[Linux-aus] Re: [Osia-discuss] [Fwd: Re: [xxxxxxx] FW: Re: S.A. Parliament - Ubuntu Matter of Interest]

David Lloyd lloy0076 at adam.com.au
Sun Dec 3 20:21:03 UTC 2006

Brenda et al,

Now that I've had a while to calm down and think of an appropriate answer.

[From here, treat a reference to YOU as a reference to the person who 
wrote the first quoted sentence]

> "My one cent worth on open source software......
> Open source software is not really free as Matt said.

This is a matter of debate. Clearly, the person who wrote this has 
chosen to use the term "free" to mean something like "it will cost no 
money or consideration".

> The cost of free open source software is migration, maintenance and reliability 
 > issues.

Yes, that is the cost of free open source software. Changing software -- 
not something that I'd advise anyone to do all the time if software 
testing isn't their primary business goal -- will incur costs.

These costs have been identified correctly:

1. Changing to new software will most likely incur some form of
    migration cost measurable in dollars

2. Changing to new software will most likely incure some type of
    maintenance cost, again measurable in dollars

3. Reliability issues will need to be addressed, again accountants with
    sufficient IT knowledge or good advice can measure this in dollars as
    well [at least well enough to set stock prices and such without being
    accused of being negligent or misleading]

I haven't heard of one change of software which hasn't incurred the 
above costs. I've seen these costs paid for by:

1. Voluntary labour

2. Paid contractors

3. Retraining IT staff

The cost of any software can be migration, maintenance and reliability 
issues. Closed source software IS NOT a silver bullet to avoid these.

> That is why it is currently used mostly for running non-critical or 
> highly expensive infrastructure (which require less reliability).

I'd recommend the original poster use Google's services -- many of which 
are supported with open source software, tools or open source toolkits 
-- to verify this. They might also try Yahoo's services, again which has 
many critical paths based on open source solutions.

I am aware of open source software forming a crucial part of leading 
Australian companies in the following industries:

1. Credit insurance

2. Training

3. Biotechnology

4. Kennard's Hire

There are a lot more; I'm not sure how one would present the wealth of 
companies who do use open source software in many, many circumstances 
and ways without embarassing the person who made the above statement.

> So it remains largely with enthusiasts and much of the commercial use is found 
> to be delivering non critical web content, internet services and other 
> non critical internet-related services.

Open source software development is often adopted by and used by 
enthusiasts. It is, actually, part of the reason why open source 
development is so succesful. You'll find that many people who administer 
open source based systems actually enjoy their jobs...one can use 
software commercially AND enjoy using it EVEN THOUGH the software isn't 
a "game".

Regardless of whether the poster wants to believe that web content or 
internet services are non-critical, the point is that these service are 
being deployed using open source software. The poster does acknowledge 
this. The poster should know that we're in a competitive, global market 
and that ANY advantage IS an advantage no matter how small...

The statement made seems to be made from ignorance.

> These are only the areas where 
> level of reliability of free open source software is good enough to be 
> used. Where more reliable services are required, it is more of Unix 
> flavours which are more often used than Linux.

Some argue that Linux is a variant of some form of unix. That's an 
argument that we don't need to get into. Realistically, Linux has 
learned a lot from Unix (tm) and unix (non-tm). You are correct in 
saying that some people will prefer another Unix flavour rather than Linux.

However, I really can't parse what you've said in a way that I is 
consistent with the thoughts you say in other parts. Sorry, it would be 
kind of nice if you could rephrase what you've said?

> There are plenty of GUI's 
> which work well with Unix or any Linux versions used at the backend. So 
> the most used server have  Unix/Linux flavours and destop level 
> softwares are either Novell or Microsoft or even legacy DOS used in some 
> countries.

These people are clearly making choices that suit their IT requirements.

Noone expects Linux or FreeBSD to suddenly "replace" all the current 
desktops, however those who wish to investigate using an open source 
system as a desktop operating system certainly have a much more stable, 
mature set of choices now than before.

> To replace an operating system there are some main areas 
> whihc need first attention when migrating to open source software. Costs 
> include change of hardware, retraining staff, additional expert 
> maintenance staff, buying online support 24/7, design and
> implementation of addtional redundancy to have 100% backup in case of
> breakdown.

Surely you're not suggesting that closed source software costs nothing?

It certainly sounds like it to me...the only way you could really 
justify the statements you've made is if you can get a closed source 
solution that needs:

  * no hardware change
    - most major Microsoft Windows upgrades have recommeneded upgrades
  * no staff training in new features
  * no maintenance staff
  * no 24/7 support

If you can find such a solution, please do tell me where it is and who I 
can get a copy from. A no maintenance, no fees IT system sounds like a 
dream - I know that a no maintenance Apple network or no maintenance 
Windows network don't exist...

> This is why the Sun software (I am taking this only as a
> successful business model example) with its well designed GUI has been 
> made free and they are selling training and support for princely sums. 

...which leads to...

> Everybody has a right to make money.... Don't They? How much is the 
> question.

And how..

> The proponent of open source software does make a business 
> case before switching to open source and also have to keep in mind the 
> longevity of such change.

That's an IT maxim that applies to all software choices and decisions.

> Availability of expertise and also cost effectively will be a major 
> factor in such decisions. So if anyone is a policy maker who reads this 
> email should do more research into such decisions regarding open software.

So is this.

> Also.... each flavour of Unix/Linux is different and some are more 
> reliable in some areas than others. This demands careful planning when 
> switching and planning its long time support. Each business/organisation 
> has different operational procedures and may need different scale of 
> reliability and operational flexibility in the operation of its computer 
> systems, which will also affect the choice of software used.
> Unfortunately Microsoft has set the path for unreliable and inefficient
> software writing...... Well, we shall feel this for a long time to come,
> even in open source software development.

I think that we agree on many things. However, let me say this to you 
very clearly: if you think that "closed" source software or non-free 
software avoids any of the important and costly steps you have 
identified -- such as the need to plan IT deployments, the need to 
maintain backup plans if required -- then you're simply wrong.

All you have done is highlighted your knowledge of good IT practices and 
your knowledge that it costs money to implement top quality IT practices 
and claimed that ONLY open source software attracts such costs.


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