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Australian Senate Hears Open Source Is Too Expensive 365

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-what-you-pay-for dept.
schliz writes "The Australian Government Information Management Office says that a platform change to open source could cost more than it saves. It was pushed to investigate open source software to reduce its AUD$500m budget at a Senate meeting yesterday. From the article: 'Agencies are obliged to consider value for money on each occasion they apply a software,' spokesperson Graham Fry said. 'If the cost of assessing it [open source] was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice.'"
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Australian Senate Hears Open Source Is Too Expensive

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  • by ls671 (1122017) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:58AM (#31097478) Homepage

    > Australian Senate Hears Open Source Is Too Expensive

    Well, dear senators, this is a normal consequence of vendor lock-in:

    "In economics, vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in, or customer lock-in, makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without SUBSTANTIAL switching COSTS. Lock-in costs which create barriers to market entry may result in antitrust action against a monopoly."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vendor_lock-in [wikipedia.org]

    So, of course, there will be a substantial cost for switching ;-))

    In the end, it all depends on how long you wish to stay locked-in. You have to consider the matter in the long term to see the advantages, and long-term thinking is seldom seen in modern politics ;-))

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:07AM (#31097510)

      Switching cost includes more the just the cost of the software its self. Just because you're using open source does not mean you don't face a certain degree of lock-in.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:28AM (#31097656) Homepage

        There is definitely a "certain degree" of lock-in, but it's like being trapped in a prison with a key-making machine and full details on every lock in the place. Sure, it'll take a bit of time and effort, but you can get out pretty simply.

        • by ls671 (1122017) *

          > but it's like being trapped in a prison with a key-making machine and full details on every lock in the place

          Or, in modern prison terms:

          "being trapped in a modern prison with a laptop with wireless access to all prison systems and with details on how to break-in every system"

          Chances are you could even easily have them opening the doors for you and escort you out ;-) ;-))

        • by dimeglio (456244)

          We should always compare IT costs vs doing the work manually. Otherwise, what's the point of IT? No matter which way you look at it, IT always saves money.

          Now, switching vendor is simply a temporary inconvenience and requires a certain level of effort, leadership, accountability and responsibility. Unfortunately this is something government tends to avoid just like the Internet reroutes around censorship. In the 60s and 70s, you'd have to buy Blue (IBM) to be save - now it's another company. People go with

          • by pbhj (607776)

            We should always compare IT costs vs doing the work manually.

            IT != computers.

            Or at least that's what I was taught in school back at the start of the 90s. Non-computer options should be considered where appropriate but when changing the system you compare with your current implementation not with a manual version (that may not even be possible).

      • by mrjb (547783) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:01AM (#31097822)

        Switching cost includes more the just the cost of the software itself.

        Yes. in this case it also includes the cost of training people that have never worked with anything but Windows. That is, of course, if you assume you *have* to retrain your existing admins, rather than firing two of them and replacing them with a single Unix admin. In the end, it all depends on how you make the calculation. Sure, a switch *could* cost more, but it *could* also cost less depending on the scenario you choose to follow.

        • Exactly right (Score:5, Informative)

          by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @08:54AM (#31098360) Homepage

          In the end, it all depends on how you make the calculation. Sure, a switch *could* cost more, but it *could* also cost less depending on the scenario you choose to follow.

          Having actually replaced proprietary systems with open source alternatives, I can tell you none of the expense talking points that usually get thrown around by people invested in Microsoft products have ever materialized. There are always minor disruptions, but no worse than moving to the next version of a proprietary product. The license savings have been huge, but it's more than that. You don't realize how often proprietary companies come back and back for another drop of blood until they're gone. It's like Little Shop of IT Horrors. The up front license costs are only one layer of cost savings.

          This may not be a great example, but the last company I worked at saved big when we replaced Exchange with Gmail, which I don't consider an open source product. Not only did we scrap Exchange and the associated server OS licenses, we let the Exchange admin go and replaced them with a lower cost developer. That saved a ton of money and we were able to channel that savings into increased productivity. Double bonus. Gmail is simple enough the help desk could manage the administration.

          Really, it's all in how you implement the changes. The barrier for most companies is that their IT decisions are being made by people invested in proprietary technology. They'll never get out from under it.

          • Re:Exactly right (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Vu1turEMaN (1270774) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @11:08AM (#31099692)

            Similar scenario.

            I'm interning at a 25 person non-profit. They were putting thousands into Exchange. I did 4 things:

            1. Switched them over to Google Apps for free. Saved them loads of money, and they all love having the ease of access. To the exchange admin below, suck it. Seriously, that one outage was nowhere near as bad as the spam problems and other hassles an offsite exchange server created.

            2. Got the people who "just couldn't" use gmail's web interface copies of Outlook 2007 through techsoup. Which, after 3 months of switching, was only the secretary and the president.

            3. Switched our 5-computer lab for visitors and program members over to linuxmint. It needs no configuration, let alone administration, and its better than the prior windows 2000 by far.

            4. Set up Hamachi for remote file access, because nobody used the VPN anyways (cause "my home computer is so slow and full of WeatherBug!").

            5. Set up an open source phone server. It was a PITA, but it was WAY better than renting terrible equipment from the phone company.

            • Re:Exactly right (Score:4, Interesting)

              by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @11:46AM (#31100220) Homepage

              3. Switched our 5-computer lab for visitors and program members over to linuxmint. It needs no configuration, let alone administration, and its better than the prior windows 2000 by far.

              Interesting. We switched out most of our office workstations to Ubuntu with OpenOffice (customer support, help desk, development, and most of the admin seats). Kept one token XP box in the conference room to support those GoToMeeting things, very few of which support Linux. Accounting needed a Windows kiosk for some Windows-only software and outside sales staff wanted to keep their Windows laptops. The one graphics/marketing gal had a Mac. We had few problems with user acceptance, though there was some training involved transitioning from Office to OpenOffice. That was the most difficult part of the whole change.

              There were two old Win 2K servers we replaced with CentOS and we scrapped the 2008 servers and SQL server. We rented space on an outsource Windows host to support legacy applications and switched development from .NYET to PHP. We let go two .NET developers and replaced them with one really amazing PHP developer and the entry level developer we hired to replace the Exchange admin. We not only saved the salaries, but the cost of the workstations and VisualStudio.

              Be interesting to get more detail on the phone server. Our local provider actually had a pretty good system and the price was right. Google Apps was very popular.

              • Re:Exactly right (Score:4, Informative)

                by tinkerghost (944862) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:15PM (#31102016) Homepage

                Be interesting to get more detail on the phone server. Our local provider actually had a pretty good system and the price was right. Google Apps was very popular.

                I run asterisk in a VPS. For $15 a month I get a private PBX that I can tap from anywhere in the world. Takes about 2-3 hours of work to get it up and running with extensions & voice-mail, if you're following the O'Rieley book. I pay $1/month for my phone number and 0.4 cents per minute incoming. Since I pay by minute, I don't have a limit on the number of calls. For about $9-15 a month you can get unlimited incoming and outgoing minutes, but it's usually limited to 2 simultaneous calls.

                The practical limit is about 48 simultaneous calls or 96 active connections - above that and I would need to upgrade my server. For me, I get a business phone line, with the ability to do a conference call with more people than I care to talk to, for about $18/month including usage.

                For people worried about backups etc, the VPS company has 4 locations with auto roll over and I get a backup stored on their servers and I can keep as many backups as I can be bothered with on my own. If they went out of business tomorrow, I could upload my image to any Parallels VPS provider and be back in business with an IP address change on the server and at my DID provider. Your mileage will of course vary depending on your VPS supplier.

                If you want more info on the server itself, check out either Asterisk [asterisk.org] or Voip-Info [voip-info.org].

        • by jonwil (467024) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @09:43AM (#31098734)

          This is the Australian Public Service. Sacking people is all but impossible based on my experience.

      • by TheLink (130905) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:36AM (#31098012) Journal
        Yeah, you also have vendor lock-in with reiserfs.
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @11:07AM (#31099674) Homepage

        Exactly!

        So switching your office from Windows XP to Windows 7 and switching the Servers from Server 2003 to Server 2010 would actually have MORE of a cost than switching to OSS alternatives as the costs you talk about are exacerbated by the fact that you have to buy all new software licenses from microsoft, bot all new Apps as well AND new hardware.

        I just saw a client do this, their upgrade from XP and 2003 to current cost them a whole lot more than expected. Drivers for Windows 7 did not exist for a lot of the older hardware that was chugging along on XP, so that hardware had to be thrown away and replaced with new.

        Then the final insult, they did all this and discovered their upgrade to Exchange 2010 caused their room scheduling system that interfaces to the touchpanels at each conference room to break.

        OOPS! that scheduler they relied on now does not work, they tape printouts on the doors until the vendor certifies their plugin with microsoft.

        ALL switching has costs, Microsoft upgrades cost as much as Switching to OSS lately and it will only get worse.

    • You have to consider the matter in the long term to see the advantages, and long-term thinking is seldom seen in modern politics ;-))

      Four years at the Federal level. Three years in most states and territories.

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:39AM (#31097708) Homepage

        The bureaucrats last far longer than that and ultimately they are often the ones that make decisions by undermining decisions more often based upon power plays and ego, rather than upon sound economic decisions. In this case one person was making statements full of if, could, necessarily, assumption, all to cover the fact that they had not bothered to conduct any research. The reason for the lack of research, that research could cost more than $500 million dollars a year, one could only guess that Graham Fry was intending to contract out the research into using open source software to a closed source proprietary software company.

        Obviously Fry has no concept of foreign debt, no understanding of maintaining control over software upgrade cycles, no idea about monitoring historical trends and how many times they have bought the same software, no concept at all of life cycle costing, believes the lie that closed source proprietary software is free of maintenance costs and, fails to understand how governments choices in this sector impact upon private industry choices and further impact foreign by a nominal factor of 10 (500 million becomes 5 billion). A true asshat that does not belong in a role that legacy, longevity and, political astuteness has provided him, rather than expertise, national economic awareness or even basic common sence. Sounds like the Green Party in Australia is far more technologically aware than the rest (they also oppose censorship).

        It seems that global trend of the right shifting to the loony bin and the left shifting to the right of centre leaving the humanity and environment (over greed and power) based parties, in this case the Greens, to take up the centre left position, holds true. With FOSS the bulk of the money in software can always be spent locally and that's down to state and city level, not just country.

        • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:03AM (#31097832) Homepage Journal

          I worked for Vic Roads [vic.gov.au] all the way through their experiment with OS/2. They back end was AIX and department level servers were OS/2 as were the workstations. The rumour going around was that IBM had spent a lot of money making a few senior managers in that organisation very happy to get that deal through. Around about the time I left staff were pushing for Windows98 to be deployed in place of OS/2. I came back to do some contracting and people were betting on how many hours it would run without crashing.

          To get anything different in I think you have to have a lot of money behind it. I can see the same thing going on where I work but the product being pushed is clear case.

        • by Nazlfrag (1035012)

          It's simple. Every government department anywhere wants to increase their budget, not reduce it. Reduction of the budget could mean their arse on the line instead of the cushy slackarse gravy train they are currently leeching from. The lockin vendors know and exploit this, resulting in this sort of shithouse attempt at oversight. There is no solution as politicians are corrupt by nature, so all we can hope to do is stick it to them every now and then. They deserve a good sticking for this lame attempt but r

    • by Stuarticus (1205322) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:15AM (#31097558)
      Sorry, it's too expensive to even assess if there's any money to be saved by switching. Next item on the agenda, can we get some sort of magic machine that makes sure no-one is watching anything dirty in their computer?
    • What the very short article DOESN'T mention is what we in the industry have known for years:

      1) A software LICENSE isn't always cheaper than software SUPPORT. And you DO need support for your platform, open source or not.

      2) Using a well established vendor software (like say windows), means it's easier (cheaper) to educate people in the software they'll be using, and similarly easier to find qualified support (in house and outsourced alike).

      3) Open source doesn't mean the software is FREE, it just means it is

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:46AM (#31097750)

        Different solutions, open source or not, aren't always as functional in the ways you need as what you have now, or what you are considering buying. Now, it's easy to say "Well it's open source! Just hire some programmers to write the functionality you need." However that is a problem for three reasons:

        1) That costs money. All of a sudden the "$0 per copy" thing isn't true anymore. You have to factor in the cost of the development team. That is not cheap, at least if you want it done well. Good programmers don't work for minimum wage. So that cost must be factored in.

        2) You have to support it. If you are doing major development to something you need, you'll then have to support that development for yourself. This means ongoing support personnel costs. While you might not need to keep the whole dev team on, you'll still need some of them because they are going to have to maintain the software. Again, most costs to factor in.

        3) It won't be ready right now. If there's an off the shelf solution that meets you needs now, you have to weight that against the development time for what you'd need to add. It isn't as easy to put a dollar figure on, but it factors in. Saying "Oh just wait 18 months," isn't so easy to do.

        One area I've personally seen this as a real problem is video editing software. The OSS solutions are pretty abysmal next to things like Sony Vegas Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro. Now those aren't cheap, but in most cases I bet they are way cheaper than trying to fix up an OSS solution. I mean say you've got a shop with 20 editors that all need their own copy of Vegas. That'll run you $12,000 for the licenses. You decide that the included 40 network rendering licenses are enough for the farm for the workload. You also decide that you want to purchase their yearly-ish upgrades, so about $5,000 in maintenance per year. This assumes no discounts.

        Ok, you think you can develop OSS to be the same level of quality for that price? Not likely, you can't even hire a programmer for that, never mind that it'd probably take more than one as well as other people (like designers to make it nice and usable). Never mind that your work either has to wait until its done or you need to buy something now. Makes much more sense to just buy the commercial solution.

        So while OSS can be a cheaper solution, and can be a better solution, there is no guarantee it is. All the costs have to be evaluated and that includes things like "Does it do everything we need?" and "Is it easy for non-technical users to make use of?"

        • by bit01 (644603)

          So while OSS can be a cheaper solution, and can be a better solution, there is no guarantee it is. All the costs have to be evaluated and that includes things like "Does it do everything we need?" and "Is it easy for non-technical users to make use of?"

          You completely ignore a critical factor: per seat licensing. Open source development/adaption costs are largely fixed and can be amortized over the organization.

          Commercial software is almost always per-seat and/or annual licensed, and that includes the dece

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @09:02AM (#31098410) Journal

          It's worth noting that the economies are slightly different if you are a government. By nature, a government is a monopoly and benefits directly (in terms of tax revenue) from increases in the local economy. If software doesn't do what the government needs, they hire local programmers. This means that the money is staying in the local economy, rather than going abroad, and so they get more tax money: They'll get some percentage back immediately in income tax, while they'll get nothing back from foreign purchases. Then they'll get more back from sales tax, and so on, as the local programmers buy things. If they then release their changes, then that means that the software is now better and will benefit companies. Some of them will then be able to use it unmodified, and spend money on other things, rather than send it to a foreign corporation.

          Overall, spending $1m on Microsoft software might, for a government, be a worse decision than spending $2m on hippyware.

        • by pbhj (607776)

          Now, it's easy to say "Well it's open source! Just hire some programmers to write the functionality you need." However...

          I think I'd put it out to tender before I considered starting a software development shop.

          For your Final Cut Pro I'll counter with Blender, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blender_(software)#Use_in_the_media_industry [wikipedia.org], admittedly you're going to win that one, but it shows that an in house development isn't always wrong and that OSS can make inroads even into the movie industry. The biggest thing with Apple software use for design is surely that it is taught in design colleges and so the breadth of talent that c

        • If only more source-available, freely-redistributible projects both charged for their software and offered cuts to contributors, we'd see more high-quality software that can be easily and cheaply maintained.
      • by Alex Belits (437) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:54AM (#31097794) Homepage

        So for a long term saving, it's often cheaper to stay with what you've got (or for a new installation, choose the same as everyone else) and pay a lot of licensefees, than to change to something that's cheaper in licensing and have a shitload of other costs.

        In the long term it's NEVER cheaper to follow a vendor's lock-in.

        That said, I LOVE linux, open source and free software. But for commercial use, it just isn't always optimal.

        Oh, the hallmark of Microsoft astroturfers.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          In the long term it's NEVER cheaper to follow a vendor's lock-in.

          This quote is really about the stock market, but the market can be wrong longer than you can be right. And one thing about open source is that it's incredibly expensive to be first and carry all the development costs. With closed source software you implicitly calculate how much it'll add to the value of the product. It may cost 5000$ to develop a feature and one company is willing to pay 1000$, but maybe you can sell it as a "nice to have" to 100 companies for 40$ each. Guess what, a closed source company

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by AdmiralXyz (1378985)
          Read Sycroft's comment above you, there are absolutely some situations where OSS is not cost-effective, from either a short-term or long-term perspective. And while you make accusations of someone being a Microsoft astroturfer, know that you're little better as a typical Slashdotter who plugs their ears and sings, "La, la, la, I can't hear you! You must be an MS shill!" whenever someone makes valid criticisms of open-source from a business standpoint.
      • by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:07AM (#31097864) Homepage Journal

        But for commercial use, it just isn't always optimal.

        We're not talking about COMMERCIAL.
        We're talking about GOVERNMENTAL.

        In this case cost is a far secondary issue.

        1) while License is usually cheaper than full IP rights for one item, when it comes to deployment of thousands it's often cheaper to purchase IP rights and be free to deploy as much as you wish (one per every citizen of the country...?) Also, starting your own support dept. in this case may be desirable, especially if the problem is in the software and the vendor is not willing to fix it.

        2) Cheaper. Safer? More available? Without creating dangerous lock-in? Without danger of losing backwards compatibility?

        3) Yes. It doesn't have to be gratis. It must be open.

        4) The life cycle of a well established product ends when the vendor says so, and that's the final end. The life cycle of an open-source product ends when you're not willing to support (pay for) its development. Nobody can force you to upgrade if the current version is better than the new one.

        5) A lot of software could be written for the cost of licenses of purchasing software that is already written. It's taxpayer's money better spent if the taxpayer gets a piece of software they can use in return, than if a foreign firm gets to sell some licenses.

        • by delinear (991444)
          A bigger issue for government is that no one department seems to have any clue what any other department is doing, so they prefer to stick with the big, well known brands because they can be reasonably sure that nobody else is likely to be using something different, and if they are then they will be the one to blame for the interoperability failure for being free thinking mavericks. Not to mention that big coporate brands spend a lot of time/money schmoozing the decision makers.
      • by wrook (134116) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:08AM (#31097874) Homepage

        I'm curious. Who do you get for support for Microsoft products. Does Microsoft offer support? And by support I mean, if there is a bug in Word corrupting your mission critical documents, will they promise to fix it? And will they give you a projected time for completion on the work. And will they give you periodic updates? And will they send you a patched version as soon as it is fixed? How much does that kind of support cost? Are you sure it's really cheaper than an open source project?

        And what happens when Microsoft "End-Of-Life"s a product? Can you get support from a third party? Can you develop internal resources to provide support and add small features? Or do you have to simply buy whatever Microsoft replacing it with, regardless of whether or not it fits your needs?

        And when you say that finding people able to do internal support (I assume first level support, since you can't really do anything else with proprietary software) is easier and cheaper with more popular software, isn't this simply a training issue? Do you really have such a high turnover rate in your company that most of them were trained in using software at their previous job? Or are most of them trained at your company, meaning that it doesn't matter if it's the most popular software or not -- It just matters that you can find initial training at a reasonable cost?

        Certainly I think it's a good idea to get support for software you buy. However, I have never worked at a proprietary company that offered anything resembling what I think of as support. "Support" in the industry means get the off the phone as quickly as possible because every minute on the phone eats your entire profit. Sure we did special one-off deals for customers who bought 10,000 copies of our software, but we gave them a bloody hard time of it. If they didn't threaten to not upgrade to the next version, they wouldn't get anything at all. We might fix their bug in the next service pack, or maybe not, at the whim of the program manager.

        Real support, meaning having someone who is contractually obliged to help you when your software doesn't work for you only seems to be available for custom built software. And if you aren't getting source with your custom built software, you're getting ripped off.

        Or at least that's been my experience. It would be interesting to see how your experience differs.

        • by twisteddk (201366) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:40AM (#31098028)

          Microsoft isn't the ONLY choice when it comes to vendors. Microsoft is just a supplier of OS (and a few applications). For mission critical stuff, most companies use stuff that's a LOT more expensive than what microsoft charges. And frankly, yes, when I have a business critical error in an MS product, I WILL get it fixed, one way or another, that's what I do for a living, and I'm good at my job. But when all else is said and done, show me another OS that'll run for instance a SAP gui, Toad, Quest Space Manager, Business Objects, Dimension and Oracle, has decent text editing, integrated network support, spreadsheet and is intuitive. Show me, and I'll happily try to convice my customers to choose that platform. But thing is, MS being the single OS that EVERYONE supports, you're pretty much locked in on that platform because of your application needs.

          That doesn't mean I can't choose MySQL over Oracle (if my applications support it) and similar. It doesn't mean my server side HAS to be MS if I can do it with something else. However, if I do choose the OSS product, I still have to get my business critical support from someone who will charge a bundle.

          And when all else is said and done. It's all about my business. Software should adapt to my business, my business shouldn't have to adapt to the software. So IF I choose a software that can do what I want, that'll be a lot easier (and cheaper) for me to live with, than with software that needs millions of dollars in development before it can do what I need it to. And that's just the initial business costs, think about the TCO and added support costs aswell, the investment in knowledge and manpower etc. and you may understand why so many businesses are choosing the "easier road".

          In essence it's the inhouse vs outsource debate in a nutshell. With inhouse, you have total control, but also total responsibility and have to carry the total cost. With outsource, you put everything into the hands of someone else, and they provide you with a service (hopefully) equal to what you pay for it, and that payment is pretty much transparent for a number of years.

          • by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @08:08AM (#31098128) Homepage Journal

            But when all else is said and done, show me another OS that'll run for instance a SAP gui, Toad

            A Wii will run Toad [mariowiki.com].

            Quest Space Manager

            Why do these software companies have to make their products names sound so much like video games?

            Business Objects, Dimension and Oracle

            Wasn't Oracle moving toward Java, which "runs everywhere", and web apps, which also run everywhere?

            has decent text editing, integrated network support

            What desktop operating system doesn't?

            spreadsheet

            Apple Numbers. OpenOffice.org Calc.

            and is intuitive.

            No interface is intuitive; even the nipple must be learned. By "intuitive", did you mean "almost any employee that we hire will have already been trained on the software by another firm"? In that case, GNOME is close enough to Windows for it not to matter until you try to administer the system.

            • by Talderas (1212466)

              Man, I was completely expecting you to show that a Wii platform could run all those options.

              I guess I'm back to designing all my user machines around PS3s instead of Wiis.

              • by tepples (727027)

                Man, I was completely expecting you to show that a Wii platform could run all those options.

                The problem with running line-of-business software on jailbroken Wii consoles is that text-filled user interfaces really need a high-definition monitor, and Wii won't go higher than 480p. If you want something small and cheap that supports the 720p-class monitor that business apps expect, use an Acer Aspire Revo.

                I guess I'm back to designing all my user machines around PS3s instead of Wiis.

                If you can find a case of used fat PS3s at a good price, go ahead and install some Other OS on them. They'll run web apps.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by pbhj (607776)

            [...] and is intuitive.

            I don't know about the rest of your comment but this tends to suggest you're biased. Different people find different interfaces more or less intuitive. Microsoft operating systems for most are more _familiar_ which trumps intuitiveness for initial use.

            Software should adapt to my business, my business shouldn't have to adapt to the software.

            It's somewhere in between. Upgraded to MS Word with the ribbon UI? Then your business just adapted to the software.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by djjockey (1301073)

          Sorry in advance for what will be perceived as pro-microsoft, but here goes:

          Support for OTS software, or hardware, or anything standard for that matter is very different to support for customised or specialised tools. Microsoft will not likely care that you have found a bug affecting your mission critical documents. However, I've yet to see a bug in off the shelf software that does affect mission critical documents. Not saying it'll never happen, but lets face it, most bugs are security, GUI, or minor. Wait

      • by RenHoek (101570) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:51AM (#31098070) Homepage

        1) But proprietary software needs support as well. So there's no real difference here between open source and non-open source.

        2) That's application training, and regardless if it's open source software or not, people will need training. Again no real difference.

        3) Many companies do NOT let you review source code. SOME companies allow you to license the source code for a LOT of money.

        4) This is silly.. Would you say Windows is 'well established'? They fudged up the successor to XP for a long time, otherwise you have to change to the latest flavor of Windows in 3-5 years. In fact, they will actually not SELL it to you anymore! No such problems with open source.

        5) True, a lot of stuff isn't available in open source. However developing your own apps in-house is not necessarily a bad thing as you say it. I've seen plenty of big time commercial packages just fail again and again due to bugs or in the end just not fitting it's purpose for what it was bought for. The advantage of in-house custom made, means it should fit 100%, you have debugging in your own hands, can be cheaper in the long-run, you don't have to worry about the product being discontinued and if it's good, you might even sell it to other similar companies.

        So I will have do disagree with your final conclusion. I'm not saying open source is ALWAYS cheaper, but you'll have to look better into the situation before you can make that assessment.

      • Open source doesn't mean the software is FREE, it just means it is open source.

        The Open Source Definition [opensource.org], for what it's worth, was originally based word-for-word on the Debian Free Software Guidelines [debian.org].

        Techonologically, a lot of software just inst available as open source.

        I'm aware that video games are in this situation, but this article is about the public sector. Could you describe a couple genres of software used by the public sector that have no Free equivalent? Even electronic medical record software is free software, thanks to VistA CPRS developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

        So for a long term saving, it's often cheaper to stay with what you've got

        Until it's end-of-lifed. Migration costs from Microsoft Off

      • by eulernet (1132389)

        So for a long term saving, it's often cheaper to stay with what you've got (or for a new installation, choose the same as everyone else) and pay a lot of licensefees, than to change to something that's cheaper in licensing and have a shitload of other costs.

        With Windows, you have to pay for license fees, and you have to pay every ten years (and I suppose that their next OS will have much smaller lifespan).

        Either for Windows or Linux, you'll have a lot of hidden costs.
        For Linux, it may be the users needing to be trained once, or the cost of a team for managing your computers.
        For Windows, you'll need an antivirus if you don't want to spend your time reinstalling the computers, you'll have to renew all your licenses every few years, and train your users after eve

    • by sqldr (838964)

      Installing an open-source application:

      1) apt-get install $APPLICATION

      time taken: 1 minute

      Installing a proprietary application:

      1) Visit vendor's website. Find out cost
      2) Since the cost is rarely listed on website, phone up for a "quote"
      3) Spend 10 minutes trying to extract information from salesman's bullshit
      4) Explain that it's not you that buys the software
      5) Ascertain whether you need the standard ed

  • by deniable (76198) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:06AM (#31097506)

    Yes, there are costs to adopting open-source, that's the basic message when you use a bureaucrat to English translator.

    How about these from TFA:

    A 2007 AGIMO survey revealed that 68 percent of government agencies were either piloting or using open source software.

    Centrelink, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and National Archives of Australia were known to use open source products;

    Looks like it's getting a fair hearing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...or of mere stupidity, if that's a simpler explanation?

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd DOT bandrowsky AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:19AM (#31097584) Homepage Journal

    On the developer front:

    If you have a lot of database stuff, Visual Studio can be much cheaper to develop for, so long as you ignore Microsoft's Architectural Group. For me, moving to Linux isn't just about saving money, really, its to break free from the corporate brain cramp that is Microsoft Architectural guidelines. Visual Studio and C# are great tools, but, if you have to use evaporate 2x as productive multiplier to do 10x as much stupid stuff, there's hardly a savings.

    On the office front:

    OpenOffice's spreadsheet is not even close to Office 2007 Excel. We developers can say Open Office spreadsheet is good enough, but telling that to someone who lives and breaths Excel is only for laughs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      I've gone Monodevelop and C#, and there's not much about Visual Studio that I'm missing. Thus far, cross platform compatibility seems fine too. Develop on Linux, deploy on Windows feels slightly kinky, but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    • by umghhh (965931)
      it is certainly true that if you take both and compare you will see a lot more in excell than in oo but does this really matter? How much of this advanced stuff is actually used by majority of brain damaged gov. officials?
      • by Sumadartson (965043) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:04AM (#31097844)
        If you're brain dead, you can't use the advanced stuff in excel. If you're using excel for the advanced stuff in a critical application, you must be brain dead. Why, for the love of god, is the advanced stuff in excel ever used? I still don't get it.

        Honestly, the amount of business critical applications buried in excel macro's is shocking. And, as we all know, the person who wrote the macro never leaves his/her job. This is especially dangerous for government who, for particular branches, have to be able to transparently show how they came to certain decisions. Any responsible official will stay away from excel for all but the most menial of tasks.

        • by u38cg (607297)
          Quite often because the people who need to do number crunching involving significant programming logic can't get the authorisation to use anything other than standard desktop productivity tools. Excel comes with its own programming language, and so that is what is used. By the time the benefits from switching become apparent, the switching costs are too high.
      • The Data/Sort in Excel is way better. That's hardly "advanced". The styling stuff in Office 2007 Ribbon Bar is hands down easier to deal with than the stuff in Open Office. Little things matter too, and Excel just has more of them.

    • by nospam007 (722110) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:36AM (#31097696)

      "OpenOffice's spreadsheet is not even close to Office 2007 Excel. "

      95% of the users I know use it to make phone lists and such with no calculation at all, because they never saw that Word and its companions can do tables too.

      • Excel is much better for a phone list. It's easier/faster to input data and it offers automatic filtering (you can filter using a list of values for a column, like say filtering by country or city). Excel also has "grouping", similar to the GROUP BY operation in SQL. It's accessed through a wizard in a menu option, no need for formulas.

        • by salesgeek (263995)

          Hmm. That must be what that "AutoFilter" menu item is for in OpenOffice? Perhaps you missed the "Group and Outline" menu, too? That little "AutoOutline" option is pretty neat, too (no wizard needed)

          Or perhaps you just have *have not used* OpenOffice Spreadsheet lately?

          The one place where Excel still has an much of an advantage is PivotTables.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pbhj (607776)

          Were you going for a funny there? If you use the spreadsheet as a Base database you can perform SQL operations on it. You can even create a form for data entry if you want to. You think OOo Calc doesn't have filtering?

    • by micheas (231635) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:15AM (#31097912) Homepage Journal

      On the developer front:

      If you have a lot of database stuff, Visual Studio can be much cheaper to develop for, so long as you ignore Microsoft's Architectural Group. For me, moving to Linux isn't just about saving money, really, its to break free from the corporate brain cramp that is Microsoft Architectural guidelines. Visual Studio and C# are great tools, but, if you have to use evaporate 2x as productive multiplier to do 10x as much stupid stuff, there's hardly a savings.

      On the office front:

      OpenOffice's spreadsheet is not even close to Office 2007 Excel. We developers can say Open Office spreadsheet is good enough, but telling that to someone who lives and breaths Excel is only for laughs.

      However people that use their spreadsheets for statistics will tell you that using Excel for you calculation is about as productive as using substituting rand() for your equations.

      Here is one of several papers [csdassn.org] about the fact that Microsoft has no interest in fixing the broken nature of excel for statistical work.

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:27AM (#31097640) Homepage Journal

    As usually, price is the only criterion. And I remember a letter of prime minister of Peru to Microsoft. He explained clearly and plainly that the TCO was moot. It doesn't matter if the analysis is good or bad. It matters that proprietary software is not suitable for government.

    Government must not allow for vendor lock-in. It must not create a situation where their data is hostage to a private company.

    Government must be transparent in all its processes. Their software included, being open for public scrutiny.

    Government must use secure software. No black-box encryption can be considered secure.

    Government's duty is to be as accessible to wide public as possible. That means, amongst all, open API for their services, and software available to all citizens no matter what their material status. No paywall of any kind to let only the rich have their way.

    OSS is not a choice of "cheaper". It's the choice of "doing things the right way".

  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:44AM (#31097734) Journal

    I work in state government and what bugs me is we don't put at least say Open Office on every single machine.
    It literally costs nothing to do and could at least begin the transition to open source solutions.

    Sadly we use document management crap for users incapable of using a filesystem properly, so the saveas and save dialog boxes are replaced by a front end which hands documents being loaded to a specific server. I am not aware if this system can tie in to the open office system.

    Stage 1 should be, firefox on every workstation, open office on every workstation, imgburn on every workstation and VLC on every workstation. We should also be virtualising with Virtual Box.
    We do in my dept actually put VLC on as default (in conjunction with media player and so on) but it's not enough.

    Slowly slowly get the users used to multiplatform open source packages, it doesn't matter if it's a 10 year, very very slow transition, it results in completely free systems in the long run.
    I for one am a Windows guy at home but I'd be more than happy to be forced to learn that stuff and support it, from what little I know of linux is it may be missing some UI polish and some enterprise level administration stuff, you can on the other hand lock things down exceptionally well, diagnose problems remotely very well and overall have a pretty reliable system.

    It's really sad, but I guess this goes back to the 'no one ever got fired for buying intel' saying, it likely applies to MS applications and OS's as well :/

    • by sznupi (719324)

      IBM. Nobody was fired for buying IBM.

    • by GF678 (1453005)

      I work in state government and what bugs me is we don't put at least say Open Office on every single machine.
      It literally costs nothing to do and could at least begin the transition to open source solutions.

      I do IT support for several schools. I recently built a new image (Windows 7 rollout), and was thinking of throwing OpenOffice along with Office 2007. In the end however, I didn't bother, because I knew no-one would use it. I suspect the same reasoning would apply to your case.

      Well, YOU might use it, but

  • by Bromskloss (750445) <[auxiliary.addre ... [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:55AM (#31097802)

    According to the headline, the Australian senate says that open source (I guess they mean free software) is expensive, but they actually said that switching is expensive. The headline is supposed to provide us with the best possible understanding of the whole article, given the restricted space, not require us to read the article just to check if it agrees with the headline. Set higher standards, Slashdot!

    • by ghmh (73679)
      You must be new here...
    • Actually TFA and TFS both seem to have headlines which differ to what Fry said. Fry's remarks seem to focus mostly on the cost of assessing the software not switching (or the software itself). His entire argument seems to be "it will cost money to give it consideration, therefore it's a bad idea." What a plonker!

      As others have said the cost of assessment + proprietary licences is likely to be higher than that of assessment + oss licences in both the long and short term. If my government deployed software wi

  • In what timeframe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jhhdk (1120433) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:56AM (#31097808)

    Switching costs > Licencensing costs

    X$ > Y$ per year !? something about this equation doesn't make sense.

    Wouldn't you have to know how many years we're talking about?

    • by tepples (727027)

      Wouldn't you have to know how many years we're talking about?

      For that, you'd have to look up the country's legislature to see how long it is between elections.

  • by orkysoft (93727) <orkysoftNO@SPAMmyrealbox.com> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:04AM (#31097838) Journal

    'If the cost of assessing it [open source] was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice.'

    cost(assessing) > cost(software) where cost(assessing) > 0 and cost(software) = 0

    That's true, but doesn't mean anything, so it's a bullshit reason.

  • And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RMH101 (636144) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:11AM (#31097890)
    It's fairly uncontroversial, isn't it?
    * there is a cost for running proprietary, closed source software - usually made up of licence costs plus support costs
    * there is a cost for running FOSS - not licence costs, but support costs
    * there is a cost for implementing any new software to an organisation, in terms of cost of change, reskilling, downtime, training etc.
    Just because an app is free, doesn't mean it costs you nothing to implement it. Any decisions regarding moving from one set of software to another should consider the total cost of change
    On top of this, governments do not consider the long term - they want to make finances look good for the period they are in power, so they can get a good economic soundbite at the end of a term and hopefully get re-elected.
  • Whats interesting (Score:3, Informative)

    by AHuxley (892839) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:13AM (#31097902) Homepage Journal
    Is that most CS talent in Australia *should* be classical Unix, the Darl SCO kind ready.
    Australia did not just print out MS CS degrees, they actually funded real Unix CS.
    We like our mini military-industrial complex and did fund some maths/CS aspects of our top educational institutions.
    So where is the brain *gap* ? We do not have a bunch of xbox playing cubical chumps running our .gov.
    Someone fixed something with this.
    As someone in Australia did with Saddam Hussein and wheat, Australia can do with software and Redmond.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      But this article is really about IT. Its a blue collar occupation. My brother does it. He trained as a cook. He earns more than me too. The CS people are off working for CSIRO, DSTO and the BOM or contractors.

      I work for one of those contractors and frankly, 70% of the CS graduates who work for us are glad to be given a safe little windows box with a copy of outlook to organise their meetings, while the rest of us either put up with the corporate linux install or overwrite it with something more inspiring.

  • by plusser (685253) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:16AM (#31097922)

    Sounds like we have a difference in administration approach between open source and closed source software.

    Open Source
    - It's Free
    - But if you want something special you will need specialists to write the software and test it for you - Cost lots
    - You'll have to pay for your own training
    - If you change your computers in future, chances are the software may still be able to be made to work

    Closed Source
    - It's expensive
    - Carefully researched product - will probably meet the needs of your business without much tailoring
    - Training will be provided as part of package
    - If you change your system in future, chances are you will need to buy the latest version of the software at greater expensive

    Options for legacy systems
    - virtualisation or emulation - but both have their own administration costs

    However, there is one factor that I haven't discussed yet, that is the attitude and stability of the software vendor.
    - Some vendors write such highly specialised versions of software that they change little between versions. If you are using such a system then is it probably worth risking the software being closed source.
    - But some vendors want to maximise profit, so they will revise the software with short lifecycles and sometime be sneaky enough to remove commonly used features on more basic versions of the software, so that when you do upgrade you have to pay even more or change your processes around the lack of that particular feature.

    The horrible truth is that IT companies have a habit of pulling wool of the eyes of governments. This is partly due to the fact that the requirements are often vague and incomplete, but also due to the complexity that governments insist on without understand the consequences. Fact is programming time is like any other engineering type function, it costs money.

    With regard the the article, there is too little information to say whether the Australian Government have made the right choice. However, if you want to base the information on the experience with UK government, chances are the politicians have made a complete hash of whatever decision they have made, because they when want a system to perform too many different functions without realising that they are trying for levels of efficiency that could never be achieved, cost more money and finally ending up with a system that doesn't work properly due to fundamental design structures.

    Sometimes it is best not to try and implement a one size fits all policy, but too break parts down into their constituents and build systems on a more modular basis. For example two departments may use software from different vendors and have to exchange data, with each other in a define way - the interface software could be open source based and maintained either by the company/organisation/government or a contractor. However, there will be a point when you get to the lack of diminishing returns when trying too hard costs even more, at which point you implement risk management and move on. The problem is that governments are full of people that think they "Know it All", but they in fact "Know everything about nothing" and don't understand when to stop arguing a case as they is no more benefit to what they are saying, obstructing proper process.

    So to answer, Open Source or Closed Source - it depends on the application and how you understand the pitfalls.

  • Graham Fry = idiot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @08:10AM (#31098140)

    "If the cost of assessing it [open source] was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice."

    Newsflash Mr Fry - if you're using free software that's what you'd expect. Since when did zero multiplied by anything become a number?

    Imbecile.

    • by delinear (991444)

      Newsflash Mr Fry - if you're using free software that's what you'd expect. Since when did zero multiplied by anything become a number?

      Oblig. Simpsons:

      Bart: But I have 52 million shares! What's 52 million times zero?! And don't tell me it's zero!

  • Meh, no money saved. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zmollusc (763634) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @08:31AM (#31098230)

    I would like to see open source used more, but it won't save taxpayers money.
    If the government has a billion pounds in tax money and spends £500 million on Microsoft Office and £500 million on limos, coke, whores and personal swiss bank accounts, what will happen if they ditch MS Office and get free software?

    a) They reduce tax by £500 million.
    b) They reduce tax by more than £500 million by also paying back the money they embezzled.
    c) They spend £1 billion on limos, coke, whores and personal swiss bank accounts.

  • Sadly true for CAD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @08:32AM (#31098234)

    While document handling, such as the replacement of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word dependent operations, benefit massively from the switch to standards compliant software, I'm afraid that CAD isn't there yet. Try designing circuitry or hardware with open source software and you'll see what I mean. Tools like AutoCAD for your metal work and the circuit libraries for PowerPCB just aren't avaialble in the open source equivalents.

    For Active Directory, though, that monster should have been replaced by Bind and Kerberos and LDAP years ago.

  • by pointbeing (701902) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @08:34AM (#31098248)

    ...software costs are so low that for me they're not even on the radar. For me the biggest factor in TCO is people costs, not hardware or software.

    In the quantities I procure what used to be called the MS Desktop Pro license (a copy of the current desktop OS, copy of the current version of MS Office Professional Plus and Windows server and Exchange CALs) costs me ~$200 per year per workstation - chickenfeed, really.

    A call to the helpdesk costs about $25, a deskside visit costs about twice that but since it isn't my field I'm not gonna address application development costs, even if I did think our developers were smart enough to code in something other than Windows. Hell, they can't even figure out how to make existing applications compatible with IE8.

    But I digress - support types generally have little love for software developers and vice versa ;-)

    Anyway, over the long term open source software would probably save money but in the short- and medium-term (let's say three years) migration costs would be ridiculously expensive - sticker shock alone keeps it out of the budget.

    Part of the up side is I'd be able to extend PC and server lifecycles for a year or so since Linux generally requires less hardware than Windows, but as mentioned earlier OO Spreadsheet is not an acceptable replacement for MS Excel for power users and there is no direct migration between MS Access and OO Database - the only way you can get them to play nice with each other is through an ODBC connector.

    I've got one 500-user Access database (yeah, the person who thought that up should be fired but it happened before I hired in) that simply can't be migrated to OO - right now I'm trying to get it migrated to either SQL or Oracle.

    • 4 million viruses vs 40k for Linux and OSX combined means far less exposure to those who jack in an unapproved system or a USB stick they just found on the street. In addition, it also means more stability and less downtime with wrong patches, reboots etc, and that is direct, raw human cost. Infections can also totally swamp resources endangering SLAs.

      So it's a bit bigger than just the software cost..

      That doesn't mean I'm all for Open Source, I would just like something a bit less sensitive to breach.

  • a few days back this have been prooved to be correct

    people using accessibility of the GNOME desktop contributed by Sun will have to change (Orca screen reader, a project led by Sun's Accessibility Program Office). Killed by Oracle.
    "the accessibility of the GNOME desktop will become the open source equivalent of an unfunded mandate, doomed ultimately to fail."
    http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/02/09/0024241/Oracle-Drops-Suns-Commitment-To-Accessibility [slashdot.org]

    Now they have to migrate to Oracle Product.
    "Oracle is comm

  • ...sure, I'll buy that. Considering the savings in perpetuity, proprietary software fails hard.
  • by Erikderzweite (1146485) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @08:58AM (#31098380)

    For governmental use open-source is preferable even if it initially costs more -- you end up paying to your local software support and programmers, creating more jobs, supporting local IT industry and, most important, contributing to own GDP. Money payed for foreign company is money lost for your country, while money payed to local developers stays and works.

  • In related news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:25AM (#31099208) Homepage Journal
    Australian government keeps paying drug addicts new doses instead of drug rehab treatments because is cheaper.

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