Open source / free software vs proprietary software – what is best for business? <ul><ul><li>Kaido Kikkas Tallinn Universi...
For those unfamiliar with the free world... <ul><li>... these terms and concepts are worth studying: </li></ul><ul><li>fre...
Looking at the title... <ul><li>I'd like to ask about a small detail: Best for WHOSE business...? </li></ul><ul><li>I try ...
What would a business expect from its IT? <ul><li>doing the necessary thing </li></ul><ul><li>reasonable acquiring costs (...
1. doing the necessary thing <ul><li>All software regardless of licensing model can be appropriate. Or not. </li></ul><ul>...
2. acquiring costs <ul><li>The smaller the enterprise, the more important (typically) issue it is </li></ul><ul><li>FOSS r...
3. running costs  <ul><li>Similar to the former, but has more variables in it </li></ul><ul><li>Leaving your homework undo...
4. (re)training costs <ul><li>Can be substantial when moving large numbers of employees to a new platform </li></ul><ul><l...
5. reliability <ul><li>Depends also on the maintenance skills of the tech staff – incompetent technicians can work wonders...
6. interoperability <ul><li>Proprietary systems tend to be interoperable as long as you use the products of the same compa...
7. security <ul><li>A long-time plague in MS software: Trojan horses and viruses are 99% Windows-specific (in fact, a Linu...
8. support <ul><li>At the first glance, this one is a clear win for proprietary systems. “Linux has no support”... </li></...
9. flexibility, extensibility and scalability <ul><li>Clearly better in free systems. Examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most...
10. Choice <ul><li>Monoculture is dangerous – both in biology and in technology (some call it inbreeding) ‏ </li></ul><ul>...
Where proprietary approach may make sense <ul><li>In highly professional, specialised fields with turnkey solutions handed...
Personal opinion: if I had a business <ul><li>I'd run my IT sector roughly as follows </li></ul><ul><ul><li>MS Windows onl...
Conclusion <ul><li>Free models have been discussed from a variety of viewpoints – in this presentation we left aside ethic...
Thank you! Contact: Kaido Kikkas [email_address] http://www.kakupesa.net
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FLOSS vs proprietary software - what is best for business?

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My presentation at the "Paving for eFuture" conference in Reykjavik 13.09.07, in a debate with a Microsoft representative

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FLOSS vs proprietary software - what is best for business?

  1. 1. Open source / free software vs proprietary software – what is best for business? <ul><ul><li>Kaido Kikkas Tallinn University *** Estonian IT Society Paving for eFuture Reykjavik, September 13, 2007 </li></ul></ul>
  2. 2. For those unfamiliar with the free world... <ul><li>... these terms and concepts are worth studying: </li></ul><ul><li>free software </li></ul><ul><li>open source </li></ul><ul><li>GNU General Public License </li></ul><ul><li>copyleft </li></ul><ul><li>hacker </li></ul><ul><li>hacker ethic </li></ul><ul><li>Linus' Law on work motivation NB! Due to the presentation's small timeframe, additional arguments, data and links are provided by the complementary webpage (including these slides) at http://www.kakupesa.net/kakk/docs/reykjavik2007/ </li></ul>
  3. 3. Looking at the title... <ul><li>I'd like to ask about a small detail: Best for WHOSE business...? </li></ul><ul><li>I try to keep the user's (as opposed to vendor's) perspective </li></ul><ul><li>Plus, in the next slides I try to look at a business considering a shift from proprietary to free model and give some arguments to support the decision </li></ul>
  4. 4. What would a business expect from its IT? <ul><li>doing the necessary thing </li></ul><ul><li>reasonable acquiring costs (esp. SME) </li></ul><ul><li>reasonable running costs </li></ul><ul><li>reasonable (re)training costs </li></ul><ul><li>reliability </li></ul><ul><li>interoperability </li></ul><ul><li>security </li></ul><ul><li>support </li></ul><ul><li>flexibility, extensibility and scalability </li></ul><ul><li>choice of services and providers (no lock-in)‏ </li></ul>
  5. 5. 1. doing the necessary thing <ul><li>All software regardless of licensing model can be appropriate. Or not. </li></ul><ul><li>A caveat – when moving to software with different licensing model, do not assume that all your previous knowledge remains valid. Or to put it simpler – Linux is NOT Windows </li></ul><ul><li>Yet the added benefit of open source code allows for better modifications. Also, the market is open – one can opt for in-house improvements or choose the best partner instead of paying extorting prices to a market dominator </li></ul>
  6. 6. 2. acquiring costs <ul><li>The smaller the enterprise, the more important (typically) issue it is </li></ul><ul><li>FOSS results in large savings in this stage (probably not denied even by proprietary vendors)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>But even in the free world, going blindly for the seemingly cheapest option may not be wise </li></ul><ul><li>In the business world (somewhat opposed to the NGO, education and private spheres) using commercially-backed solutions (which may cost quite a lot) may be justified. But not always – an important factor is the in-house IT capacity </li></ul>
  7. 7. 3. running costs <ul><li>Similar to the former, but has more variables in it </li></ul><ul><li>Leaving your homework undone may sometimes hit quite hard </li></ul><ul><li>Due to the increasingly unreasonable 'intellectual property' system, may run into various artificial obstacles (patents etc) when not careful. In Europe, the problem is much smaller than in the US </li></ul><ul><li>Earlier, finding qualified staff was somewhat an issue (not much anymore, but depends on the location)‏ </li></ul>
  8. 8. 4. (re)training costs <ul><li>Can be substantial when moving large numbers of employees to a new platform </li></ul><ul><li>In essence, do not depend on licensing model </li></ul><ul><li>Often cited as a prohibitive factor in moving to free models – yet the same applies to proprietary systems </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. for a typical desktop user, moving from MS Office 2000 to the new 2007 is arguably more difficult than moving to OpenOffice.org </li></ul><ul><li>Free model can result in more flexible training – again, you do not need “Authorized Trainers” </li></ul>
  9. 9. 5. reliability <ul><li>Depends also on the maintenance skills of the tech staff – incompetent technicians can work wonders (in a negative sense)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Free systems (e.g. BSD or Linux) have excellent reliability marks worldwide </li></ul>
  10. 10. 6. interoperability <ul><li>Proprietary systems tend to be interoperable as long as you use the products of the same company </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes interoperability is considered directly counterproductive to the company's goals (the earlier case of MS Office documents, or also the current OOXML debate). Conflict of interests? </li></ul><ul><li>Free systems have more potential here, although it should not be taken for granted – in some cases the initial author does not have need for it and thus will not stress it </li></ul><ul><li>Open standards are the key – but more than often, there is a strong correlation with software freedom </li></ul>
  11. 11. 7. security <ul><li>A long-time plague in MS software: Trojan horses and viruses are 99% Windows-specific (in fact, a Linux virus is like the Yeti – some people claim it exists. Never seen one yet)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Being locked into a single platform also contributes towards weaker security – an attack will only need a single vector </li></ul><ul><li>A side remark: regardless of platform, the biggest security risk is always located between the keyboard and the chair => a training issue </li></ul>
  12. 12. 8. support <ul><li>At the first glance, this one is a clear win for proprietary systems. “Linux has no support”... </li></ul><ul><li>Actually, surprisingly large number of free systems have commercial support available. Moreover, the market is open (again) and thus it is much harder to charge excessive sums for support services </li></ul><ul><li>Support can be obtained both in a traditional way (by purchasing the software; e.g. Red Hat) or from third parties </li></ul>
  13. 13. 9. flexibility, extensibility and scalability <ul><li>Clearly better in free systems. Examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most of the Top 500 supercomputers run Linux </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Free NetBSD operating system supports more than 50 hardware platforms </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Flexibility is an important factor in open source, so is extensibility. Both stem from the lack of either technical (lack of source code) or legal (prohibitive licensing) obstacles </li></ul>
  14. 14. 10. Choice <ul><li>Monoculture is dangerous – both in biology and in technology (some call it inbreeding) ‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Proprietary vendors often strive to create large, unified solutions on a single (their own) platform, leaving it more vulnerable to threats </li></ul><ul><li>Also, having achieved a lock-in on a customer, the vendor is able to charge remarkably higher prices than in the case of open market </li></ul>
  15. 15. Where proprietary approach may make sense <ul><li>In highly professional, specialised fields with turnkey solutions handed out (e.g. composers)‏ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the client can afford to pay for support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the client's time is expensive – losing access to his/her tools would cost much more than calling for a specialist </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But even here I'd consider a free approach for greater flexibility and playing room for support </li></ul><ul><li>The more common the application, the more obvious should using the free model be </li></ul>
  16. 16. Personal opinion: if I had a business <ul><li>I'd run my IT sector roughly as follows </li></ul><ul><ul><li>MS Windows only where specific applications demand it; preferrably also locked into a separate network cluster; prefer XP over Vista as long as possible; using free applications on Windows where possible (app compatibility)‏ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MacOS X is an option for presentation/sales </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The rest would run on free systems (exact methods – support etc - depend on circumstances)‏ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>And I would be far from the first one doing that </li></ul>
  17. 17. Conclusion <ul><li>Free models have been discussed from a variety of viewpoints – in this presentation we left aside ethical and social issues and focused on professional ones only (my personal reasons to avoid proprietary software are 50/50 a business decision and an ethical statement). But even these are sufficient </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, my point is: BE BUYERS AWARE :)‏ </li></ul>
  18. 18. Thank you! Contact: Kaido Kikkas [email_address] http://www.kakupesa.net

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