Open Source

I have long been fond of Open Source solutions, often choosing Open Source over other commercial alternatives for my own use. One reason for this is purely financial: I simply cannot afford a personal copy of photoshop or windows server. So I use The Gimp and Linux.

Now that I am searching for a solution in a corporate environment, needs change. The company will pay for whatever solution I choose.

In particular, I am looking for a future-proof replacement for a bunch of Oracle Forms and Reports. I was initially considering following Oracle’s recommended migration path – switching to Oracle Application Server using Oracle’s java Application Development Framework.
Until I saw the licensing and support costs…

For what we need, the cost is outrageous. The fact that we have to pay a full licensing cost for the dev and production environments is unreasonable.

So I have started looking into other free or Open Source alternatives. JBoss and Geronimo are the two main Open source app servers, but there is no clear winner, nor any decent comparisons other than pseudo-religious GPL vs Apache licensing debates. I need something that will be easy to manage and diagnose. As a relative Java newbie, ease of use is the most important feature.

If I choose a commercial solution, I will undoubtedly get some kind of support from the manufacturer. After having worked with Oracle’s Global support services for two years, I can confidently declare that it is not worth $8,800 / CPU / year (and that is just the database).

But if I choose an open-source solution, I am on my own if something breaks… sort-of.

Oracle’s database is robust and feature-packed, but not if you don’t have access to Metalink (Oracle’s paid support site). Following the publicly available documentation will often run you into bugs. For example, if you try to install Grid Control on a SuSE machine, it will invariably fail if you have any environment variables with spaces, semicolons, percents or other strange characters. This information is only available through Metalink.

Searching the internet will usually not get you any better info about Oracle, because all the support info is hidden in a very expensive support site.

In the case of Open Source software – such as MySQL – all that support information is on the internet. MySQL has a paid support site, but it is generally less useful than newsgroups or forums.

My point is that with commercial software, there isn’t much support on the internet because not as many people use it, and those that do only deal with the software vendor for support. Additionally, the software vendor may consider support proprietary information, and not allow it on the internet. The only option is to pay for support.

With Open Source software, most people look to the internet for support, therefore making most solutions available to the public free of charge.

I still have not made up my mind, but I believe that ultimately free software will provide a significant cost savings.

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