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EU Commission Study Finds You'll Save Money Switching to FOSS

By Jaqui ·
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070112025016466

The article itself isn't very informative, but the report is quite interesting. all 287 pages of it.



editing to add:

The url for the PDF format EU report:
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ict/studies/publications.htm

edited again to fix typo, 287 pages not 289

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I may get time to read it

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to EU Commission Study Finds ...

but not yet though

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I hear that,

by Jaqui In reply to I may get time to read it

I saw it on friday and did a quick skim, but I've been fighting a bug off this weekend, so feverish, coughing, sneezing me isn't going to really read it until I have better focus. :)

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No hard & fast rules

My experience with FOSS vs. not-FOSS software is that there is no way to definitively declare one "cheaper" than the other. It is dependent on your people and the individual software packages under consideration.

For example, I really like FreeBSD. About a year ago, I spec'ed FreeBSD for a server at work. Everything I read said that the hardware would work 100% and that good drivers were available. However, with the amount of time I spent because the drivers did not like my particular motherboard, it would have been cheaper to pay for a Windows Server Standard license. Similarly, if your systems administrator is strictly a Windows guy, and you only have one or two servers, it is cheaper to stick with what you know, because he could spend a very long time trying to figure out how to configure Linux. Indeed, Windows in the hands of a competant systems administrator will most likely be more secure than Linux under an incompetant systems administrator.

On the other side of the spectrum, many FOSS paclages are as good, or better than their proprietary counterparts, even in terms of configuration. To this day, I find MySQL easier to install, maintain, and use than SQL Server, and much, much better than Oracle in that department. In that case, even if it was not free, MySQL qould be a winner, provided that it met the technical needs without additional hardware costs.

Maintenance time/costs are another issue. Many FOSS products are constantly issuing a stream of updates, patches, etc. that require system admin time to install. Most Linux distros are particularly bad about this, they release a version number every 6 months, which restarts the whole process of upgrading a test machine, testing everything, recertifying all of the apps with the vendors, and then deploying.

Finally, there is the matter of support. Very few companies above a "small" size buy software without requiring support. Compare the costs of getting support for RHEL to Windows Server. Windows is actually cheaper than RHEL on that end. To a SOHO user, support is probably not going to happen. But for a company that requires the support package, once the cost is factored in, the free license is a drop in the bucket compared to the support costs.

Again, I do beleive that many FOSS packages do indeed offer a cost benefit (I am running FreeBSD on my home server, after all!), but I think that to declare a blanket statement like "FOSS is cheaper" ignores reality that FOSS in and of itself is not cheaper. It is cheaper in many cases, but not all of them.

J.Ja

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A few points

by Jaqui In reply to No hard & fast rules

For example, I really like FreeBSD. About a year ago, I spec'ed FreeBSD for a server at work. Everything I read said that the hardware would work 100% and that good drivers were available. However, with the amount of time I spent because the drivers did not like my particular motherboard, it would have been cheaper to pay for a Windows Server Standard license.
The BSDs all have the same issue, their hardware support is really geared towards commercial server hardware, not consumer hardware. They are closer to unix than most Free / Libre / Open Source Software, and are more secure than most software out there.


Maintenance time/costs are another issue. Many FOSS products are constantly issuing a stream of updates, patches, etc. that require system admin time to install. Most Linux distros are particularly bad about this, they release a version number every 6 months, which restarts the whole process of upgrading a test machine, testing everything, recertifying all of the apps with the vendors, and then deploying.

True, but then, most linux distros also have an update manager that will only present updates in the list for software you have installed. Those that show all updates do show if you have the software installed or not. so running the update manager and getting the updates for only the installed software cuts down the time to a more reasonable amount. you can run the update manager as often as you wish, be that daily, weekly or less, so the time can again be reduced to be a match for running windows update.


Finally, there is the matter of support. Very few companies above a "small" size buy software without requiring support. Compare the costs of getting support for RHEL to Windows Server. Windows is actually cheaper than RHEL on that end. To a SOHO user, support is probably not going to happen. But for a company that requires the support package, once the cost is factored in, the free license is a drop in the bucket compared to the support costs.

Since I would never touch Red Hat or Suse, for the bad products they are, I'll take your word that RHEL support is more expensive than MS support.
[ Though CentOS, the free version of RHEL has a better price for support than RH does, yet has the same 3rd party approval as RHEL. ( CentOS is a community distro, I'm not sure they really charge for support. ) ]

Again, I do beleive that many FOSS packages do indeed offer a cost benefit (I am running FreeBSD on my home server, after all!), but I think that to declare a blanket statement like "FOSS is cheaper" ignores reality that FOSS in and of itself is not cheaper. It is cheaper in many cases, but not all of them.


You will note, that the title is misleading, a closer scrutiny states that it is cheaper for GOVERNMENT usage than MS software is. The commision that did the study looked at Government computing needs not Business computing needs.

And they compared the cost of migrating under the assumption that you would be picking either Vista or a FLOSS os, so the training costs cancel each other out mostly. The FLOSS has slightly higher training costs, but the long term savings for it in licensing makes up that difference very quickly.
[ They do state long term it's cheaper, not short term / migration period ]
The biggest boon to FLOSS in their assesment is the meeting ISO standards of FLOSS makes he applications UI and functionality more stable than the commercial products manage to have. a new version of MS office to run on Vista is as expensive to train your staff on as Open Office.org is, yet a new version of OO.o has no additional training required once your staff know the suite.
[ long term savings again, no retraining for every new version of the software. ]

Final point, they do not claim that FLOSS is the best solution for every IT usage, only that in the long term, Governments can save significant amounts of money [ TAXPAYERS DOLLARS ] by using it, and that FLOSS meets ALL Government needs.


danged typos

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Response, with no rebuttal

by Justin James Contributor In reply to A few points

"The BSDs all have the same issue, their hardware support is really geared towards commercial server hardware, not consumer hardware. They are closer to unix than most Free / Libre / Open Source Software, and are more secure than most software out there."

Surprisingly, that was the first time that FreeBSD gave me driver issues. And, I may add, the only time. :) But you are right, BSDs generally require a bit of research prior to hardware purchase.

"True, but then, most linux distros also have an update manager that will only present updates in the list for software you have installed. Those that show all updates do show if you have the software installed or not. so running the update manager and getting the updates for only the installed software cuts down the time to a more reasonable amount. you can run the update manager as often as you wish, be that daily, weekly or less, so the time can again be reduced to be a match for running windows update."

Yes, this is extremely true as well. Due to the interlocked nature of FOSS (for example, a patch to ImageMagig or the xlib library will effect a huge number of apps), this often requires much more testing than a similar patch on a Windows machine. Then again, it is this interlocking nature of components that makes FOSS attractive too.

"You will note, that the title is misleading, a closer scrutiny states that it is cheaper for GOVERNMENT usage than MS software is. The commision that did the study looked at Government computing needs not Business computing needs."

This makes sense. A government is a big enough organization to institutionalise & standardize the knowledge that running FOSS recovers, making the costs much, much lower. When you are big enough to have your own Level 2 and Level 3 techs in house, support is no longer needed. I am sure that Oracle does not pay for RHEL support, as an example.

"And they compared the cost of migrating under the assumption that you would be picking either Vista or a FLOSS os, so the training costs cancel each other out mostly. The FLOSS has slightly higher training costs, but the long term savings for it in licensing makes up that difference very quickly."

Comparing the costs of diamonds to Vista + Office 2007's almost comes out in favor of diamonds. It is the most expensive Windows upgrade in terms of new hardware and retraining since Windows 95. Unlike the Windows 95 uograde, there are now legitimate alternatives. I made the jumpto Office 2007 a few months ago, I still get lost in it. If I nver used Office, it would be great, but I have been using Office since version 4.3, and this is a huge leap. Likewise for Vista. The only UI and management pieces left untouched are the idea of a button in the lower left opening a menu (it is now a Windows logo, not "Start"), and the Recycling Bin. Outside oof that, it is completely different. Much better in terms of workflow, but I am so used to the WSindows 95 - XP way of doing things that I still get lost on some things.

As much as I think the changes are good, I think the fact that it is such a radical change requiring so much retraining represents a huge oportunity for non-Microsoft players. Time to get BeOS and OS/2 updated! Seriously, it is an even playing field, esp. with the number of really common apps that are not Vista compatable, and the lack of 64 bit drivers for a lot of common pieces of hardware.

J.Ja

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a few notes

by apotheon In reply to Response, with no rebutta ...

"Yes, this is extremely true as well. Due to the interlocked nature of FOSS (for example, a patch to ImageMagig or the xlib library will effect a huge number of apps), this often requires much more testing than a similar patch on a Windows machine. Then again, it is this interlocking nature of components that makes FOSS attractive too."
In my experience, it requires less testing -- because it fails less often, so I don't need to make changes, test again, make changes, test again, et cetera.

"I am sure that Oracle does not pay for RHEL support, as an example."
Actually, Oracle has started offering free RHEL support to Oracle customers -- far from requiring outside RHEL support.

"Time to get BeOS and OS/2 updated!"
Let OS/2 die already. I've actually found circumstances where it's easier to find support help for OS/2 than for FreeBSD -- it drives me up the friggin' wall. The six people in the world still using OS/2 do not constitute a critical mass of users to justify anybody giving a crap -- and it's definitely not a worthwhile enough OS in today's market to justify trying to increase use.

Gr.

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lack of 64 bit drivers?

by Jaqui In reply to Response, with no rebutta ...

since when?
my Linux has drivers for 64 bit hardware with no problems.

oh, you mean Microsoft has a lack of drivers.

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