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Build Your Business With Open Source 305

PCM2 writes "InfoWorld this week is running a ten-page guide to building your business entirely with OSS. The guide highlights OSS alternatives for many enterprise applications categories such as CRM, ERP, content management, and so on. It's not exhaustive, but where it skips the obvious categories like databases and Web servers it includes some others that you might not expect."
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Build Your Business With Open Source

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  • by rob_squared ( 821479 ) <.moc.derauqs-bor. .ta. .bor.> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:37AM (#13286060)
    I've dealt with management at different companies I've worked for and the biggest issue they seem to have is that it will upset "the order of things." It seems that this is the perfect market for F/OSS. If you're already using it, its not as big of a headache to start. Now you just have to worry about the technical level of those that are starting their own business.
  • Who is listening? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:37AM (#13286062)
    While I appreciate Infoworld's piece, I wonder whether anyone relevant is listening. My boss for example will not even take a look. He says, M$ products have been doing fine for him for more than a decade and can still do more for another few years.

    Question is: Are the people who matter reading these kinds of reports?

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ucahg ( 898110 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:40AM (#13286077)
    The solutions are as obvious as the categories.

    Does anybody with the required knowledge of databases not know about Apache and Postgres/My/whatever SQL?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:46AM (#13286119)
    Keep this in mind: a big-ass list of "open-source replacement alternatives" sort of implies that the closed-source path is the "normal way to do it" in the first place. If you're starting from there you've already lost. Every alternative choice will need to be justified to death and most will lose.

    Better to bring the philosophy in this way: "We will use the best tool for the job. We strongly prefer open source for reliability and flexibility reasons; we will consider commercial products where appropriate." And then do the best job you can do with the tools you've chosen. A record of excellent results, even a very short one, is the best way to give open source a toehold.
  • by thatedeguy ( 896452 ) <shane@distroofthemont h . c om> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:55AM (#13286198) Homepage
    Until something doesn't work, then who do you call?
    Personal computers are one thing, since at the moment the only people that use open source software are geeks, but in a corporate(business) environment, if something goes down, it has to be back up fast and without support, how does one accomplish that if it isn't withing that admin's realm of expertise?
  • Home Office (Score:4, Insightful)

    by doombob ( 717921 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:58AM (#13286218) Homepage
    The company I work for always provides me with Non-OSS supplies like Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Frontpage, MS Office, and Windows XP. But my work at home involves various types of media projects including audio, video, and web. Right now I use Nvu [] for development, Audacity [] for my audio editing, and I'm trying out Jahshaka [] for video editing. And of course Open Office [] for everything else.
  • Re:Fluff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bimo_Dude ( 178966 ) <bimoslash&theness,org> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:04AM (#13286253) Homepage Journal
    The list of packages seems to be the sort of stuff that PHBs piss company money away on after they already have the bare essentials.
    How about a list of the bare essentials instead?

    So are you implying that ERP (specifically Financial), telephony, and CRM are not part of the bare essentials? Retailers don't need POS? Every business where I've worked has had many of these types of applications. What, in your mind, is critical (bare essentials) to business that is not on the list (besides database, and web - which was pointed out in an earlier thread)?

    Disclaimer: I'm not a PHB. Not even a B. Just a lowly lackey.

  • by absurdist ( 758409 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:06AM (#13286275)
    And it's creative vision and foresight like this that made the British automobile industry (BMC was once the third largest manufacturer of cars in the world) into the juggernaut it is today.
  • Excellent Fit... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wgray8231 ( 905984 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:13AM (#13286327)
    My department at a research hospital/university was recently (almost 2 years ago) formed. (Formerlly a division in another department.) The new chair moved everyone to GNU\Linux (Debian) because he hates everythin M$ stands for. It works out great with limited funding b/c the department spends less on software and many of the tools used in the field are available as OSS anyway.

    What doess XPPro and Office cost for 20 or so computers, anyway?
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:14AM (#13286333) Journal
    You are not paying extra for ease of use, you are paying more for vendor lock-in. The choice is:
    1. Buy a single-vendor solution and hope that vendor keeps supporting it. It won't really fit your needs, but you can pay someone else to customise it and then be locked into using two vendors. Next year, support will run out on the solution you paid for, and you will be required to pay more for the upgrade.
    2. Start with a Free solution and pay someone to customise it. Require that they release the customisations to you as Free Software (usually by assigning copyright to you). Next time you need to migrate systems, you have all the rights you need to employ a different contractor to do the work. You might stick with the old one, since they are more familiar with the code, but you are not forced to.
    No system lasts for ever. Eventually you will need to migrate to something new. The cost of migrating away from a platform should always be factored into the initial purchase decision.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:21AM (#13286385)

    Until something doesn't work, then who do you call?

    Umm, your vendor or whomever you contracted for support. a corporate(business) environment, if something goes down, it has to be back up fast and without support, how does one accomplish that if it isn't withing that admin's realm of expertise?

    If your admin can't manage a recovery plan and/or can't figure out how to run and install the software you need then you need a new admin. This has nothing to do with open vs. closed source or commercial vs. free software. Do you work for the government or something? That is the only place I've heard of where decisions are made that way. "We wanted to build a concrete building but the contractor we hired only knows how to build log cabins, so the building will be made out of logs." You choose your employees and your software based upon their strengths and weaknesses. If you can save 100K a year by using Apache instead of IIS across your whole enterprise, but your systems administrator can't figure out Apache, fire his ass pronto. He's got to be incompetent. It's as bad as those correspondence school programmers who want a job at a real development shop but can only program in visual basic and are completely unable to learn any other languages. It's just sad.

  • Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bobalu ( 1921 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:27AM (#13286427)
    if they're smart they do what works for them given their employees, time requirements and other resources, regardless of the prevailing fashion.
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:32AM (#13286459)
    If my company was in the 'insanely huge search engine' business, I'd likely do it pretty much like Google does it.

    As we're not in that business, what works for Google (customized Linux distros running 10's of thousands of servers) may not work for me.

  • by mindaktiviti ( 630001 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:32AM (#13286462)
    That's what you're buying, and yes you are correct about corporate people not being tech saavy.

    My dad is the best example. He doesn't want to bother with do-it-yourself or free software because in reality, it's cheaper for him to buy something with support than it is to get something for free and it may not work exactly.

    Of course I load up his work computer with firefox, thunderbird etc, but when it comes to his website, he'd be more interested in a company that would do everything for him, which is the right thing to do since he charges his customers $100+ an hour.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:42AM (#13286542)
    Not all businesses have competent IT people.

    To go with something you know will do the job and that additionally your IT staff is familiar with is the very definition of competence. On the other hand, going with something you've never heard of just because it's 'free' is an incompetent thing to do.

    I use Apache and MySQL, but I'd hesitate to recommend them to someone who has never heard of them. If they're not even familiar enough with open source to know the big players then it's questionable they'll get the value they deserve from them. There's tremendous value in using products you already know well, even if those products are relatively expensive.


  • by hikerhat ( 678157 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:56AM (#13286662)
    Your boss could be right. Transitioning from one platform to another can be incredibly expensive. It doesn't matter what kind of license the software has. Invariably, the new software doesn't do something the old software did, so you have to re-implement existing functionality. Data gets lost in the transition. The customer might see a few delays as you work the kinks out of the new system, costing very valuable customer confidence.

    Replacing existing working software is a huge risk. If the transition doesn't go perfectly you've racked up more costs fixing the problems than two or three years of licensing the old product (compare the cost of a few IT people working on a problem full time over a few days to a one year MSDN subscription, for example).

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AVee ( 557523 ) <slashdot AT avee DOT org> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @12:37PM (#13286963) Homepage
    To go with something you know will do the job and that additionally your IT staff is familiar with is the very definition of competence. On the other hand, going with something you've never heard of just because it's 'free' is an incompetent thing to do.

    This is an often forgotten truth in IT, but I would argue that not knowing about product with a high marketshare in your bussiness is at least close to incompetence. And the ability to adapt to other solutions then the one 'you know' is a very important part of the difference between compentent and good...
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @12:37PM (#13286964)

    And when you download it from a website somewhere without contact info? Which does happen btw.

    So here are the possible scenarios:

    • download software and run it - if you know what you're doing and are confident you don't need support for this software this is the cheapest option.
    • download software and contract support or get the software and support through a vendor - if you don't know what you're doing or just want to make sure your ass is covered this is usually cheaper than closed software and gives you the option of going with a different vendor in future without expensive migration costs. This also insures that migration is possible if the software becomes abandoned.
    • Buy closed source and support from a proprietary vendor - this usually costs more than any other option and often locks you in to a single supplier. If they raise the price or abandon it you're probably screwed.

    If you download software and don't arrange for support, or use software written by some shmoe who doesn't even post a contact e-mail address then whether or not the software is open source is the least of your problems.

    Managing a recovery plan and running and installing software is completely different from finding a bug in software.

    ...your point being? If you find a bug with any software you can ask your vendor to fix it and hope they do so. With closed source if they don't want to for some reason you're screwed. With open source you can also hire any number of competing developers to fix it. You might even get it fixed for free if you ask someone nicely.

    ...admins only get paid about 50k, so finding one who can handle everything is fairly rare.

    Any even halfway decent admin should be able to learn. I've never hired anyone who knew how to run all the software required for their job. Everyone I've hired has had to learn, which they are capable of doing. Learning is really not that hard.

    ...and thus need some form of support. The thing to remember is that not everyone is an UberGeek.

    They don't have to be ubergeeks. If you need support, buy support. It's not like there aren't dozens of companies like IBM that provide exactly that support. With open source you can often even choose from among a number of good, competing vendors. For some reason that often makes your support costs much lower than when you are locked into one vendor. All your arguments have been, "But if I don't know what I'm doing and don't buy support I'm I'll have problems." Well either figure out what you're doing, or buy support. This is not rocket science.

  • by Proteus ( 1926 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:30PM (#13287919) Homepage Journal
    There are advantages to a corporate-wide scheduling system, especially one that can manage resources like video-conference suites and teleconference bridges. Planning a 20-person meeting would be hell to coordinate over-the-phone -- with an enterprise scheduler, it's a snap to see everyone's schedules and select a time that works for everyone, and where the room and materials you need are available.

    What I've always failed to understand is why an extremely small company needs such features, and why it's always Exchange (which, IMO, is the worst of them all).

    Need groupware that syncs with PDA's? Great! Use the stuff that comes with KDE or Gnome. Or, use one of the excellent web-based FOSS groupware packages that export to iCal, combined with an iCal conduit. Yeah, you have to write a couple of scripts, but really... that cost is insignificant compared to the cost of maintaining a Windows2003/Exchange2003 server and supporting (and tracking licensing of) Outlook clients.

    I think so many small businesses get caught up in the game of playing "big company" that they waste their money on products that may make perfect sense in gigantic corporations, but have little advantage for smaller organizations and come with a corporate-sized price tag.
  • by cca93014 ( 466820 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:36PM (#13287954) Homepage
    Let me expand on my original post. We use Exchange for the following reasons:

    - It works, is fairly low maintenance and IS stable.
    - It allows us to share contacts, calendars and email if necessary
    - It allows us to schedule meetings without the other attendees being present.
    - It syncs with our PDA's perfectly, both at home, at work and over the air
    - It has an excellent, usable web based interface when away from the office

    I'm no MS fanboy. We write Java based web applications. We almost always deploy to Linux. We recommend Linux servers to our clients. We love Linux.

    The thing is that I want my company to succeed, and that means using the best tool for the job. In the case of serving up java web apps, Linux is est. In the case of a groupware server, Exchange is best. Simple as that.

    How much is exchange? About 1.5 days of my time. Now, if you can find me an OSS application that does all of the above and will take me less than 1.5 days to install, configure and support, I'm all ears. As it is, I'll stick with Exchange. Sorry.
  • by dbullock ( 32532 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:40PM (#13288004) Homepage
    Join the long list of alpha quality Exchange replacements that will be around Real Soon Now.


    Sorry I'm one of the people that project competition in the OSS space is WAY overblown and just spreads the talent thin. The lack of an open source Exchange alternative and the lack of Linux penetration on the desktop are direct results of this.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:51PM (#13288087) Homepage
    1) Lower risk of orphaned applications. If your vendor goes casters up or is bought out you may find your most useful application(s) unsupported.

    yes and no.

    I have several apps here that broke horribly when linux upgraded to the new GCC and Kernel. they need to be completely re-written or run on a older install.

    we choose to run them on a old machine with an old GCC for compiling them. I'm not good at C++ so we let it be until we can rewrite in C or Python.

    Granted it's not orpaned bcause we havethe source but not having a C++ guru on hand , they might as well be.

    Kind of like how all my legally bought games for linux are not useless as they will nto run/install. Funny how I can still play a 15 year old game on windows, but my copy of SimCity3000 from loki will not.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"