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02 February 2009

Open Source Solution Series

When I was a schoolboy, we used to buy fruits from a lady almost for 10 years. Over a period of time, she won the confidence of many families and become loyal to each and every family. She used to sell fruits, some times vegetables, chillies, groundnuts and many other things. Most of the families in the campus bought things from her not only because she was loyal but also because of open business models. Whenever, she brought things to sell, she would give the specimen and only then would disclose the price. She had a simple and successful business model of making things open. She did not give something as free to sell her goods, she also thought that it was buyer's right to buy right and good things. There is no question on why this business model as successful. You can find similar business people in your life too.

This makes me to think and correlate with Open Source and the success of Open Source business models. When you are selling a software, how can you ensure that the software is good. And secondly, how will you convince your customer that you are infact giving them something good not crap. At a very surface level, you can do this by exposing your bug backlog, the bug trend, the reports from your dev/test team. However, this does not give enough information to your customers. This question is not about the confidence you have on your product. It is about the confidence of the customer you win. When make we the software open, we can see it in at least two perspectives - any can view/modify the source code and secondly we are open for comments.

By being open for receiving feedbacks gives us opportunity to correct something which is not good. The customers will be getting better things. The success of open source is not "free of cost" but "open for improvement". This should give confidence to the users that there is a community of developers who are working on making things better.

In this blog, I am planning to share my experience on Open Source Software, particularly quality enterprise class software which are much better than any proprietary software. I am also hopeful that in down the line, we will be discussing solutions from Open Source solving particular problem rather than software. This will give you a good picture about Open Source and its quality and innovation. This journey will also give me a learning by trying some open source solution which I never tried.

Hoping for the best

3 comments:

Rajkumar Pandian said...

Lakshmi,
I don't quite understand your comparison of the way the lady did her business and Open source. If "openness" was the factor of comparison where comes the "business" factor.

And for your point of free samples provided by the lady,I would compare it with the "Trial version" provided by software vendors.If you are satisfied, you can buy else, you can get on with your way.

I welcome open source but,at the same time I would like to analyze the extent Open source should be carried forward.If I were a software development company I would never think of sharing the source code with my customers.It is like Toyota sharing its design & Technical intricacies to its customers.Although, the specs about the car speaks the technicalities of the car, there is some **closed** system that Toyota alone knows.Else, the next day Toyota's competitor would come up with a replica.

One of the main problems that I see with Open source is "accountability".As long as the software satisfies my needs, it is fine.What about the Risks caused by the open source software.Who should be held accountable?. I would not dare to use an open source software as a medical record keeping system or a flight management system or any critical systems.The best thing that I've seen about Open source is the creation of tools..But, when Linux is concerned, am still wondering the way it evolved.

Would like to know your thoughts on this.

Lakshmi Narayanan N said...

The openness not only shoudl give freedom to use free of cost (trial version), it must give freedom to the user to read, modify and redistribute. The trial version that you talk about is a business technique.

Assume that you are buying some software product from a vendor for a huge sum. Many of the vendor's end user license agreements stops the user from reverse engineering in the purest sense. If I am interested to know "what the piece of software contains" and "how it works", the EULA stops that.

The business factor in open source is built in. In recent times, this is one of the hot areas. Many companies like Google, Yahoo, Sun and so many other companies released their products as open source. They understand the fact that apart from building the software, they have to spend or take risk in evangelizing the product. They want their product to be reach many people and the open source is the only way. For example, Wordpress, Android, Open Solaris are successful examples.

You can find Linux in watches, supercomputers, embedded systems including flight navigation system. For example, many real time operating system companies take out base version of Linux and provide real time capabilities, support their version of real time Linux and also release their Linux as open source.

Today, many of the software used by most of the compainies are open source. The list goes on Apache, Firefox, Linux, Hibernate, MySql, Blogging platforms, Java, Solaris, Open BSD, Web App framework.

Of course, when you are working on mission critical things and want professional services, you got to sign up for premium support and services. But this is for someone who is going to sit with you and solve your problem. you don't need to pay a cent for the software.

Open Source is much more than mere tools.

Rajkumar Pandian said...

Lakshmi,
Thanks for the clarification. I liked the point on paying the support person and not the software.Yes, Linux has quite become omnipresent.I'm quite stuck when I compare the business aspects of open source and commercial software products.Will give a thought about it.