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Analyzing the Costs of Open Source Software in the Enterprise

Branden William recently did a guest post on Anton Chuvakin's blog about properly analyzing the potential costs of utilizing open source software in an enterprise.  Branden states he's a big fan of open source, but wants to make sure that all the costs are included when deciding whether to go with an open source package vs a commercial package.  Here's the list of costs:

Open source software that is freely downloadable does have a cost greater than zero, yet that cost is often left out of the comparison (or incomplete) between commercial and open source software packages. Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you have to acquire equipment for this software to run? Be sure to include network infrastructure to support it.
  • How much of your time is required to keep it up to date? Estimate it, then use your salary plus bonus, and add anywhere from 15-25% for a benefit load. This will get you in the ballpark.
  • Do you need to hire a staff to keep it up to date? Use the same calc above.
  • Will someone else in your company have to support it? Same calc as above.
  • Will you need a second tier support contract from the open source group to handle advanced support issues?

My first thought about this list is: How does licensing affect any of these items?  I can't see how any of them would only be applied to open source but not commercial software.   Is the assumption that if you purchase a Cisco firewall you won't need a firewall admin? Will you not get a support contract for it? 

Then it occurred to me:  we spend a lot of time supporting commercial solutions.  To be fair, typically this means how to integrate WiKID with this commercial solution and it is often with our commercial solution so we benefit. Often, our users submit content on how to integrate WiKID, which we then share.  Moreover, on #wikid on, users often help each other. 

So my question is:  Does the open and sharing nature of open source solutions reduce support and implementations costs?

My second question is: Would you add to your cost analysis formula an item for "giving back to the community"? 

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