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James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

Archive for September 29th, 2009

The acquisition and exit costs of open source are not ‘zero’

with 4 comments

Michael Tiemann on a blog at opensource.org wrote yesterday about his presentation at the upcoming Open Forum World in Paris.

http://opensource.org/node/471

In this post he talks about the acquisition and exit costs of public procurement processes. In parts he seems to be indicating that the acquisition and exit costs of open source are zero or close to. These statements falls into the ‘free as in beer’ trap.

The acquisition costs of open source software are often be perceived to be higher than with proprietary software. This is because proprietary software companies have squads of pre-sales engineers who they will deploy to provide ‘free’ support and services to a prospective customer. Of course these services are not really free because the pre-sales costs are built into the proprietary license fee. Government software procurement processes are particularly bad at perpetuating this situation because they expect a lot of vendor participation during the process.

The exit costs of open source systems are not zero either. It it true that it might sometimes be easier to get your data out of an open system but most proprietary vendors have migration tools to help move data into their system from a competitors – and of course pre-sales engineers to help out.

I agree that public procurement processes are not ideal. I have blogged about this in the past:
http://jamesdixon.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/government-procurement-and-open-source/
http://jamesdixon.wordpress.com/2008/07/02/cancellation-of-13m-cognos-deal-highlights-problems-of-government-software-procurement-process/

Changes to procurement processes definitely would be beneficial, but in order to achieve this we need to provide compelling evidence and arguments that are rational, balanced, and complete. Personally I feel that much of Michale’s post is written in a way that does not produce this effect.

p.s. if anyone are opensource.org is reading this, your commenting system is broken. When I tried to comment about this post I got a JSON string when I hit the submit button.

Written by James

September 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Posted in open source

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