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Open Source To The Rescue In Hard Times

It's a spiel that makes a lot of sense on the face of it. Switch to open source and you'll not only save money (who doesn't want to do that?) but guard yourself against the unexpected repercussions of these financially grim days.

It's a spiel that makes a lot of sense on the face of it. Switch to open source and you'll not only save money (who doesn't want to do that?) but guard yourself against the unexpected repercussions of these financially grim days.

Evidence that big business is turning to open source, in one form or another, is hard to deny. When I spoke with Jim Zemlin last week, he mentioned that an event the Linux Foundation had planned for Wall Street movers and shakers was filled to capacity. (It's an invite-only event; no press, but that's what LinuxCon is for.) Matt Asay detailed similar initiatives on the part of the Oregon Department of Human Services. There's any number of other examples; you can probably cite a few right in your own company.

The big question in my mind is: What specific benefits do the folks reap by making the switch? Cost savings alone is great, but saving money with open source doesn't happen automatically, even if the initial outlay for a given package can approach zero and can happen with minimal effort -- or "friction", as the buzzword goes today.

One additional benefit, which I have not seen discussed much, is the fact that an open source project isn't tied to any one thing. Certainly not any one company. And if there's anything we've learned in the past couple of months, no one company lasts forever. Granted, Red Hat and Canonical and Novell/SUSE aren't issuing mortgage-backed securities as a big part of their business model, but that doesn't make any of them immune from bad tidings. Pick open source for your infrastructure, since that's where most of the open source is being used in enterprises right now, and the risk of being left high and dry goes down that much more.

Granted, even this has limits. If a company that's done an outstanding job of support for an open source project goes bust, the quality of the support you'd get from someone else might not be the same. But it's something, as opposed to crossing your fingers and hoping that whatever proprietary solution you picked doesn't drop dead in two years because the company responsible for it gambled and lost.

If you've deployed open source in your own organization as a way to escape from both the cost and the possible dead-end aspects of proprietary software (especially in these rough times), sound off below.