Why Open Source

Choice

One of the most important, but often least understood benefits of using open source software is that choice is given back to the end user.

Vendor

A very common business strategy among hardware and software vendors is to "lock-in" the end user by making then dependent on a technology that is only available from a single vendor. Very often, end users loose track of the distinction between the problem itself, and the solution to the problem, thus creating a perceived dependence on one particular vendors solutions.

With open source platforms, the same product is available from multiple vendors, thus avoiding the vendor "lock-in" problem. With multiple vendors providing the same product, the competition forces prices to be lower, and service to be higher, both benefiting the end user. Ultimately, the end user has the choice of where to obtain their software products.

Support

Another common practice is to require support contracts, often available with few if any options (and price levels). Many vendors are the sole source of support for their products, thus locking in the end user to additional ongoing costs. In some cases, even important security related fixes may be available only to customers that have a current support contract. Even with a support contract, the end user is not given a guarantee that a problem will be fixed, or fixed in a timely manner.

With open source, the end user has multiple choices for support and service.

  • Many vendors offer traditional support contracts, and the end user can choose between vendors based partly on the support options offered by the vendors.
  • Support is also available from independent consultants. Because there are no barriers or expensive training required to be able to use and support open source platforms, there is a large and growing number of people that can provide assistance.
  • Unlike traditional closed source products, you also have the choice of supporting your products internally. With the availability of the source code, you have the ability to fully investigate problems, and implement fixes and improvements without being dependent on anyone else. Due to the open and cooperative nature of open source software, you will be able to find many mailing lists and websites containing information about the software you are using, and chances are, someone else has also run into the same problems, and already developed a solution.
  • Solutions

    Most software vendors offer a single solution to all problems. They expect you to define your problem in terms that match their solution. Often times, this results in less that optimal solutions or implementations. These vendors want you to believe that all problems can be efficiently solved using their methodology.

    With open source platforms, there are usually multiple choices for solving any problem. Developers have discovered that "one size fits all" does not apply to software solutions, and have create different solutions to better match different requirements. There is a saying that your software can be "small, fast or ready sooner, but you only get to pick 2 of the 3". With all of the choices available in open source software, you can pick the solution that best matches your priorities.

    Economics

    The license on open source software requires free redistribution of the software. This eliminates per copy license fees, which can add up dramatically if a large number of computer are involved.

    For example, if a certain piece of software costs $100 per computer system, and you have 20 computer that need this software, that modestly priced software now has a total cost of $2000. That same software, if obtained under an open source license would have a total cost of $100, whether you install it on 20 computers, or 200 computers.

    Many companies loose track of how many times they install their software applications, and often loose track of the licenses that are associated with these applications. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), an organization backed by closed source software vendors, considers this to be software piracy, and is pursuing companies that are using more copies of software than they own licenses for. The BSA is enforcing significant fines on companies, whether their use of unlicensed software is intentional, or accidental.

    With the open source model, this situation, and potential liability, is completely eliminated.