Open Source Appeal: It Comes Down to Costs

Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond
Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond speaks at LinuxCon

Open source continues finding favor in both large enterprises and small companies. But while the nature and types of deployments may vary wildly, many have at least one thing in common: The bottom line.

Cost savings from Linux and open source has long been a key selling point of the movement. But according to a panel of enterprise users and analysts speaking at the LinuxCon conference, it’s a consideration that spans the gamut from massive, multimillion-dollar implementations to far smaller organizations.

By almost any estimate, interest in open source is at an all-time high. Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond told the audience that over the last twelve months, senior executives from all types of businesses have been asking him about open source.

He also pointed to a recent Forrester survey that asked respondents to rank their software plans, and which found open source topping the list.

“Of the 16 different technologies that we asked about, open source software [ranked] more important than ESB , ALM , mobile tools and business activity management,” Hammond said. “Only one out of every five developers hasn’t used open source as part of their development and deployment activities. So it’s far more than the majority of developers at this point.”

And to Hammond and others on the panel, at least part of the reason comes down to money.

“From a cost perspective, we do see organizations that are saving millions in terms of capital expenses,” he said. “Sometimes they see increases in operational expenses, and that is something realistically that you have to deal with.”

Hammond pointed to the Sabre travel network as one example, noting that the company has moved to a Linux and open source infrastructure. Doing so has helped it set up a complex system that now runs 32,000 transactions a second while lowering costs, he said.

“They told me that they’re pulling out over $100 million in costs out of their organization over the last number of years,” Hammond said.

While executives may notice the cost savings, they aren’t the ones who are typically the driving forces in bringing open source into the enterprise. Hammond noted that it is developers who are the chief drivers when it comes to adoption of open source, since they are the ones that understand that it will help them to accelerate their own efforts.

Sesame Street goes open source

Noah Broadwater, vice president of information services at Sesame Workshop, is also keen on using open source. But as a technologist at the nonprofit group best known for its children’s TV show, “Sesame Street,” he approached open source from a very different perspective than that of larger enterprises.

For one thing, Broadwater noted that Sesame started using open source because it couldn’t pay the licensing costs for proprietary software.

“We compete with Disney and Nickelodeon and we have to do it for peanuts,” Broadwater said.

He said that without the licensing fees, Sesame Workshop can do its development faster and has been able to save money as a result. That’s including the costs associated with paying for consultants, which he added that he’d be using regardless of whether he chose open source or proprietary software, because he has an IT staff of only 13 people.

Though Broadwater gives open source software the thumbs up, simply being open source isn’t enough to get a project in the door at Sesame Workshop. Instead, he’s also looking for support.

“If you’re a team of five, then I’m not going to choose you,” Broadwater said. “I need to know even though I get the source code, I still need it to be supported.”

He added that when Sesame Workshop chooses among the thousands of available open source packages, it picks efforts that have a large development presence and a core team of committed developers.

“I want a viable alternative that will be scalable and supportable,” Broadwater said.

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