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jhannah (5254)

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Journal of jhannah (5254)

Wednesday November 23, 2005
07:42 AM

Constructing a corporate policy: 90% Savings Through Open...

[ #27706 ]

I need to write a book/doctrine/policy/manifesto called "90% Savings Through Open Source" subtitled "Systematically Giving 10% of what We save by using open source software is Good for The Company" or something like that. For years we've been using open source software instead of Microsoft products (for example) on dozens of servers, and that saves us money. A lot of money. It saves us money thanks to the hard work of thousands of developers world wide who have given the fruits of the labor to the world to use, gratis. It is in our best interest, as a company, to support these efforts so we continue to save money. Therefore, systematically giving (errr... paying) 10% of what we've saved every time we choose an open source solution over a commercial one is in our best interest.

Turning that notion into corporate policy strikes me as a tough sell. One immediate problem: companies don't give resources to anyone, ever*. They pay for goods and services. As a strict rule, if organization X doesn't demand payment Y under direct threat of denial of services then they're not getting it. Further the arguments [1] if we don't give 10% we'll probably still get everything for free and [2] to whom would the money go? are quite understandable, especially from executives who don't know or care how open source functions in the universe, but who do clearly understand that free means they don't have to pay money.

* Yes, companies do engage in charity, but what I'm striving for here is a corporate policy that will support open source on a per-project ongoing basis, not some impossible to retroactively justify annual "tithing."

Solutions to the problems above? [1] If our choices were MS-Windows ($300) or Linux Distro X ($30), The Company would gladly send $30 to Linux Distro X any day. The problem in the real world is that a Linux Distro X organization needs to invoice us for $30 or we won't pay. That's quite a dilemma since that's not how the universe currently operates. And even when it does operate like that (RedHat, SuSE) it only does so for OSs, not for smaller things like ODBC drivers for $30/seat vs Perl/DBI for $3/seat. [2] We need some sort of "savings grid"?:

                          We would have paid         90% savings
                          -----------------------    ---------------------
   Operating system       MS  $300  ?                SuSE    $30
                                                     or GNU  $30  ?
   Database               IBM Informix $40000/yr     mySQL   $4000/yr
   Application framework  IBM Websphere $20000       Apache  $500
                                                     Perl Foundation $1500

So, dear executive, I can implement that project for you for $X or $Y. Oh, you prefer $Y? OK, I'll have those companies invoice us... Uhh... How do I do that? On I micro scale how do I get $5/seat to Simon for PuTTY if Simon doesn't demand $5 through a shareware license? How do we keep open source free to try, but still encourage The Company to support Simon's development of PuTTY if Simon doesn't demand that we do so? There should be some sort of "invoice us" switch we can throw when we are saving 90% thanks to open source project X. (... Then the question is what, exactly, are they invoicing us for?)

How can I institutionalize the support of open source software? Seeking your comments!

(This is a paste of an entry I wrote in my blog this morning:

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  • Find or create a company that will invoice on behalf of a large number of Open Source authors / foundations if they have registered. Encourage people such as yourself to buy your products from them at the price you specify.

    You'd have to have a lot of Open Source community involvement to pull it off to avoid people taking credit (and money) for the work of others.
  • John Macdonald wrote to me: What comes to my mind in response is having a "use.perl store" run by TPF. Select items would be available for sale at the 10% of comparable commercial product cost price. In exchange, TPF would arrange to have a site that managed support issues - bug tracking, feature request status, assistance. This would require that they have the involvement of the auther or someone of suitable capability. The support would not be free, more like a consulting job, but it would be easily f
    • Hi John. Perhaps you're right. Maybe some sort of sourceforge-esque billing system would help.

      The more I think about this it occurs to me that while I love the "free software" mentality and ethics I think shareware for commercial use is the actual way to go. Leave the software unpolluted: allow full download and full functionality for free, but have a shareware statement that demands $30 or $3 or $300 or whatever for commercial use of the software. That way I'd still be free to install product X to see if