics of every Software Development Company. We all have argued, discussed and asked ourselves if it will make sense to move to open source platform.
Even if everybody agrees to the advantages offered by the open source, the question is that when does it really make sense to move away from paying tens of thousands of dollars for proprietary Software to the Free Open Source alternatives?
My decision making to choose one over another have always has been a function of the following elements:
1. Maturity of the Open Source Alternative – It is important that the Open Source Alternative is mature enough to perform in the Enterprise setting. Many of the products are seasoned now, but some of the others still need a lot of work. It is important that you choose only the software that has become mature enough. e.g., QA functional and automation tool Selenium has shown great maturity, however some of the other products are still unstable.
2. Total price of Ownership – Even if the face price of the Software may be zero, it is a good idea to consider the total cost of Ownership. You should consider the price of implementation, hiring a team/resource, production support cost to name a few. e.g., even if JBoss is an Open Source Application Server, you still need to hire people, invest in learning which can be comparable to other proprietary application servers, such as IBM WebSphere or BEA Weblogic.
3. Trend – Even if you follow the famous software industry proverb that "Any decision you make today will be wrong in next few years", it is worth making the best judgment on how the technology trend is looking. You definitely want to be on the right side of the technology trend. e.g., Everybody is moving to the social networking path, so if you need to choose between two products, it may make sense to choose a product that has good support for Social networking and related tools.
4. Follower Base – It is important that the Open source product has strong user and developer base. This will indicate that any problems associated with the product will be addressed quickly enough. Also, it ensures that the software will be updated to be in sync with other technology changes. e.g., Drupal has strong user base compared to some other CMS (Content Management System).
5. Cost of Replacement – Cost of replacement is probably also a big consideration. Even if the cost of ownership is not that big, cost of replacement can be significantly higher. e.g., Moving away from IBM WebSphere or BEA WebLogic to Apache Tomcat may need hundreds of thousands of dollar, depending on your application size.
It really depends on what are you doing and where your company stands in this overall process, as each company and product is unique, you should carefully evaluate your situation.
I would be interested in hearing more about your experience with Open source. Please drop your comments below if you have evaluated an Open Source alternative recently and how did your evaluation go?