The case for open source

Imagine buying a car from your local dealer and six months later having them come to you and say:

“Ah, we see you used the aircon. Yes, we know it was installed, but actually using it? That’s an enterprise feature, so we’ll be charging you extra.”

“Oh, the lights? Yes, you are allowed to use them. But only during the day when it’s a bit gloomy, you see, and you used them at night. That’s a different feature, you’ll have to buy that one now.”

“You used it go shopping? How many bags of shopping did you get? More than four? Oops, sorry, you bought the four bag maximum version, but we can upgrade that for a fee. No, it’s exactly the same car, you’ll just be allowed up to four additional shopping bags.”

“Ah, you went over 30mph. Sorry, you can only do up to 30, so we’ll have to sell you the 30 – 50mph version. Or you can buy the motorway one that lets you go up to 70.”

“You gave a friend a lift home? Really? Sorry, they’ll need to pay for an entire car. No, they won’t get a car, but you’ll be able to give them a lift in yours. Only one though – additional passengers will cost you more.”

“Right, so you made some mistakes. You can either pay more than the car cost in the first place for those upgrades or only a small amount more than that and as a goodwill gesture we’ll throw in this motorbike. You won’t be able to use it though…”

“Yes, the manual is a bit vague. Don’t worry, we can send round one of our expensive experts to talk you through it and we offer some training courses.”

That’s pretty much what buying enterprise software is like.

It’s why large companies have to employ software asset managers to try and keep track of not only what software is installed and where but also exactly what features are being used – and in some cases, why those features are being used. Figuring it all out is so complicated that there are companies that specialise in helping businesses manage their software licences.

The licence agreements often include provision for the vendors to perform audits, and when they find honest mistakes it can be very expensive. Rather than preventing access to “enterprise” features with the use of licence keys or clearly separate installs it seems that vendors actually want to catch you out…

I honestly don’t understand why businesses put up with such user hostile behaviour from vendors when there are open source alternatives. Do they even do proper total cost of ownership comparisons?

Surely, at least for backend software and middleware where open source is strongest, the case makes itself?

in Random Musings

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