Control is the real open source advantage

Control is the real open source advantage

Summary: When you are running open source you control your own code. You also control the code budget. When you are using a proprietary solution -- no matter how good the solution -- the vendor controls your code. They decide what you will pay, and when.

SHARE:

In all the blah-de-blah over the moves by Oracle and Microsoft into open source a very important point is missing, namely the motivation of enterprises in moving toward open source.

It's not the cost savings. It's not the community. It's not the name of the vendor.

It's control.

When you are running open source you control your own code. You also control the code budget. When you are using a proprietary solution -- no matter how good the solution -- the vendor controls your code. They decide what you will pay, and when.

It's a pretty obvious point, but it's a vital one.

Most of the boardroom arguments over open source licensing eventually move toward this issue of control.

Those which seek a BSD or commercial license want to keep their own development efforts proprietary. They want to control the code which results, and use it as a competitive advantage.

Those who opt for GPL code for their operating system and database simply don't see a competitive advantage in their own coding. But they still want to control their own code.

When you control your own code, you control the upgrade process. You decide which bugs to fix when. You decide how big your software budget will be. This is a really big deal.

If you're old enough to remember when the Microsoft and Oracle update cycles took over businesses, even large businesses, putting enterprise priorities at the mercy of vendor priorities, you understand this. And that's just about every CTO now living.

For big vendors, then, the genie is out of the bottle. Control of software has shifted to the customer. They can either adapt to this reality, move down-market to enterprises that would rather not control their software, or they can die like newspapers are dieing.

Topic: Software Development

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

73 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Where is the advantage???

    Oh, I am sure there are those "back room guys" that live on coke and pizza and that you never allow to be seen in public who enjoy fiddling with the knobs and buttons, but the vast majority simply find no joy in it.

    It's been a few years but I am confident I could sit down and build a Ham Radio, but it's a lot easier (and cheaper in the long run) to simply buy one. Did I loose control over what's in it? Sure, do I care? Not a bit...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • It's about who is using and innovating the code

      It's about who is using and innovating the code. He is talking about the client or customer in terms of businesses. The local repairman. Small Business, middlemen etc. not a stupid person.
      Even an ignorant person would want access to the code in some small way from something as siomple as copying it for another friend or makeing sure there is no hidden viruses by having another standard group revise the code.
      Gridmaster
      • Yes, the back room guys I spoke of.

        I fully agree, there are Coke and Pizza guys that think it's just oh so wonderful. Truth is though, most people never touch code in their lives.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • The end user doesn't care

          The end user doesn't care if the software is open source or closed as long as it works.

          So if you have a bunch of coke drinking, pizza eating guys hidden in dark rooms why not have them modify open source code to make your business more profitable by reducing yearly fees on software maintenance, customization and support?
          voska
          • Nor do most IT pros.

            The fact is, the IT pros are very much like the end user. They don't care what is under the hood as long as they can get their work done.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Nobody cares except the tinkerer.

            Actually, it is cheaper to get licenses than to have the code modified all the time by a team of Coke drinking, pizza eating guys in the back room.

            Just like most people like to drive their vehicles, rather than modding them out. I would rather drive a vehicle than trick it out. I am middle aged now. OSS is a Heathkit geared to adolesence males. Don't get me wrong. I like to tinker a bit, but not like I used to.
            osreinstall
          • That really depends

            Buying a license can be cheaper if the software fits your needs as is and if the software is not extremely specialized. Licensing can get extremely expensive with specialized software as the vendor usually only has a handful of customers and costs of said software are spread accross the few customers they have. Then add the profits and the prices get out of hand very quickly.

            Then there is customized software. That's just plain expensive and doing it yourself would cost prohibitive. Now enter open source or a vendor as base. The product is there but not quite what you need but with some customization it would fit perfectly. You can buy a software package and have the vendor customize it for you for a price or you go with open source and customize it yourself. Both come with costs and from my experience paying the vendor in most cases will cost signicantly more than hiring a few programers to do it for you.

            I know a lot of programmers who do this kind of work and get paid very well to do it.

            Of course if you are looking for a product like Office you're better off buying Microsoft Office than trying to make Open Office do what you want it to do. That's my opinion and I like Open Office.
            voska
          • Now you are talking custom.

            Office, yes no doubt you will save money. Even medium price packages like AutoCAD or Microstation it is cheaper to license. Custom, yes you can save by using open source. That is if there is some code to build on out there or it will be very close in cost. Super expensive.
            osreinstall
          • Custom is always expesive

            Reguardless of how you do it. Finding best route takes a little research and Open Source solutions should never be counted out.
            voska
          • Never did.

            But for a company that has average needs, licensing the software off the shelf is the best route. It is documented enough to keep most companies from calling in for support most of the time. Since this article is about control, no one has it except the programmers. The end user has some by deciding the package. The control Dana was talking about is custom and the code you write can either be OSS or proprietory. The owner either decides to share it with all with some OSS foundation or go proprietory and write from scratch. I guess it depends on how much of a head start OSS can give him and how much money he saves.
            osreinstall
          • Not true

            [i][b]Since this article is about control, no one has it except the programmers.[/b][/i]

            No, customers also gain control when they can switch to open formats, such as OpenDocument (ODF) that are supported by multiple vendors.

            Any time you put yourself in a position where you can walk from toss one vendor for another without pain, you're in control.
            dave.leigh@...
          • That is baloney dave.

            So you are telling me I have no control over the software I choose to use. There is old versions of MS, Macs, a few linux distros and even DOS. I still have the disks. We all have choice and control.

            As far as software being pain free, nope! All software is a pain is the ass. They all have their area of annoyance. So much for victim logic.
            osreinstall
          • Now THERE's some baloney

            [b][i]So you are telling me I have no control over the software I choose to use. There is old versions of MS, Macs, a few linux distros and even DOS. I still have the disks. We all have choice and control.[/i][/b]

            And you're telling me that dusting off your 5-1/4" floppies is the kind of control I'm talking about. Sure, yep. And that'll let you access all of the documents that you've created with the later releases. Mmm-hmm. "osreinstall", indeed. The obvious conclusion is that you must be being purposely feigning ignorance, because no one could possibly be so dim in reality.

            [b][i]As far as software being pain free, nope! All software is a pain is the ass. They all have their area of annoyance. So much for victim logic.[/i][/b]

            If all software is a pain in the ass, the obvious choice is to go with the least painful. In terms of control this equates to the package that does not lock you into one vendor (thus eliminating any leverage you may have to migrate without prohibitively expensive conversions).

            Wake up, Sunbeam. I'm specifically talking about the ability to move from one package to another and continue to use the data files in which you've invested so much time and resources. You don't get that without common, open, and well documented file formats. This is what Open Source projects provide.

            So let's look at what part of my post is NOT rebutted by your obtuse comments:

            [i]"No, customers also gain control when they can switch to open formats, such as OpenDocument (ODF) that are supported by multiple vendors.

            Any time you put yourself in a position where you can walk from toss one vendor for another without pain, you're in control."[/i]

            Oh, look! All of it!
            dave.leigh@...
          • Well dude, complaining about the puppet strings is old.

            No I was trying to tell you that you are in control. You can do whatever you want. You can upgrade, go with linux or switch to a Mac or don't upgrade and stay put. Lots of choices. You are the one that broke from reality. Do what works for you. That is control.

            Then do it. That is just one pain you describe. How about a lack of apps ported to it or a lack of drivers for the hardware. To me that is a real pain in the ass.

            IF you migrate to linux, then you are locked to open source. I was never locked to anything. I chose to be with Windows because my app only runs on it. The apps choose the OS Cha Cha.

            I can move the data at will if I choose to. It is not hard to save it in another format in Office and reimport it in an OSS program. Hell I even have the choice to throw the computer out and do it by hand. There is more to computing than web applications and a secretary package that OSS keeps promoting. Its the apps stupid! Good luck in finding a vendor that will not lock you in a little and be in business for the long haul.

            Lock in.
            HeHeHe!
            osreinstall
          • Some software vendors...

            I know of few software vendors that tie thier software licensing to the maintenance agreement. If you don't pay you don't get access to the software due to the license files expiring and not being able to renew. Personaly I'd avoid these types and I don't see that it is Open Source that frees you from this type of control but choice does.
            voska
          • Avoiding bad deals is exercising control.

            This whole thing of not being in control is just an excuse to blame someone for your own shortcomings. I would avoid service contracts way before software licensing. The machine shop software is famous for this and very expensive. I would not go with them unless your business is well established. I guess we are all locked in by gravity, but that's a good thing. The only control the end user should be concerned about, will it work for them and if it does, why change. Everyone must do their homework before going with a software solution, and knowledge is power or control.
            osreinstall
    • There are service providers that will set up and support open source

      software just like closed source software. The big difference, is you are only paying for support/customization, and if you do not get good support and service, you can switch vendors.

      But, there are also large companies that get a huge advantage by selecting, combining, and integrating all of the components themselves. Some prime examples are Google, Yahoo, EBay, eTrade, . . . . They can save millions, at the same time creating competitive advantages, flexibility, scalability, customizability, etc, that you do not get buying it all from Microsoft or someone else.

      This is not like building your own ham radio . . . .
      DonnieBoy
      • Yes, and then they are in control...

        You make a good point.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • No, you are in control, it is open source, you can switch providers if they

          do not do their job.
          DonnieBoy
      • Ham Genuine Advantage?

        [i]"This is not like building your own ham radio . . . ."[/i]

        Also, your ham radio does not receive a broadcast one day that makes stop working if you don't pay a licence fee.

        With the moves of several companies to incorporate "kill switches" into software products the advantages of maintaining your own source is obvious.

        The corporate nightmare is some glitch in WGA (or WGA-like) servers that turn off your network or a significant number of machines. Don't waste your breath syaing it will never happen because it already has. Microsoft has already undergone a WGA server problem that was well reported in ZD Net and if it can happen to Microsoft then it can happen to other companies using this paradigm.

        Controlling your own source code and document formats (ODF) is getting more important, not less.
        bportlock