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How To Save $1 Trillion a Year With Open Source 275

ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "Cygnus founder Michael Tiemann estimates IT customers globally could save a trillion a year with open source or free source software." Not that a guy with a title like "VP of Open Source Affairs" at Red Hat would have a reason to be biased, but it's an interesting little read about a guy who's been doing this longer than you. Well, most of you anyway.
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How To Save $1 Trillion a Year With Open Source

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:36AM (#29565553)

    Ever hear of a broken window?

  • Re:It's true (Score:5, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:12AM (#29565981)

    I spend more on support than I do on software and there's almost no support even purchasable for opens source so I'd save a bundle!

    What open source software can't you find support for? Have you tried IBM, Redhat, and Canonical? I usually attribute support as a win for OSS, since you can take bids from multiple companies for your support needs. Obviously it only scales well on the top end, but a lot of larger companies hire an engineer to support a package internally as well as do development on that package to better meet the company's needs. I tell you, support is never better when one of the core developers for a project is on the payroll and works on that software 24-7.

    Open source is not a cheap replacement if your time has value.

    This is often quite true for individuals using packages that are not very widely in use. But that's not what this article was all about. He's talking about big businesses who spend huge amounts of money on software licensing for small returns. By the numbers, those companies could work together to fund the creation of OSS tools for a small fraction of the cost. We're not talking about you donating $5 bucks to use the GIMP and then supporting it yourself. We're talking about a couple hundred companies each paying a coder to work on developing it and saving all the photoshop license fees which currently cost them 25 times as much. Mind you, that's how the numbers he put together represent it for the low hanging fruit programs in use right now in the industry. It probably would be a lesser benefit going forward. For those companies, support becomes a whole lot better than it is now. The internal employee or directly paid contractor you have developing the GIMP is going to be a lot better in general than going through the hell that is trying to get an answer and solution from Adobe. For individuals, most of the problems they have are smoothed out by the big players and they get a free ride, but for support, well then they have to go with a contracting company that supports that package. But at least as an individual you can still shop around and pick your support company and I bet it is cheaper than paying Adobe licensing and support. Try telling Adobe you don't like their support so you're going to somewhere else that supports Photoshop if they don't improve responsiveness.

    The real problem with all this is showing businesses how much the status quo is costing them and convincing them of the real savings they can get, and convincing enough of them to make those savings a reality. For this, third party companies can be a support barrier which is why organizational groups are probably more efficient. Then you still have to overcome the momentum of business culture. You might, possibly get a raise or a promotion if you save your company money by switching to an OSS project, but it is risky. It's a lot safer to let a commercial vendor take you on a few junkets, buy you some nice meals and expensive booze, take in a show, and sign off on a purchase order and don't rock the boat.

  • Re:It's true (Score:3, Informative)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:15AM (#29566045)


    Since you have sources, why don't you just port the old library to the new OS?

    That's the point I was trying to make. You pay with your time. code you wrote a years ago won't run. sometimes a couple times a year you have to re-write deep layers to compile it against some new library, re-write code wo work around API changes or bugs. etc... Sometimes the libs you need don't compile on the latest OS or you have to screw around with obscure makefiles, maybe ones written in things you don't understand (configure, c-make, scons, make, distulis, debain, ...) and getting the paths and lib paths all set, making sure names of libs are right. Dealing with dead rsync repositiories. conflicts. Sometimes you just don't have that much time.

    I use open source a lot. But I use it because it often provides things I need that I can't get other ways. People who sell it because it's "free" of costs amuse me. It's more expensive if your time has value. It's better too. But it's not cheap and I wish I could pay someone to maintain it for me.

    How did a critical library go away? (I'm not familiar with whythelucky stiff)

    this is getting off topic but google him or look at wikipedia. For some reason he vanished a couple months ago online and deleted all his repositories, e-mail accounts, etc.. Some of this has been saved in an ad hoc fashion. But since his site was sort of a clearing house for YAML bindings built on his libraries, 100% of those links are broken. Google shows no hits on replacement links. So things like YAML bindings for Objective-C have vanished from the universe of ready availability. Presumably lots of people do have the code on their own machines, but it will be a long interval before the situation get's normalized.

  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:36AM (#29566401)

    The ever-useful Google/WikiPedia combo pointed to a research report estimating the global size of the software industry at $308B in 2008. Saving $1T by not paying licensing fees to an industry worth 1/3rd as much would be a neat trick. Especially given how even $0 Open Source software is not free to support.


  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:40AM (#29566473)

    Most proprietary software companies spend little money on software development

    Cite, please.

    I've worked in three different for-profit, closed-source software companies in the past ten years, and in each case R&D was the largest bite of the budget.

    If you're charging money for your product this has to be the case - You need a steady stream of innovations to retain existing customers, win customers from competitors and land new customers. If you spent 'little money on software development' you'd soon be out of business. It's really no different, whether you're Acme Software or General Motors...

  • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:09PM (#29566969) Journal

    My complaint is that a degree in "computer science" qualifies most people to do little more than run Microsoft-centric shops. You know, install, network, and administer Microsoft Windows, and administer Microsoft Office. Sad, in my opinion.

    I agree, for Computer Science, the equivalent of Chemistry, Biology or other "Natural Sciences" taught in High School would would be basic theory of algorithms, basic programming, general computation theory (what is a computer, Turing machine, FSM, blah blah). They used to teach that in my high school (granted, that was in Mexico) when I went there (about 15 years ago).

  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:11PM (#29566995) Homepage Journal
    The big players have margins close to 80% []

    1 Network and Other Communications Equipment 28.8
    2 Mining, Crude-Oil Production 23.8
    3 Pharmaceuticals 15.8
    4 Medical Products and Equipment 15.2
    5 Oil and Gas Equipment, Services 13.7
    6 Commercial Banks 12.6


  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:13PM (#29567023)

    RedHat (current owner of Cygnus) has made a successful business providing high quality support for FOSS software, and I think that's great! However, the $1T estimate seems like it might just be a tad biased and perhaps ignoring some hidden costs, but I can't tell from the FA because it just references the figure without any details for the estimate.

    It does provide a link to the paper [] that is the source of the estimate, but I suppose clicking the link would be too much to ask.

  • Re:Dubious figures (Score:3, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:16PM (#29567073)

    Assuming that losing license fees directly means profit gain is somewhat dubious logic to say the least.

    That's true, but since no one proposed any such thing, it's not particularly pertinent. The article talked about ROI numbers.

  • by danieltdp ( 1287734 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:09PM (#29567951)

    I don't want to fuel this old thread, but I upgraded my computer, which was a dual boot machine. Windows and Linux. I changed everything but the hardrive. After the upgrade, Linux just booted at the new hardware without a blink. But iIt took me three hours to set up windows properly.

    I couldn't find the setup CD for my wall-in-one printer. It was impossible to print on Windows before I downloaded the 200mb(!) setup utility for windows. Guess wich OS just printed and scanned out of the box?

    Oh, BTW, back when I installed Linux, I didn't used a single line on the shell. All the setup was done with some kind of GUI.

    Welcome to the 21th century, where Linux evolved quite a bit while you were whining about it

  • by oddityfds ( 138457 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @05:12PM (#29572343)

    Revenue: $30 Million
    Owner(s): Mark Shuttleworth
    Employees: 200+

    Red Hat:
    Type: Public (NYSE: RHT)
    Revenue: $652.57 million USD (2009)
    Net income: 78.72 million USD (2009)
    Employees: 2800 (2009)

    Yeah, you see, having a business model helps. Someone's gotta actually write that software that Canonical gives away for free, you know...

  • Re:or how to... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alpha830RulZ ( 939527 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:33PM (#29575691)

    I can play. We spend $5000 a cpu for Ciber Fusion file transfer software, which uses the SFTP native on the machine, and sends passwords in the clear, and requires world write on everything. Because "it's our standard". We spend $23,000 a machine for SQL Server Enterprise, when either SQL Server Standard Edition ($1800) or PostGresQL or MYSQL would do the job. Because, "it's our standard".

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.