Thursday, April 17, 2008

Open Source and the cost you don't see

The story on the register about Sun moving towards charging customers for certain enterprise features included the following quote from research house "The Standish Group"

"Open Source software is raising havoc throughout the software market. It is the ultimate in disruptive technology, and while it is only 6 per cent of estimated trillion dollars IT budgeted annually, it represents a real loss of $60bn in annual revenues to software companies."®
The full report is available here.

This supports something I've been saying for a long time and that is that companies who use open source should not, in fact, see it as a free ride. They are getting a significant amount of value out of the open source software they use, $60bn worth. Personally, I think that is under what the real value is - think how many versions of apache are running out there (compare the price of an IIS license and its features).

I'm not demanding however, that companies start paying for the open source software they use - that would be like the good guy (open source) becoming the bad guy, just not on the outside. The open source community is not in it for the money.

Companies should give back to the open source community, they could donate cash if they so wish, but a better idea is for them to let their developers work on open source projects, on company time. Those very companies are using the open source software and will thus benefit from the work their developers do on it, because the developers will work on features that they require, and on bugs they have found.

The company at large will not see money going out to open source projects, even though value is being added to the open source project. There will thus be no nominal effect on the "bottom line". They will have a happier developer (what developer does not want to work on an open source project), they will gain a lot more street cred and the open source software they use, will be improved.

It's a win-win situation.

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