Yesterday, I was reading a BBC news
article that talked about how Obama team has asked former Sun CEO Scott
McNealy to prepare a paper on how Open Source can help the government IT. In
that article, the President of Open Source Initiative (OSI), Michael Tiemann, is
quoted as saying
while some departments already use open source technologies, overall it has
been estimated that the global loss due to proprietary software is "in excess of
$1 trillion a year. ……the conservative cost for the US is from " $400 billion
(£290bn) and upwards.
The same argument can be applied to SaaS/Cloud Computing too. Unless we allow
the market forces to play unhindered, by the lock-ins due to proprietary formats
and walled gardens, there will be huge hidden costs to the customers of
SaaS/Cloud Computing (due to lack of competition and monopolies). Our lack of
understanding of these issues in the early days of software and the wrongful
association of the term communism to open source, ensured that we had
an unequal playing field that constrained the market forces, costing huge amounts of
money to the users of traditional software.
SaaS and Cloud Computing, being at its early days, offers us an unique
opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the past. We have a chance to implement
open formats and data portability, thereby ensuring a level playing field where
market forces play their role unhindered by any external forces. If we miss out
this chance, we will be seeing a repeat of the history.
One of the advantages of SaaS/Cloud Computing, touted by vendors and
evangelists alike, is the low cost and high returns offered by the technology
and the architectural philosophy behind the Cloud Computing paradigm. Therefore,
it makes no sense for us to allow the hidden costs associated with the
proprietary formats and the vendor lock-in strategies to cut down on these
savings. I just hope we do it right this time around.