Comment 100071

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 09, 2014 at 06:50:36 in reply to Comment 100068

The matter has been studied extensively and the evidence clearly indicates that the total cost of ownership (TCO) is vastly lower for free/open source software than for the proprietary Microsoft alternatives.

For example, a standard install of Windows Server 2012 R2 costs around $1,000, whereas a standard install of CentOS costs $0. SQL Server costs $900 per server and $200 per client management studio, whereas MySQL and PostgreSQL cost $0. Visual Studio Professional costs $1,200, whereas any number of open source IDEs cost $0.

For a long time, Microsoft has used FUD to suggest FOSS has a higher total cost due to administration and support costs, but again, this is nonsense.

But while lower total cost is extremely important - especially for a public service that is funded through taxpayer revenues - that's not the only net benefit of FOSS over proprietary. The problems with Silverlight, for example, flow in large part from the fact that it is proprietary:

  • Buy-in: software developers don't want to pay licencing fees to develop for an unpopular format.

  • Cross-platform: Microsoft tried to use Silverlight to leverage its own OS, so it was only made available on Windows and OSX.

  • Vendor lock-in: Silverlight users are at Microsoft's mercy and have no option to take over the format themselves.

  • Interoperability: FOSS uses open, standard formats to encode data and code so even if a given format winds down, it's more cost-effective to migrate existing content to another format. In contrast, an attempt to create an open-source implementation of the Silverlight runtime, called Moonlight, petered out because Silverlight never had enough market-share to make Moonlight worth developing.

One additional benefit of FOSS over the "No one ever got fired for choosing Microsoft" mindset: organizationally, it tends to encourage agility, innovation and risk taking. A 2011 study by the UK Cabinet Office found:

A facet that is seen as beneficial but rather unexpected is how a culture of innovation and more risk taking behaviour can be promoted as open source is used. Open source adoption has, for example, forced local authorities to become more accepting of "mistakes" that can be identified and rectified quickly by hands-on access to code and configurations. Experience of such agility and empowerment can spur the change in favour of open source.

The corporation of the City of Hamilton desperately needs such an infusion of fresh thinking.

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