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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 mosel-saar-ruwer ( 732341 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:22AM (#29565357)

    Uhh, who's gonna pay to hire a trillion dollars' worth of architects, developers, testers, trainers, managers, distributors, support personnel, human resource departments, etc etc etc?

    Or is all that functionality supposed to spring from the ether in a perfect steady-state universe [] of human perfection & utopia?
  • or how to... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:22AM (#29565367)
    I fully understand where he's coming from with this, but another view of it could also be titled "How to collapse the world's economy with Open Source Software". Suddenly pulling a trillion dollars out of the economy would have a pretty severe effect.
  • Dubious figures (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Toreo asesino ( 951231 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:24AM (#29565397) Journal

    Assuming that losing license fees directly means profit gain is somewhat dubious logic to say the least. Sometimes it pays to invest in paid solutions; and rarely is any one software stack purely OSS or propriety.

  • Re:or how to... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:25AM (#29565409) Homepage Journal

    You're forgetting that the savings would be immediately put back into executive salaries.

  • by onionman ( 975962 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:26AM (#29565423)

    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.

  • by NoYob ( 1630681 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:26AM (#29565427)
    When you guys see these kinds of articles, the ones that say "save BIG money with F/OSS","Get anything you need in software for FREE with F/OSS", etc... and there you are: designing, researching, cranking out code, putting it out there, and for the exception of a very very small minority of you, barely getting enough money to pay for the bandwidth for your server(s) - if that.

    I'd be pretty pissed to see folks in big offices making real nice livings off of software that I designed and developed and tested.

    I guess that's why I'm not a F/OSS developer.

  • Believablity gap. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:26AM (#29565433) Homepage

    Though he makes good points in the very brief article, turning it into a $1Trillion USD figure just comes off as shock tactics, and probably comes off as more open-source ranting to anyone just reading the headlines, or to anyone with a bias against open source proselytizing.

    I don't have strong opinions about the matter, myself. I've seen some open source disasters where the proprietary solution is the industry standard for very good reasons, and I've also seen open source projects that are amazing, and amazingly practical.

  • It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:28AM (#29565459)

    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!

    I'm sure I'll get modded troll or something but I'm being serious. Some software is really expensive like matlab. But it always works. But a couple times a year I have to swicth from Fink to macports or vica versa because one or the other won't build the dependencies I need for matplot lib or octave. that costs me a lot of money in time.

    Open source is not a cheap replacement if your time has value. But I still use it a lot none the less. it may not be cheap but sometimes it is better or has features you can't replicate easily in a single computing environment outside open source.

      The biggest advantage and problem with open source is portability. I use open source so that I gan give my code written on top of it to someone else. I can't do that if I write in matlab and use exotic toolkits. But on the flip side it's also why code written in open source rather than a homogenous environment is so fragile and may not work in a few years (because say some critical library is gone). (Take for example the disappearance of whythelucky stiff and thus the demise of all SYCK based YAML bindings.)

    SO it's true that you'd save a bundle on open source. You'd wish you could pay to have it maintained. You will pay with your own time instead.

  • On open source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:28AM (#29565469)

    While I can appreciate the appeal of open/free source for IT guys like myself, I can't help but think that some of us push this ideal a bit too far. I currently make a living writing software, as millions of others do, and I'd like to continue making a living for the foreseeable future. Developers need to eat, too. The normal reply to a comment like this is that customers will pay for the support, rather than the software itself. Okay with me, but then how are customers going to save one trillion dollars?

    What other industry consists of so many people that argue that the products they develop (or services they provide, if you prefer) should be free? Do doctors or lawyers or engineers ever argue that their service should be free? Construction workers? Accountants? Anyone? We're shooting ourselves in the foot.

  • by NYMeatball ( 1635689 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:35AM (#29565543)
    While I found this read interesting, I was a little disappointed to find much of his evidence random strings of numerical data. I'm sure anyone here can infer the cost savings and increased support in moving from an MS office to OpenOffice suite scheme within their enterprise, or transitioning from [Microsoft Product X] to [Opensource Magic Y]. On the other hand though, there's no insight as to how to deal with the seemingly obvious problem of our interdependency on these licensed products. I'm a database developer where I work, so speaking from where this impacts me the most, I can appreciate simple things like leveraging MySQL or other free source apps where appropriate. On the same vein, I don't see how reading this article immediately makes me jump up and go "Oh! Let's transition off of oracle for our company wide HR system." There's a reason all of these products have kept themselves going over the past 10, 15, etc years - and its more than just marketing and capitalism at work. Saying you can completely replace all or most of your IT resources with open source initiatives is ambitious at best, and completely ignorant at worst.
  • by dwandy ( 907337 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:46AM (#29565669) Homepage Journal
    hey, I'm just prepping up a response and need to clarify if you were going for strawman [] or false dichotomy [] ?
  • Re:Dubious figures (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:52AM (#29565733) Homepage Journal

    Licensing without solid support buys you exactly nothing but the warm fuzzy feeling that when the BSA extortionists parachute in to your office and screw you over you were ethically in the right (even though you still had to fork over). Most licensed software is not a paid solution, it's just pieces you pay for and then you have to build the solution yourself.

    That's why even 100% Windows shops still have to have an IT department and internal helpdesk.

  • by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:56AM (#29565773)
    Most proprietary software companies spend little money on software development. The big players have margins close to 80% with a significant portion of their expenses in marketing and sales. Open Source companies are conduits of money and support to FOSS projects, making money off support and add on features. Generally low margins and small marketing and sales budgets (mostly word of mouth and try before you buy). Now, a massive movement to open source software will cause less total employment in the software industry, but the vast majority of those losses will be in non-technical fields. The economic issue is software is worth only ~25% of what people pay for it today. As performance gains from software purchases decline, the ROI is less compelling, and thus cost of software more critical. The critical shift now is convincing software consuming companies to shift from buying prepackaged software to contributing to the development of open source software. That could be co-ops of like minded software consumers, or some other innovative way.
  • Re:On open source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:57AM (#29565787)

    Do doctors or lawyers or engineers ever argue that their service should be free?

    They should be paid for their services but the knowledge they use shouldn't be secret, especially in Medicine or Law. (Imagine you doctor wanted to give you a new drug, but wouldn't tell you the name or what was in it. or you were charged with violating a secret law)

  • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:06AM (#29565891)
    Normally the windows in the Broken Window Fallacy [] are glass windows, not Windows OS.
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:10AM (#29565947) Homepage Journal

    Ho-hum. The solution to your nearly non-problem is to require high school and college "computer science" classes to teach - wait for it - here it comes - COMPUTER SCIENCE!!!

    FFS, I'm quite sick of little morons telling me what they've learned in "computer science" classes. It is not science, period. They learn Microsoft-centric keyboard shortcuts, and they are fucking SCIENTISTS???

    The brainwashing has simply gone to far. And, the brainwashed haven't a clue that they are victims.

    If your little dweeb graduates from any "computer science" class, and he is *nix illiterate, then he has been cheated of an education.

  • Re:It's true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:12AM (#29565975)

    Yes, no company has ever gone out of business, or been bought out and had operations shut down. Ever.

    Whoever you do business with, you are taking a risk, it doesn't matter if it is some rather odd guy on the internet or if it is IBM, you assess the risks and benefits and go forward when the one outweighs the other.

  • Re:From TFA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:26AM (#29566247) Homepage

    Just fork it and change it's name :P

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:32AM (#29566341) Journal

    Uhh, who's gonna pay to hire a trillion dollars' worth of architects, developers, testers, trainers, managers, distributors, support personnel, human resource departments, etc etc etc?

    The same people who pay for it with commercial software. All we are talking about here is software with a different licensing model. I can't see a single business out there that wouldn't like the costs of their software reduced and have the functionality available to do what every other business does the same way they do.

    This is the Horizontal market that I think Linux excels in. The basics. If you tell business there is a way they can share their costs with every other business around the world of course they are interested.

    As for the Vertical market software that is developed by specialised vendors I don't know how much they pay to be a developer for proprietary solution but just because their software is hosted on a Freed operating system doesn't mean they still can't charge for their solution.

    I.T has always been an industry driven by change. I think the day is coming when OSS becomes more widespread because it reduces software licenseing fees. And who is going to say no to keeping more money in their pocket.

  • Re:Dubious figures (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:33AM (#29566357) Journal

    Licensing is a tiny fraction of what we pay for our infrastructure.

    besides, we looked at the math. We have over 2,500 MS Server licenses. We don't buy support, we pay on a case by case basis or buy blocks of support hours. Support total costs us under $15K anually. We have an EA to cover upgrade costs, and don;t buy licences on a one-to-one basis for servers either.

    With RedHat and Suse, we pay nothing for the OS, but we buy support on each and every install (since support is tracked on a system to system basis by hteir organizations), and in the end, each RedHat licence actually costs more than each Windows (standard) License according to our IS Finance folks. The difference, mostly, is that it's easier to support and patch Linux systems in VMWare, especially on a mainframe where we can utilize single binary imaging. There are just less regulatory and compliance hurdles to Linux.

    In the end though, the only reason we use Linux is not because it;s cheaper to license or easier to maintain, but because it run in s390x, and microsoft does not, so IFL licensing saves us millions per year vs x86 and x64 licensing... When they make a version of Windows for s390x hardware, that will change fast an d we'll deploy a lot more microsoft OS.

  • by Tim4444 ( 1122173 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:58AM (#29566787)
    whoa whoa whoa, simmer down hun-dude. nyugi. There's a broad spectrum of "quality" in software education and you can't just point to the technologies used to evaluate a school's program or its students. No four year program could possibly cover everything, so you could always say "Ha, you didn't learn xyz so you didn't get a good education!" It's better to see if they take the time to learn on their own because good programmers will keep learning even after they graduate. As for course material, I'm more interested in whether or not they understand the concepts that transcend technology. Even so, you can't just teach pseudo code for four years and expect to get a good programmer. It's better to learn how to code for one platform well than to just learn abstract concepts that you don't know how to apply anywhere. At the end of the day degrees don't matter much (except to people who don't know how else to evaluate a programmer). I've met Devry grads who were quite good and graduates of ivy league schools who didn't even understand algorithm complexity.

    In your career you will meet many people who claim to be software experts but don't know $hi7. The only way to convince them that they don't know something is to teach it to them yourself. Unless you're planning to personally go educate the masses you'd better get used to it. It's better to worry about yourself and let them come around when they're ready.
  • by rainmaestro ( 996549 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:28PM (#29567293)

    Wait, when would an end-user need to use the command for any of his daily tasks? Office apps? Email? Browsing porn on company time? Okay, maybe if he's looking at ASCII porn in elinks. Sure, the IT guys will spend some time in the command line, but you see the same thing in Windows administration.

    And what work environment are we talking about where end-users are permitted to install *anything* on their machines? That's a huge best practice violation. If they want something installed, they submit a request to the helpdesk, who install it for them. The EXACT SAME way it is done in any decent Windows environment.

    Time adjustment is a non-issue. How long did it take people to adjust from XP to Vista, or 98 to XP? Hell, the #1 most common help ticket we get at work is people who can't figure out how to do something in Office 2007 because of the retarded ribbon. They knew where the command was in the menus in 2003. Linux takes time to adjust, but once done, you don't have to keep readjusting every time a new release comes out. The typical adjustment is one of interface issues, and with the exception of KDE 3.5->4.X, you just don't see the major UI changes in Linux that you do in Windows.

  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:35PM (#29567415)

    Uh, I believe the correct answer is that "FOSS is easier to use anyway" and "People only can use [insert Windows product here] because they grew up with it" and "FOSS is better designed and more intuitive because of the clearly superior development model."

    Of course, it's the developers that have been working on the product for 15 years that say this.

    hehe. :) it's entertaining. But, all that said, I actually like using FOSS...

    [that last sentence was primarily to try to mitigate the "troll" mod.]

  • It's about Choice (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:39PM (#29567495)

    The argument in favor of FOSS should be about choice (vs lock-in). Organizations will spend relatively the same amount of energy either in time or money to get work done. Work will include goods (hardware), services (software) and support. However, success is more related to position, leverage and (ultimately) advantage. The advantage of FOSS is that an organization can more easily shop work around (if the work is software). Too often FOSS is seen as helping to cheapen the market, when it really is about opening up the market.

    Myth: Proprietary SW Engineers get paid; FOSS Engineers do it for free. Reality: Have been working on various FOSS projects for 25+ years. Every hour I've worked, contributing to FOSS, I've been paid (by various and sundry employers and clients).

  • Re:On open source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:30PM (#29568297)

    Hmmm. How many people here have actually read up about all the drugs they take?

    And how many OSS users actually take the time to inspect the code and compile their own software?
    The point is that the mere ability for anyone to the research, be it software or medicine, keeps the market much more competitive and thus beneifts the consumer that it would otherwise.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:48PM (#29568617) Journal
    The sales and marketing "costs" are counted as costs and then profits are scored from that number. What the poster said "Big players have margins close to 80%" is wrong, the what the poster meant, "For big players close to 80% of their costs is in marketing and sales" is probably on the ball park. That is, for every dollar spent in actual software development, they spend three or four dollars in marketing and sales, including fat commissions to the salesforce, part of which gets kicked back, under or over the table, to the managers and executives buying their software.
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @03:27PM (#29570519)

    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,

    It seems you've never worked with "enterprise software," whose customers seem to keep paying for any old shit, no matter how bad it is. And the developers don't seem to be very concerned, much of this crap still requires IE6, for fuck's sake!

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard