Open source vs proprietary software: Two reasons why OpenStack has a business model that works for the customer (not the vendor)
Ever since Richard Stallman – that legendary stalwart of the Free Software Movement – started the GNU project in 1983, open source software has generated intensely polarized, even passionate, opinions. With a wide divide between those in favor and those against, there is no shortage of people willing to share a negative opinion about the opposing camp – particularly when it comes to business models.
Perhaps the movement wasn’t helped by the appearance of its early leaders; after all, Stallman himself looks and dresses, and even talks like Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. So perhaps he and others of his ilk were easy targets to dismiss simply as some kind of nerdy hippies, not a serious business proposition. Serious business people, after all, wear suits and look, well, serious.
It’s not tough to see why proprietary software vendors might fear open source. For them, open source is an existential threat: if your business model is based on the ownership of code, then the concept of it being available free of charge to your customers and freely available for anyone who wishes to work on and improve it is not something you are going to be comfortable with. You’re giving this stuff away? You’re kidding, right? You can’t be serious: either that or it must be defective! Surely there’s some kind of law against that – and if there isn’t, we better get one passed quick!
Well, whether the proprietary vendors like it not, open source is here to stay. Consistently making headway into the enterprise world, consistently getting better, consistently saving customer’s money and consistently adding value. In fact, these trends are so obvious that many proprietary vendors are now actively embracing open source. There’s a growing spirit of collaboration and cooperation as more of them see the value of leveraging the open source model.
Here’s two reasons why OpenStack is going to flourish in the enterprise:
1. It’s cheaper and more flexible. Notice I didn’t say “free.” You might get the software for nothing, but you will need skilled engineers to support it. And quite possibly you are going to need advice and consultancy from a firm like SUSE. But those costs will be lower than the alternatives, and you will also get choice. Ever tried to fire a proprietary software vendor? It’s tougher than you think. OpenStack, on the other hand, is extremely portable. Don’t like your supplier? Fire them and get another – without producing and executing a two-year exit strategy.
2. The sheer volume, motivation and expertise of developers on an open source project is quite simply staggering in comparison to proprietary software vendors. They’re just out-gunned. Plain and simple. And you know what: developers wear the same t-shirts and jeans whether they are coding for Oracle or an alfalfa co-operative; the suits are in Sales and Finance.
Me? I’m in the marketing team. In a company selling seriously good private cloud management with portability that is more flexible, cheaper and better than proprietary software. But, I don’t like folk music; I didn’t go to Woodstock; and while I do like classic rock, I’m sitting here in an office typing this in – you guessed it – a suit. Give SUSE a call, put your order on the table, and we’ll have your OpenStack cloud up and running tomorrow.