Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alternatives to paying increased software maintenance fees

Larry Dignan is right to be irate in his blog, Why there's a software support and maintenance revolution underway.

Consider alternatives: Open Source, SaaS and Innovation from small businesses
There are options like Open Source Software whose governance are well documented and widely understood. Businesses can adopt OSS software and run it in production with no upfront software cost. There are a large number of Java Developers and an industry that supports open standard frameworks and architectures. There are also standard software development methodologies like RUP and Agile which can be trained for, tested and audited. The OSS industry is only becoming more and more mature and reliable.

The large companies that are spending millions of dollars on these technologies need to improve the ROI on these software investments right now! I have worked in Australia’s largest businesses in Strategy and Architecture roles providing planning and governance, and repeatedly I’ve seen, what could arguably be called over capitalizing in technology with large software vendors and top tier consulting companies.

To a significant degree, I agree with Nicholas Carr’s views in his article, “The End of Corporate Computing”. As a technologist I love what technology is doing for the world right now (particularly the openness and new levels of social evolution through social networks and Web 2.0). But this is happening in the so called consumer market, not the so called enterprise market. Obviously, businesses have different, and more complex computing needs than consumers but aren’t we all also consumers? We merely play different roles in business or as a consumer. So there are similar requirements, there has to be because we’re the same people inside of our businesses or vocations as we are at the local supermarket buying groceries on the way home from work. As people we want a consistent way to access information inside and outside of our businesses. (BTW, why isn’t corporate information as accessible as information on the Internet?)

Services providers like Google, Amazon, and Yahoo provide FREE services of the highest quality and reliability. There are also OSS players like SugarCRM, Lucene, TerraCotta, Aegeon, Ubuntu, MySQL, JBoss, etc. that have terrific FREE products. Thanks to Google and the Internet all of these companies are only 2 clicks away. Imagine if information in enterprise systems were only 2 clicks away.

Embracing OSS gives organizations the ability to ease into new products with no upfront software investment. This model is the greatest threat to the software providers that are hiking up their maintenance fees and one of businesses greatest levers.

Embracing the open source community also embraces the local service providers that have embraced open source. We attract, train, manage, and retain really good software talent. Your projects mean survival for us.

So, why not do something about it and vote with your dollars and your feet (albeit slowly, cautiously, mitigating risk…)?
I’ll get you started if you’re interested.