Open source or proprietary PaaS: Which is better for your organization?

Choosing between an open source or a proprietary PaaS can be time-consuming. Simplify the process with office tools and collaboration criteria.

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Your team wants to develop, test, and deploy an application on either an open source or a proprietary Platform as a Service (PaaS), but you're having trouble making a decision. Budget will be a big factor in influencing your choice of office tools and PaaS.

An open source PaaS is free. It is built from codes a community of developers and users contribute. Examples include Cloudify, Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, Stackato, and Apache Stratos.

A proprietary PaaS is not free. It is built from codes the vendor will not reveal. One good example is Microsoft Azure.

These criteria might help you decide which PaaS option is the better option for your organization.

Criteria 1: Office tools


If you have a tight budget, you should choose a free open source document writer (such as LibreOffice Writer) to document what you have been doing. It can do almost everything that Microsoft Word offers. You can open and save in Word, Rich Text, or HTML Document formats in any document writer.

LibreOffice Writer saves a file in OpenDocument Text (ODT) format. If you try to use Microsoft Word to open it, you will be greeted with an error message.

If the open source document writer is the only office tool you need, you should go for an open source PaaS. If you can afford the bells and whistles of Microsoft Word, you can choose between an open source or a proprietary PaaS.


If you are a light spreadsheet user, you should consider an open source spreadsheet (such as LibreOffice Calc); you could use it to record how well an application has been performing anywhere in the system life cycle. Also, you can open and save it in Microsoft Excel format (.xls or .xlsx).

LibreOffice Calc saves a file in OpenDocument Spreadsheet (ODS) format. You can't open it with Microsoft Excel.

There is no problem in exporting LibreOffice Calc macros to Excel. If you start with Excel macros and then decide to switch over to Calc, you may need to redo the macros.

If you work with Hadoop, consider Microsoft Power Query for Excel that you can use with Microsoft Azure. You will need to set up an Azure storage account containing data from your Hadoop cluster before you import data into Excel. The Power Query works with Windows 7 and beyond.


With Microsoft Access, you can create a standalone database. LibreOffice Base allows you to connect or open the Access database and make changes to it. Other databases that you can open include Oracle JDBC, MySQL, and PostgreSQL. The only database you can create with Base must be in OpenDocument File (ODF) format.

To help you decide what type of database you should use with an open or closed PaaS, consider the pros and cons of all databases on your list.


If you import Microsoft PowerPoint files into LibreOffice Impress, you may encounter rendering issues. Microsoft PowerPoint offers animated diagrams while Impress doesn't. If you don't need the animations, go for an open source PaaS.


LibreOffice Draw supports two Microsoft Visio file formats: VDX (2003) and VSDX (2013). With Visio, you can choose flowchart, network diagram, office layout, organizational chart, or another type of stencil on the left panel. From a stencil file, you can drag and drop shapes, lines, and objects onto the drawing board (the canvas) on your right. You combine them to create a diagram.

The issue is that when Visio stencils are imported into LibreOffice Draw, the stencil file shows each shape or object on a separate page. If you regularly use Visio to create engineering or network diagrams, you should opt for Microsoft Azure.

Criteria 2: Collaboration

LibreOffice lacks a collaboration feature. You can only insert a comment in a document or a spreadsheet and email it one at a time. You can get free, separate instant messaging and other collaboration tools.

Visio 2013 allows you and other authors to work together and send comments to one another in real time on the same diagram files. You can collaborate using instant messaging directly from Visio 2013. You can access a Visio diagram from any device that a collaborator uses. Microsoft Lync 2013 allows you to collaborate with another person via instant messaging, video calls, and online meeting. It is available in some versions of Microsoft Office.

To get feedback from collaborators on open and closed PaaS options, you should consider Google Forms to create a survey, a poll, or a questionnaire. You can organize their responses in a spreadsheet for analysis. You could publish the results on a website accessible to selected collaborators.


An open source PaaS is your best bet if you have a tight budget. If you have deep pockets, go for Microsoft Azure. The choice is yours.

About Judith Myerson

Judith M. Myerson is a Systems Engineering Consultant and Security Professional. She is the editor of Enterprise System Integration and the author of RFID in the Supply Chain. She has researched and published articles on a wide range of cloud computi...

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