The five top objections to open-source
Computer World has an article on this topic, most of which has already been debated many times with simillar answers to the ones that CW gives. However I repeat the list here, because item 5 on the list is actually new to me:
- Support availability
- Functional limitations of the software
- Software license terms
- Rapid software release cycles
- Package road maps or future plans
Items 1 to 4 are answered pretty well, and I don’t think are a major concern now for most companies and the service offerings are developing at a rapid rate. However here is the answer to item 5:
Package road maps or future plans are important to most companies. Major vendors tend to heavily promote their road maps, even to the extent of publicizing future capabilities years in advance. Of course, there is no promise that any advertised feature will ever see the light of your computer display. Not all vendors publish such road maps, and some share them only with strategic accounts under nondisclosure agreements.
Some open-source groups publish road maps, and some do not. At times, the stated goal is to mimic the functionality of a commercial package, though when any particular feature will appear is anyone’s guess. The best advice is to make decisions based on what you can see and touch. If a feature doesn’t exist, assume it never will, even if it shows up on a road map or vendor presentation.
With all these potential drawbacks and pitfalls, why would anyone consider using an open-source package versus buying a proprietary product? Ultimately, it’s not about cost, so forget all those total cost of ownership arguments. It’s about value and free-market choices. With any software acquisition, evaluate needs, explore options and select the best fit. Think of open-source as buying software from a small supplier. There may be additional risks, but the rewards can make it worthwhile.
I am not sure I agree with the conclusion that you should “Think of open-source as buying software from a small supplier”, in my eyes for many of the major Open Source development projects you are actually buying into a roadmap dictated by an asset thats owned by and will increasingly run the world. Imagine all of the different agendas that will need to be accomodated when Open Source gets that popular, and the challenges that will exist to stop it branching in a way that damages compatibility. Lots more on this topic to come I think, but thats the first thought that popped into my head at 1:00AM when I should really be in bed, but am not able to sleep because of the blasted Steroids I have to take, that give you insomnia!!