Reducing Vendor Lockin and Increasing Value for Money – Primary Motivations to Use FLOSS

The government of the UK has just released a report into the real cost of ownership of FLOSS. Glyn Moody has some comments on it. Here are mine.

Vendor lockin and value for money are the two most often stated reasons to go to FLOSS. Respondents reported these two at 4.33 and 4.05 out of 5 on average. Amen. I did not even appreciate vendor lockin until I started looking at value for money. Then vendor lockin was the elephant in the room.

About 50% of respondents hired support and the others did it in-house. This is the ultimate of escape from vendor lockin. FLOSS works for you just like all your other equipment. There is no corporate agenda from a software vendor if you don’t want that.

What is holding your organsation back from using open source?

OS related issues

  • Understanding Licence and license compliance
  • Availability of specific apps
  • Some OSS is very immature, inferior user interfaces
  • Sometimes proprietary alternatives are simply better
  • Feature completeness
  • [Lack of a ] community backing the open source project

That’s a summary of comments. It’s not too different from some of the comments on my blog but it’s not black and white. FLOSS is simpler than bloatware in licensing and features. Simplicity may be more important than features often enough to be valuable. It is for me, always. I don’t have time to figure out how to use the 500th feature of app X when I can do what I want with 100 features of app Y. These kinds of things may be real barriers or only perceived barriers. IMHO, mostly they are perceptions, not reality. Munich perceived that they would need a ton of money spent on training and it did not happen. It’s a GUI. One figures it out using the application, not the manual.

The study involved many organizations including the government of Brazil. I would bet they had some information of value since they actively promote FLOSS. In general it was recognized that “Desktops are perhaps the riskiest open source projects with the most stakeholders to consider.” I think that is true but one must realize that no choice will make everyone happy but openness and consultation can make resistance to change much easier.

According to Andalucia open source has saved them millions of Euros. But it has also brought other benefits. The benefits of the repository include: reduced duplication of effort, local private and public authorities can reuse and build on existing software, encouraging other expressions of openness, competition in the software market. The also see this initiative as providing local companies with an opportunity to become more competitive and provide better support thorough their detailed knowledge of open source software and development processes.

Amen. Using FLOSS is not just about money or software. It is a completely different way of doing things with many benefits. It forces people to cooperate and that’s good for everyone.

Transport for London migrated in 2007 and found 80% reductions in cost of IT sustained over years. They have saved 20 million pounds so far. That’s real money. Claims that FLOSS somehow costs more are insane especially if one considers the longer term. Forever times one licence is huge. Openness means a local IT person can understand everything in sufficient detail to fix any problems. Compliance with standards means lower costs forever.

Overall I am pleased with this report. It shows I am not out to lunch but in line with many organizations’ thinking on FLOSS. Finally this is a report that shows people are willing to risk change for obvious benefits. The last hurdle as I see it is that some still feel that FLOSS is not a quick fix with immediate benefits. The report samples a huge diversity of use of IT and FLOSS is positively received widely. That means the risks/difficulties are overcome by the flexibility of FLOSS. The hurdles are perceptions not facts IMHO. On the contrary, I have found migrations are pretty easy with just a few problems that can be solved with a bit of effort. I believe FLOSS should be the default choice until some problem proves insurmountable. I have yet to see one such problem in education. Even then, FLOSS can be used widely and non-free software for the hard case. Once FLOSS is viewed as a solution and not a problem, everything can be done.

There’s a rational basis for my conclusions. Hardware is the same for FLOSS and non-free software. FLOSS is general purpose. It can be examined, modified, used and distributed easily doing any task. There is nothing in the licence preventing that whereas the EULA of much non-free software provides an abundance of obstacles that cannot be legally overcome. The answer is clear. If you want control of your IT to maximize it’s benefit use FLOSS. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux. It works for me.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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16 Responses to Reducing Vendor Lockin and Increasing Value for Money – Primary Motivations to Use FLOSS

  1. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon you are not a Microsoft registered partner. PRC got pulled up wanting to build there own custom version to ship. Ie give to others.

    They are allowed to build custom versions for internal usage only the machine still must have a OEM sticker. Asian area Microsoft registered partner we do get briefed on what agreements we could run across while doing our work that are legal windows installs and illegal.

    No you are making stuff up as you go Clarence Moon. And you are talking to someone who does know the facts.

    If you were asking me about the USA or EU countries agreement with Microsoft I don’t have a clue its not in my area and I don’t get briefings on it. There is a chance that a American based registered partner would have had the briefings on that stuff. USA you normally have to be gold or higher to see those briefings.

    PRC is basically in my area of operations.

  2. Clarence Moon says:

    How do you know what conditions are contained within Microsoft’s contracts with the PRC? You are just making things up as you go, Mr. Oiaohm. That much is obvious.

  3. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon

    “Microsoft provides source code to the People’s Republic of China government when asked as long as the commies sign an NDA, I understand. Does that make Windows a type of FLOSS? I bet ”

    That is close to FLOSS but not quite. If all buyers of there product could see the source and alter it then its FOSS.

    There can still be a NDA of don’t give this application source or binary to particularly parties that can be around FOSS. Ie don’t give software to anyone who does not have a joint strike fighter. Really there is no practical reason for anyone without a joint strike fighter to have it control software unless they are trying to destroy it.

    Also China is not allowed to rebuild own custom versions and ship those either.

    There are a key set of requirements.

    1) user/owner of machine software is on has access to source code.
    2)user/owner of machine software is on has right to modify said software.
    3)if user/owner of machine forwards that software on to anyone else must provide them with source code with same rights.

    Of course if you never forward the software on to a third party you never need to show anyone what you changed. They are the three pillers of FOSS.

    Those three pillers suite DoD. Of course a few extras like restricting to people who have the hardware to use it is about all that needs to be added.

  4. Kozmcrae says:

    “Is that a contentious statement? Hardly”

    It’s a false statement. There is no “generally” about it.

    When you are talking about “bits” of Android that are not open source, then those bits are not open source and are absolutely not open source. Get it?

    If a amalgam of software is both open source and proprietary then you say it is both open and proprietary or not all open source but you don’t say the source code is “generally” available. Who the Hell can depend on that. How is any company that wants to do business with Google/Android depend on the statement, “Well the code is generally available”. You are a joke Dr Loser.

  5. Dr Loser loses again, “Technically speaking, Robert, it isn’t “the Government of the UK” who has released this risible excuse for academic tenure.”

    Page 3 of 53 contains, “(c) Queen’s Printer and Controller from HMSO 2011

    This report has been prepared by LSE Enterpirse fo the UK Cabinet Office. We acknowledge the support given by OpenForum Academy, the think tank and research programme of OpenForum Europe. The report has beeen jointly finaced by the Cabinet Office and OpenForum Europe, together with some of its members and partners. In particular sponsorship has been received from Alfresco, Deloitte, IBM and Red Hat.

    We want to emphasize the independence of the report and that no company or organisation, including those named above, has made any direct input to the report conclusions.”

    Doesn’t the guy who pays the piper call the tune? Who owns the copyright? Who published the report?

    BTW, HMSO is “Her Majesty’s Stationery Office”, both publishers and archivist for the UK government.

  6. Dr Loser says:

    Technically speaking, Robert, it isn’t “the Government of the UK” who has released this risible excuse for academic tenure.

    It’s just another bunch of loonies with some sort of vague attachment to the LSE and a deep desire to keep their paymasters at “OpenForum Europe” happy.

    Nevertheless, I will agree with you (proleptically). Far better that the LSE pisses around with stuff like this, that doesn’t really matter, than that it gives a degree in Economics to the son of a sordid dictator like Gaddafi, eh?

    I mean, that was just a regrettable accident. The people who were responsible for that accident have been punished severely.

    This, however, is no accident at all. There are fifty two completely unbiased witnesses who will swear on their mother’s grave that it is, indeed, God’s Given and Only Truth.

    Problem is? Problem is, it’s utterly unreliable bollocks.

    Nice try though.

  7. Dr Loser says:


    Are you really that dim-witted? You even quote this:

    “Open source software is generally considered to be something that is open to the public at large.”

    Is that a contentious statement? Hardly.

    There are bits of Android that are not Open Source, although theoretically Ice-Cream Sandwich promises that they will be.

    There are bits of Google that will, and I promise you this, never be Open Source. And they are not small or irrelevant bits. They relate to what Google has done with the Linux kernel.

    And so with Amazon, and so with IBM, and so with the DoD and anybody else who doesn’t want a Million Eyes going Bazaar on them.

    Look, I’m not supposed to care about this. Yet, on philosophical grounds, I do. The thing is either open, or it ain’t.

    You are supposed to care about this. Now, you personally probably have more pressing concerns in your life, and I wouldn’t expect you personally to complain.

    But why does nobody else complain?

  8. Dr Loser says:

    “Overall I am pleased with this report. It shows I am not out to lunch but in line with many organizations’ thinking on FLOSS.”

    Fifty two of them, according to the document you quote.

    You may or may not be out to lunch (could you store some of that venison, please? We can have a civilised conversation over venison. I will even volunteer to cook it), but this particular excrescence of bigoted academia proves nothing either way.

  9. Kozmcrae says:

    “Open source software is generally considered to be something that is open to the public at large.”

    You are demonstrating you ignorance about open source Clarence, there is no “generally” about it. The source code to all open source projects must be made available to the users.

  10. Clarence Moon says:

    I do not work for Lockheed-Martin, so I do not have any first hand knowledge, but I doubt that anyone who has not contracted to buy the aircraft has any access to the source code for the various systems in the jet. That is hardly FLOSS, FOSS, OSS, or anything else you might wish to call it.

    Microsoft provides source code to the People’s Republic of China government when asked as long as the commies sign an NDA, I understand. Does that make Windows a type of FLOSS? I bet Mr. Pogson would cringe at the idea.

    Open source software is generally considered to be something that is open to the public at large. Otherwise almost anything can qualify and the definition becomes meaningless.

  11. oiaohm says:

    Kozmcrae remember even if something is FOSS there is no requirement to release it anyone not the owner of a machine running it with most licenses.

    DoD really should be just due to secuirty requirements.

    So nightmare items like what you describe should be moved to department with as high of secuirty requirement.

    Some governments around the world have full departments running on FOSS. Its not a problem other than will.

    FOSS still allows secrets. A department can be full FOSS and still have applications the general public have never seen. Reason the FOSS was with the department not with the general public.

    Closed is always sold as the only option to have secrets but its not. You could have FOSS under a NDA. Who would know in the general public.

    FOSS is about rights for the person owning the machine running the software. Those rights don’t have to be given to everyone.

  12. Kozmcrae says:

    The joint strike fighter is one project. That can and probably should be all open source. But an entire department of a government? I doubt if it every last piece of software would be open source. Most of it yes, but not 100%.

    Some minor office could have an old high speed labeling machine that has its own drivers. They feed it text files generated from a QuatroPro spreadsheet running in DOS 5.0. Big bureaucracies have more than a few nightmare scenarios like that.

  13. oiaohm says:

    Kozmcrae depends on the form of FOSS.

    When it comes to the joint strike fighter all countries to acquire it will get the full source code of the control system. This is very much to the rules of FOSS.

    Of course each acquire can customise there own firmwares for their own aircraft and not have to give back and still be inside the rules of FOSS.

    So yes a Department of Defence can do everything FOSS and keep secrets. FOSS does not equal no Secrets. The difference FOSS means is the secrets are kept by the user of the software not the maker of the software.

    Really it should be mandatory for Department of Defence to use FOSS for everything. So that software provided cannot not be backdoored by a third party in a way that cannot be detected before its too late. All weapon systems and weapon control systems should be FOSS at a min. Even if it a restricted FOSS where the only people to see the source code own the physical device it is for.

  14. Kozmcrae says:

    “Doing everything in-house isn’t always good. Just ask the US DoD.”

    Doing everything in-house isn’t always bad.

    With FLOSS, just as it is with proprietary software, you can always pick out a detail and compare it against the landscape the other culture has to offer.

    Did the report say ‘everything’? That’s rather extreme, wouldn’t you say? In an organization as large as the Department of Defense, I can’t imagine them using FLOSS to the exclusion of everything else. So why would you set FLOSS up for such failure Ray?

  15. Ray says:

    Doing everything in-house isn’t always good. Just ask the US DoD.

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