Is open source software more viable now with the economy in a downturn?
It's a question that I really wonder about. I don't think the cost of software is much of the total cost of deploying and using, much less building software, but that's something that can be hard to argue with the people writing checks for software licenses. I think many of them see the people as a fixed, sunk cost and their time as "free." I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I do see an argument there. If I can save $50k on licensing and I have you spend 1/2 your time writing something that works there (if you make $100k/yr), then maybe there's a decent trade off.
I think we are in for a few down years in our economy, and that slowly over the next year or two, quite a few businesses will see their revenues and profits decline. There are already reports that avoiding Vista upgrades is a good way to save some corporate money, and I'd tend to agree. I don't hate Vista, but I don't see a compelling reason to upgrade. I might also slow down hardware purchases, going to a 4, 5, or even 6 year cycle for desktops/laptops.
If that's the case, then will people be looking to more and more open source solutions to reduce cost? Would I be better off moving to something like SugarCRM instead of Salesforce.com, Dynamics, or Siebel? It could even require the same amount of work to customize each of these products or get it to fit into my environment, so is Open Source worth considering in places?
We had a thread recently about the downsides of MySQL. It was interesting and I'd maintain that the biggest downside is not having the skills on staff to support it or develop against it. However if you take a longer term view, maybe it's worth investing in your people and helping some of them learn a new technology. That might pay off over the long term as you have the flexibility to deploy whatever technology is appropriate for each system.
On the database side I don't think it's worth switching the platform, just as I wouldn't say that switching your Windows servers to Linux saves you a lot. There's too much investment in technology, but I might look at some of the applications I use and consider using lower cost and open source products as there is less money to spend in my budget.
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