All societies and businesses that have survived longer than a few decades have created folklore, stories, and myths. As the culture evolves, these myths tend to get embellished and enlarged. So it is with Open Source.
I read a recent New York Times article about open source to be full of errors, perpetuated myths, and just plain wrong.
“But like most open-source companies, MySQL’s sales, tied to support deals, never matched the astronomical number of downloads for its product, about 60,000 a day.”
First, a considerable amount of open source products are not tied to support deals. Second, on average, 1% of downloads are monetized. Why ASHLEE VANCE the author thought that 100% of the downloads should be monetized is just plain silly. He clearly does not understand how open source works.
Vance continues: “The fight (between Oracle and the EU) illuminates a larger truth about open-source companies: their societal and strategic importance far exceeds their financial value as operating businesses.
European regulators view MySQL as sort of a database of the people, a low-cost alternative to Oracle’s costly proprietary products. The regulators worry that Oracle may stop improving MySQL in favor of protecting its core traditional products, and customers will lose an important option in the database market.”
Make no mistake, MySQL was in business to make money. I don’t agree that MySQL was somehow an institution built by the people for the people. They are not a strategic reserve to be protected by foreign raiders. They chose a business model where they thought they could best compete. And they were successful.
“There’s only one company making real money out of open source, and that’s Red Hat,” said Simon Crosby, the chief technology officer at Citrix Systems, which acquired the open-source software maker XenSource for $500 million in 2007. “Everyone else is in trouble.”
What? Either Crosby is dense or he was misquoted. Why would he buy a company for $500 million if it was in trouble?
Open Source ERP is more Expensive than Proprietary ERP
I then read a mythical article by Eric Kimberling who basically claims that:
- Open Source ERP products have less functionality
- Open Source ERP is harder to set up than Proprietary ERP
- That Open Source ERP is more expensive to update and to improve the functionality over time
- That Proprietary ERP products are less expensive than open source ERP
These myths continue to be perpetuated by proprietary vendors. It’s almost as if Kimberling is reading from their Dungeon and Dragons play books. Have you ever paid more than a $1m for an SAP license? I have. Have you ever paid over $1m for an open source commercial license? No you haven’t.
I understand the total cost of ownership (TCO) argument, but it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The internal cost of deploying an open source ERP solution is substantially less than a proprietary vendor. That’s due to the enormous support given by the community and the vendor. Add in customization, and you can forget about any TCO similarities. Open source by it’s very nature is open and much easier to customize.
Conversely, proprietary systems are primarily supported by Value Added Resellers (VAR’s) or the vendor and are not free. Want to change something, expect a giant bill.
It is perhaps the desperation of traditional ERP stalwarts to attack the open source model. They count on their customers to rely on the old open source myths. Yet this too is changing. Open source solutions are becoming mainstream and more and more customers are asking themselves why should we pay the outrageous price for proprietary software?
Still not convinced? If nothing else, it should get you thinking about what open source might mean to your organization.
(Cross-posted @ Seek Omega)