Open Source is not always cheaper

  • 23-Feb-2010

On the document-management shortlist of a mid sized publishing firm this month lay four bidders: a specialist incumbent, two household name vendors (IBM & Microsoft), and an open source option.

IBM did the worst presentation of all, Microsoft did almost as badly, and the open source vendor wowed the client with by far the most professional and convincing demo and presentation.  The deal was all done...until costs were discussed.  To everyone's surprise when one took into account consulting, integration, and maintenance fees, the open source option was by far the most expensive.  In fact, too expensive.

This is not something that gets discussed often.  Indeed the key selling point for many open source options remains (often quite rightly) the low cost involved. But times are changing, and the commercial open source model sweeping content technology marketplaces is proving to be very profitable for some suppliers. 

I will go as far as to say that I am a fan of open source, and in the right circumstances will recommend it over more traditional licensing options. But I never tell our clients that it will be cheap or cheaper than the competition. Not until all the numbers are on the table will you know that for sure.

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