woensdag 15 april 2009

The four ‘FIT’ factors, making a Business Case for Open Source and Vendor products

Open source is hot in the market. It is free and you don't have vendor lock-in. True, a landscape based upon 100% dependency on one vendor can cause situations where your business wishes are not in agreement with the architectural possibilities (or pricing strategy…) of the vendor products. So are we better off with Open Source, where unlimited developers seem to be working day and night? As always is the answer, it depends...
So how can we decide whether to choose for Open Source or Vendor based technology?. This can be based on four ‘FIT’ factors: Functionality, Technology, Pricing and Support.

First of all, the Functionality fit has to be determined. Fit for functionality is the acceptance factor of the end users. Ability of the technology to (rapidly) adapt to functional changes also has to be checked. And the expected life time of the needed application has to be determined. How well can the needed functionality be mapped on the features of the software.

Then looking at the Technology. What is the needed stability of the application (this is related to support). What is the track record of the technology in this area. How easy can new technology be added to the stack and combined with other components. How much knowledge is available in the market. How open is the technology. How proven is this technology.

Pricing is of course also an important component. The pricing component not only consists of license- and support fees, but also development costs, and needed personnel after go-live to support the application.

Support requirements differ according to the type of application and it’s usage. This may range from an FAQ list, 24*7 help line all the way to immediate on-site support. In case of open source you should get an idea of the group developers that does updates, otherwise you may get stuck with the functionality you have.

What is the Business Case for Open Source
+ Fast delivery of add-ons and new functionality by developers community
- No timelines for new functionality
+ Push from new technology (enables new functionality)
+/- Will it still exist at the expected end-of-lifetime of the needed functionality?
+/- Code set of Open Source can be changed by Development team, what is the risk for the future and ability to upgrade?
+ No license fees
- Costs involved for keeping team of developers available for support
+ A lot of independent developers are working on the source set
- In case of emergency, who to call
- Dependency on the developers after go-live (developers lock-in....)
- No official support

And the Business Case for Vendor based technology
+ Track record of core functionality
+ Timelines for new functionality
+ Industry solutions implemented
- Marketing and sales strategy may have a higher priority than functional and technical developments
- Speed of development on new areas
+ Transactional stability (proven)
+ Track record of core functionality
+/- The role in the ecosystem as a provider of stable out-of-the-box systems is sometimes forgotten ?
+/- How well does the vendor do with regards to upgrades to newer versions/technologies?
- License and support costs
+ A good fit between functionality and Vendor based technology / Industry solution can results in lower implementation costs
+ High level of support possible

So depending on the needs of the system, the four 'fit' factors Functionality, Technology, Pricing and Support make the case for Open Source or Vendor Based technology. Any suggestions are always welcome!

Written with Joost van der Vlies, thanks to Ruben Spekle

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