Open Source Freebie Pinches Many Pockets

by Swapna Khanna    Jan 30, 2004

The next time you decide to rush in and grab Linux because of its ’Available for FREE download’ tag, remember to look closely at the fine print.

Open Source software Linux, which is regarded widely as free OS, does in fact have a cost attached to it, according to industry experts. While the initial cost of acquisition of open source may be zero in comparison to commercial software infrastructure, when factors like IT staff skills, competencies, application availability, application deployment, skill transfer and internal support are taken into consideration, Linux or Open Source can be as expensive as commercial software.

Partha Iyengar, research vice president, Gartner India, said, “There is a distinct gap that exists between the support costs associated with commercial software and Linux platforms, with Linux costs exceeding those of commercial software.”

A recent report by IDC says that the differential in staffing costs, is a result of the management tools available to support Linux being less mature than those used for Windows 2000.

“More work is required to configure, program and support Linux server environments as compared to proprietary software as it is already a more mature platform,” said Peter Moore, CTO, Microsoft Asia Pacific & Greater China.

“Mature environments ensure more readily available skilled IT professionals on the open market, resulting in a depth of knowledge and expertise that cannot be duplicated by emerging platforms,’ added Moore.

According to IDC, the staffing costs for Linux servers in almost every case is higher than for systems running the Windows 2000 server.

Giving another point of view S Sadagopan, director IIT Bangalore said, “Although Open Source complements commercial software, it must align itself with the commercial software model to achieve profitability.”

Industry experts feel that as Linux applications become more pervasive, as more ISV software packages and solutions are ported to Linux, and as the scalability of Linux improves, the cost of deployment of Linux vis a vis proprietary software will be at par.

Microsoft plans to launch a $20 million-plus advertising campaign this year, that wil focus on the advantages of its software over rivals, including the Linux operating system.

Tags: Linux