Friday, January 13, 2006

Free as Open Source they said?

(imported from, read comments there)

It's interseting to follow the different strategies around Open Source these days.
Can Open Source be FOSS at all?

I have been myself leading a project for some time with Jonas Bonér in the AOP field, and we more than once had potential corporate users willing to be helped or supported (thus charged) with some more formal ways than classic user mailing lists and "fix it yourself / wait for the community to fix it" attitude.

BEA's blended strategy of certifying and supporting 24/7 major open source components (like Spring) is well echoed by several facts these last weeks.

First some post on TheServerSide "Developping J2EE without xxx? Why?", xxx beeing your perhaps favorite open source framework, (xxx and yyy abstracted for the purpose of this blog article).

Some various comments from this thread:

"xxx is good"
"Don' t look from the developer angle only"
"Couple of years down the track, if xxx goes bust or I can't find developers who want to work with old technology like xxx as everyone has moved on to yyy_standard or something similar, and my application breaks for certain reason, where will I get support or resource to maintain my application?"

More interesting, a recent quote from HP Software head Todd DeLaughter (translated from French):
"We could do something with Open Source. It will depend on the market evolution. [..] Today the problem is that sooner or later customers are asking their software provider to certify and support the stack, and provide services around. That won't change any time soon."

Obviously it would then be intersting to look at the cost of Open Source, beyond the FOSS zero acquisition cost.

It's not secret that JBoss is now selling software (not free, with trial copy and commercial license) and doing marketing around it - see the last JBoss newsletter and the messages around JBoss ON "JBoss Operating Network", the what sounds to be administration solution of JBoss app servers (see f.e. here).
Quoting the newsletter:
"JBoss is holding a series of workshops [...] will include hands-on training on JBoss ON (trial copies of the software will be provided)"

Deploying stuff on an Open Source stack is end to end is definitely not free at the end. FOSS is just one view on one single phase in a project: development.

Left aside the training cost for the young developers themselves.
In a recent post, Yakov Fain calculates that if you follow introduction trainings on Spring, Hibernate and JBoss, which seems today' minimum to get started on a so called FOSS stack, you'll have to travel some accross the globe, and afford a total of $9000.

Obviously, we then should take into account support prices, and possible performance gaps between each stacks, meaning all in all you'll need more CPU and hosting power here and there to run your beast. And CPU is never free.

I'd be pleased to see the debate around the Java community shift from programming practices and tech buzzwords (IoC AOP ligthweight whatever is best implemented here things) to some from the trench real project end to end considerations.
Obviously lightweight approaches and Open Source do play a key role in the whole picture, both with pros and cons.

So FOSS - free as in free beer? Really? The world is obviously more complex than that.