A blog for the enterprise open source community
The Emperor’s new codeMatthew Aslett, May 9, 2008 @ 10:02 am ET
Earlier this week Silicon.com’s Naked CIO posted an article in which the anonymous chief information officer asked the question “Is open source dead?” and argued that “open source has found its niche and will continue to be of practical value in the realm of web and network security. But its application to business is limited.”
The Naked CIO put forward a number of arguments in support of the declaration, all of which can be cynically translated as follows:
“Open source lacks true and defined standards, best-of-breed capabilities, fully functional integration and knowledgeable staff to support it cost-effectively.”
Cynical translation: “I love Microsoft software.”
“Having tried to manage open source environments, the degree to which rather eccentric – apologies for the generalisation – open source custodians and Unix engineers customise their environments creates extremely bulky systems and applications that are difficult to manage.”
Cynical translation: “I know where I am with Microsoft software.”
“From an organisational perspective, in its level of customisation and lack of true industry standards, this is cowboy technology.”
Cynical translation: “No one ever got fired for using Microsoft software.”
“I would love to see open source continue to grow from a technology perspective. But would I rely on it in a business perspective? Absolutely not – at least not as the main platform driver in my organisation.”
Cynical translation: “Hey, I’m a pragmatist. But I really, really love Microsoft software.”
While it is easy to ridicule (in fact I just have), the post also raises a significant issue that stands in the way of wider open source software adoption: the conservatism of many senior IT executives. The Naked CIO offers four questions that open source adopters should ask themselves:
“1. What is the business driver behind this initiative?
2. Is the true cost – including the labour to support it, annual subscription fees and the technical gaps in support, integration and innovation – lower then other alternatives?
3. Can I find capable resources cost-effectively to deliver an open source environment and then support it over time?
4. Can standards be implemented that allow for effective management of an open source application?”
Nothing wrong with those, except – could they not be applied to any software deployment? What makes open source software different? It would be easy to blame FUD, but I don’t think that’s the issue here. It’s not that open source is so dangerous but that the alternative – particularly Microsoft – is so safe. That’s why, despite the problems, enterprise adoption of Vista is inevitable.
Also, as Scott Wilson over on the CIO Weblog notes, “While there is certainly truth to [the Naked CIO's] perspective, it is a perspective which intentionally examines only those factors in the software selection process which OSS falls down on, without balancing them against the corresponding weak points in commercial software.” (Such as licensing and compliance and forced-obsolescence).
Scott adds: “the major reason that Naked is wrong is that the next platform his company is going to be running on will be open source software… he just won’t know it. I’m referring here to the cloud or SaaS vendor of your choice.”
As is pointed out in the comments to the original post, the chances are that in fact the Naked CIO is already reliant on open source software. Could it be that – in a reversal of the Emperor’s New Clothes, the Naked CIO is not so naked at all?
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