Open source needs to change enterprise buying patterns

For open source to push further into enterprises, enterprises need to change their procurement policies.

Let's start the second half of the baseball season with an important statement.

For open source to push further into enterprises, enterprises need to change their procurement policies.

Mulesoft CEO Greg Schott (right, from Mulesoft) chatted with me about this over the weekend, and he's got an excellent point.

"Companies are interested in open source but when they try to consume it with the same model as commercial software things break down," he explained.

"They're looking for busloads of consultants and engineers to download the product, install it, go through Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and open source companies are not set up to do that. We're set up for companies to do that on the front end and benefit on the back end."

This is important. A lot of enterprises think services like that are "free" because no bill comes, and if another vendor is chosen nothing is paid for them. But they do cost. They are folded into your cost when you sign on the line which is dotted.

By contrast, Schott notes, open source may cost time (i.e. money) to set up and evaluate, but you save that on the back-end, on lower subscription costs and no initial license cost. You have to sell yourself, in other words, but you save big.

Schott, a former top manager at Agile who now has open source fire after a stint at Springsource, has developed his thoughts into a series of bullet points companies might want to think about when comparing open source with commercial software:

1.Establish open source centers of excellence. You need someone internally who's advocating open source. 2.Understand the different evaluation process. You don't invite IBM, Oracle and an open source vendor through the same process. 3.Establish your own selection criteria. Instead of having an analyst's checklist of 50 items and making sure everything's there, ask what you need. 4.Recognize and reward where open source is being used. If you have people doing the work to get open source running, reward those people. 5.Enterprise license agreements (ELAs). Get ELAs itemized so you can pull components out. That will keep big vendors honest over time.

It's a sign of confidence on the part of open source executives like Schott that they are now willing to admit you can't compare open source to commercial offerings, apples-to-apples. That's not a bug, it's a feature. Taking pride in it, and having prospects adapt to you, is a good clue.