Open Source 4 – In Conclusion

I have spent the previous three posts looking at what Open Source software is, what it can do in comparison to its traditionally licensed peers, and what the traditional software houses have been doing about it.

In this final post on the subject I’ll recap the headlines, and conclude.

What do we know about the Open Source landscape today

  • Open Source is free to acquire
  • Open Source quality does, however, vary from project to project.
  • The more mature Open Source products are very very capable, technically.
  • Both user applications and enterprise OS products are growing in maturity and adoption
  • This makes Open Source products worthy of consideration alongside more traditional software products, but they need to be evaluated with full rigour and with an understanding of Total Cost of Ownership
  • The Open Source proposition puts software houses at risk of losing market share
  • To make matters worse for the software house no-one wants to pay license fees any more
  • Traditional software houses have to embrace this, some have and some haven’t

And therefore…

The net result of this is that we see a coagulation of the software market. Where in the past Open Source was considered the poor man’s option, and houses like Microsoft were keen to emphasis this, what we know see is the quality of the more mature Open Source products (again I refer to the Magento, WordPress, Joomla, mySQL, Apache, Linux type systems) is on a par with traditional products (mid market, non-enterprise).

Combine this with traditional houses defending against Open Source by evolving their charging models away from heavy license fees, and turning more and more to a rental or subscription model.

Where in the past one could expect a couple of thousand pounds for Windows Server or Microsoft SQL Server licensing, one can now rent monthly under SPLA agreements, which enable data-centre providers to offer amortised subscription licensing for mid-market and near enterprise systems.

Where in the past the traditional choice of ERP system involved a heavy investment in hardware infrastructure, your own responsibility for system security, and a significant professional services bill.

Now there are Software as a Service models available in almost every possible business application – in ERP this would be a choice between a provider: Netsuite verus BrightPearl; Magento Go versus Shopify versus BigCommerce… the list really is endless.

It is no longer about Open Source vs Traditional. The battle is fought on grounds of security, reliability, cost, support, resourcing; but the true reckoning is about System X versus System Y’s off-the-shelf capability to do the job.

It might be that both X and Y are Traditional, it might be that both are Open Source. Today it’s about choosing the right partner who understands your business’ needs first; the consideration of the right underlying technology comes after.