Last time I vented frustration over the effort invested into the Oracle/Sun/MySQL anti-trust case whilst the European Union ignores its profligate waste by paying whatever Oracle demands for its software. I finished off by commenting how glad I was that the private sector did not act like some Governments at which point I had to pause.
I recently celebrated my second anniversary in the world of open source. Prior to this I'd spent most of my working career inside large proprietary software vendors (apart from a three year stint working on oil rigs in some of the more inhospitable, but definitely not boring places in the world- perhaps I'll write about my memories on that one day?).
A few weeks back I met with a senior architect of a large bank to discuss how open source might fit into the bank's strategy, particularly in the area of database where they had recently had some pretty unpleasant price increases levied by two of their incumbent suppliers during renegotiation of their corporate site licenses.
Imagine my interest at hearing his woes. Not only was he able to recount the huge one time license hits shoehorned into his ever decreasing IT budget, but these vendors were also charging between three to five times the annual support costs that I could offer as an open source alternative. The cost savings over a couple of years, including migration costs, were still well above any internal rate of return threshold that projects in this bank needed to return.
So did I walk out of that meeting with an order in my hand?
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After more than one hour, during which all of this gentlemen's frustration over paying to support the +40 per cent margin business models of these suppliers came gushing out, I finally pushed him to take some action. His response was, "but open source is free and ultimately you always get what you pay for!"
I guess we still have our work cut out in the (not so) brave new world of Open Source.
The final twist in the tale was when I reminded this gentleman he had been running a significant part of his customer facing systems for +10 years on Ingres software including some elements on our community version. I probably shouldn't have done that!
Foot note: I remain a complete believer in the cause of Open Source as each week I meet a small but growing band of real CIO thought leaders and change agents who are challenging the old ways and embracing the new. Rome wasn't built in a day.