Time to jump on the open source train

Red Hat counts the pounds whilst many rival firms grasp at pennies. Is open source the gravy train to leap on?

Jennifer Scott

COMMENT: Red Hat must be having a giggle, no make that a cackle, behind proprietary tech firms' backs as they watch their revenues slide whilst the recession is still in full swing.

The company will be celebrating as it just posted results showing a 12 per cent rise in revenues in the second quarter of fiscal year 2010.

The gracious may doff their hats at the successful $183.5 million figure but I am sure many will be asking, where did we go wrong and why aren't customers coming to us?

One answer, dear colleagues, open source.

Now before everyone leaps to the conclusion that I think open source is only successful due to its cheapness during a cash-strapped time you are wrong.

It is, of course, part of the answer as paying a huge sum out on a new investment in the current climate is a terrifying thing for a lot of companies to even consider. But there is more to it than a lower initial outlay.

We hear on a daily basis that now is the time to invest to be ready for when you come out of the recession. This is cynically seen as a tagline to keep sales up but is actually becoming more and more realistic. Although hotly debated there does appear to be some green shoots in industry and you don't want to be lagging behind when it is ready to rock and roll again.

So when your company looks to invest what do they go for? Just an upgrade of the same well used, occasionally loved and definitely well worn out system or take up what is clearly the technology of the future? If you don't pick the latter you may need to rethink your plans.

Yes, old and trustworthy is good but to invest is to look to the future and what your company needs as it hopefully grows with the market recovery.

This is where I think open source comes into its own. You only need to take a look at Linux's increasing adoption in the work place or open source platforms starting to make a real name for themselves in the mobile phone market to know this is where the industry is heading.

Of course, there are negatives as with any technology ironing out the creases. Unlike the massive proprietary firms, much open source software doesn't have a set support network or sometimes even a piece of paper reassuring you that if something goes wrong you will be looked after.

But take a step online and you will find thousands of people wanting to help, advise and improve your system. Open source isn't just a day job, it is a passion that people love to be involved in and I would rather a team of that size backing me up than a contract that doesn't guarantee the system will work, just that when it screws up you can get some help.

You would prefer the huge licensing bill from a multi-billion dollar corporation? I didn't think so.

Open source isn't the unknown quantity it once was and is growing in both revenue and adoption. My advice? Jump on the open source train and start the change now rather than stick with old faithful and maybe end up losing out as other braver investors bound ahead.

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