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Australian Senate Hears Open Source Is Too Expensive

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-get-what-you-pay-for dept.

Australia 365

schliz writes "The Australian Government Information Management Office says that a platform change to open source could cost more than it saves. It was pushed to investigate open source software to reduce its AUD$500m budget at a Senate meeting yesterday. From the article: 'Agencies are obliged to consider value for money on each occasion they apply a software,' spokesperson Graham Fry said. 'If the cost of assessing it [open source] was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice.'"

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Do this guys know the definition of user lock-in? (5, Insightful)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097478)

> Australian Senate Hears Open Source Is Too Expensive

Well, dear senators, this is a normal consequence of vendor lock-in:

"In economics, vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in, or customer lock-in, makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without SUBSTANTIAL switching COSTS. Lock-in costs which create barriers to market entry may result in antitrust action against a monopoly."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vendor_lock-in [wikipedia.org]

So, of course, there will be a substantial cost for switching ;-))

In the end, it all depends on how long you wish to stay locked-in. You have to consider the matter in the long term to see the advantages, and long-term thinking is seldom seen in modern politics ;-))

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097510)

Switching cost includes more the just the cost of the software its self. Just because you're using open source does not mean you don't face a certain degree of lock-in.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (4, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097656)

There is definitely a "certain degree" of lock-in, but it's like being trapped in a prison with a key-making machine and full details on every lock in the place. Sure, it'll take a bit of time and effort, but you can get out pretty simply.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097866)

> but it's like being trapped in a prison with a key-making machine and full details on every lock in the place

Or, in modern prison terms:

"being trapped in a modern prison with a laptop with wireless access to all prison systems and with details on how to break-in every system"

Chances are you could even easily have them opening the doors for you and escort you out ;-) ;-))

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098016)

We should always compare IT costs vs doing the work manually. Otherwise, what's the point of IT? No matter which way you look at it, IT always saves money.

Now, switching vendor is simply a temporary inconvenience and requires a certain level of effort, leadership, accountability and responsibility. Unfortunately this is something government tends to avoid just like the Internet reroutes around censorship. In the 60s and 70s, you'd have to buy Blue (IBM) to be save - now it's another company. People go with the safe bets, not the smartest.

If a group is forced to change to from Lotus 123 to MS Excel and as a consequence, they can no longer exchange data with the mainframe, they can just blame the IT group. Switching from MS Office to OpenOffice can have a similar impact. Especially if pilot groups are not well managed and the effort not funded. Things will change it's only a question of time.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097776)

Is that you Bill?

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (4, Insightful)

mrjb (547783) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097822)

Switching cost includes more the just the cost of the software itself.

Yes. in this case it also includes the cost of training people that have never worked with anything but Windows. That is, of course, if you assume you *have* to retrain your existing admins, rather than firing two of them and replacing them with a single Unix admin. In the end, it all depends on how you make the calculation. Sure, a switch *could* cost more, but it *could* also cost less depending on the scenario you choose to follow.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (4, Funny)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098012)

Yeah, you also have vendor lock-in with reiserfs.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098042)

Still too soon. His wiki page makes sad reading BTW.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

Inconexo (1401585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098172)

Of course. But the great cost of switch must be payed once. In the long term, the savings are huge.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097524)

You have to consider the matter in the long term to see the advantages, and long-term thinking is seldom seen in modern politics ;-))

Four years at the Federal level. Three years in most states and territories.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

anty (679975) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097626)

Four years at the Federal level. Three years in most states and territories.

3 Years Federal, 4 Years State. Only half the Senate is up for election each term, so senators are only up for re-election every second term. Unless there's a double disolution...

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097704)

Oh yeah. Got it the wrong way around.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (5, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097708)

The bureaucrats last far longer than that and ultimately they are often the ones that make decisions by undermining decisions more often based upon power plays and ego, rather than upon sound economic decisions. In this case one person was making statements full of if, could, necessarily, assumption, all to cover the fact that they had not bothered to conduct any research. The reason for the lack of research, that research could cost more than $500 million dollars a year, one could only guess that Graham Fry was intending to contract out the research into using open source software to a closed source proprietary software company.

Obviously Fry has no concept of foreign debt, no understanding of maintaining control over software upgrade cycles, no idea about monitoring historical trends and how many times they have bought the same software, no concept at all of life cycle costing, believes the lie that closed source proprietary software is free of maintenance costs and, fails to understand how governments choices in this sector impact upon private industry choices and further impact foreign by a nominal factor of 10 (500 million becomes 5 billion). A true asshat that does not belong in a role that legacy, longevity and, political astuteness has provided him, rather than expertise, national economic awareness or even basic common sence. Sounds like the Green Party in Australia is far more technologically aware than the rest (they also oppose censorship).

It seems that global trend of the right shifting to the loony bin and the left shifting to the right of centre leaving the humanity and environment (over greed and power) based parties, in this case the Greens, to take up the centre left position, holds true. With FOSS the bulk of the money in software can always be spent locally and that's down to state and city level, not just country.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097832)

I worked for Vic Roads [vic.gov.au] all the way through their experiment with OS/2. They back end was AIX and department level servers were OS/2 as were the workstations. The rumour going around was that IBM had spent a lot of money making a few senior managers in that organisation very happy to get that deal through. Around about the time I left staff were pushing for Windows98 to be deployed in place of OS/2. I came back to do some contracting and people were betting on how many hours it would run without crashing.

To get anything different in I think you have to have a lot of money behind it. I can see the same thing going on where I work but the product being pushed is clear case.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (5, Insightful)

Stuarticus (1205322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097558)

Sorry, it's too expensive to even assess if there's any money to be saved by switching. Next item on the agenda, can we get some sort of magic machine that makes sure no-one is watching anything dirty in their computer?

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097580)

The Government only cares what happens in the present financial year, next year doesn't matter. If you don't spend your money in the current financial year, next year expect less budget.

Hidden costs of open source (3, Insightful)

twisteddk (201366) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097648)

What the very short article DOESN'T mention is what we in the industry have known for years:

1) A software LICENSE isn't always cheaper than software SUPPORT. And you DO need support for your platform, open source or not.

2) Using a well established vendor software (like say windows), means it's easier (cheaper) to educate people in the software they'll be using, and similarly easier to find qualified support (in house and outsourced alike).

3) Open source doesn't mean the software is FREE, it just means it is open source. Many companies supply the source code for review when they sell their software to customers.

4) The lifecycle of "well established" products is well documented (and generally very long lived), and may factor into the choice, as noone wants to scrap the software again in 3 years (and incur another switchover cost) when there's no longer any support for whatever you chose as your platform.

5) Techonologically, a lot of software just inst available as open source. You may be unable to find the software you need for your platform, thus again driving the costs up if you have to develop it yourself. Noone wants to be stuck with a legacy system for the next 15 years (again).

So for a long term saving, it's often cheaper to stay with what you've got (or for a new installation, choose the same as everyone else) and pay a lot of licensefees, than to change to something that's cheaper in licensing and have a shitload of other costs.

That said, I LOVE linux, open source and free software. But for commercial use, it just isn't always optimal.

There's also functionality to consider (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097750)

Different solutions, open source or not, aren't always as functional in the ways you need as what you have now, or what you are considering buying. Now, it's easy to say "Well it's open source! Just hire some programmers to write the functionality you need." However that is a problem for three reasons:

1) That costs money. All of a sudden the "$0 per copy" thing isn't true anymore. You have to factor in the cost of the development team. That is not cheap, at least if you want it done well. Good programmers don't work for minimum wage. So that cost must be factored in.

2) You have to support it. If you are doing major development to something you need, you'll then have to support that development for yourself. This means ongoing support personnel costs. While you might not need to keep the whole dev team on, you'll still need some of them because they are going to have to maintain the software. Again, most costs to factor in.

3) It won't be ready right now. If there's an off the shelf solution that meets you needs now, you have to weight that against the development time for what you'd need to add. It isn't as easy to put a dollar figure on, but it factors in. Saying "Oh just wait 18 months," isn't so easy to do.

One area I've personally seen this as a real problem is video editing software. The OSS solutions are pretty abysmal next to things like Sony Vegas Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro. Now those aren't cheap, but in most cases I bet they are way cheaper than trying to fix up an OSS solution. I mean say you've got a shop with 20 editors that all need their own copy of Vegas. That'll run you $12,000 for the licenses. You decide that the included 40 network rendering licenses are enough for the farm for the workload. You also decide that you want to purchase their yearly-ish upgrades, so about $5,000 in maintenance per year. This assumes no discounts.

Ok, you think you can develop OSS to be the same level of quality for that price? Not likely, you can't even hire a programmer for that, never mind that it'd probably take more than one as well as other people (like designers to make it nice and usable). Never mind that your work either has to wait until its done or you need to buy something now. Makes much more sense to just buy the commercial solution.

So while OSS can be a cheaper solution, and can be a better solution, there is no guarantee it is. All the costs have to be evaluated and that includes things like "Does it do everything we need?" and "Is it easy for non-technical users to make use of?"

Re:Hidden costs of open source (5, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097794)

So for a long term saving, it's often cheaper to stay with what you've got (or for a new installation, choose the same as everyone else) and pay a lot of licensefees, than to change to something that's cheaper in licensing and have a shitload of other costs.

In the long term it's NEVER cheaper to follow a vendor's lock-in.

That said, I LOVE linux, open source and free software. But for commercial use, it just isn't always optimal.

Oh, the hallmark of Microsoft astroturfers.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (1)

nemesisrocks (1464705) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097972)

In the long term it's NEVER cheaper to follow a vendor's lock-in.

If you consider the whole-of-life costs of a system, often Open Source does turn out more expensive. Open source products are constantly in a state of flux. Products fork or fold, vendors disappear.

I worked for a government department that procured an open source CMS, complete with a support contract from the vendor. A large part of the rationale was "if the vendor goes bust, we can just hire a bunch of developers, and continue with business-as-usual".

Of course, worst did come to worst. Three years after procurement, the vendor folded. The department hired four developers (which in it self, cost a lot more than the support contract).

Turns out that hiring *good* developers at government pay grades just isn't possible.

At least with a Microsoft product, if they tell you their product is going End-Of-Life, you can throw a couple of grand at Microsoft Consultants, and they'll move you to the next version of the product.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098032)

Unless, of course, they're just EOLing the software without an upgrade path.

And if it's not microsoft, well, smaller vendors do go bust.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098094)

If you consider the whole-of-life costs of a system, often Open Source does turn out more expensive. Open source products are constantly in a state of flux. Products fork or fold, vendors disappear.

I usually despise people who respond with "citation needed", but I just can't leave this one unchallenged.

How are open source product more in flux? I don't see the connection. Stable and feature complete products have less churn than incomplete products naturally, but I can think of examples of both in open and closed source.

Do open source products really disappear more than closed ones? I've had a couple of products we used at a former employer literally disappear overnight, and they were both closed. There was nothing we could do...

Oh, I see. Your version of a comparable situation is a small CMS project vs. Microsoft. What if you had bought the CMs from a small closed source supplier? You would have been totally screwed, I guess.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098062)

In the long term it's NEVER cheaper to follow a vendor's lock-in.

Project foo stops being actively maintained. You hire 5 developers, 2 testers to work on it. You pay them ~50-60k/yr. (5 devs, 2 testers - This is for a smallish project.)

You can do the math and decide if that is worth the cost of sticking with open source or just paying the license cost ;)

I know what I'd choose.

Oh, the hallmark of Microsoft astroturfers.

Actually, saying you "love" linux is necessary when taking an opposite stance because F/OSS cheerleaders like you downmod anything critical of your beloved religion.

Or maybe in you're paranoid mind you think MS actually gives a shit about slashdot comments.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098120)

In the long term it's NEVER cheaper to follow a vendor's lock-in.

This quote is really about the stock market, but the market can be wrong longer than you can be right. And one thing about open source is that it's incredibly expensive to be first and carry all the development costs. With closed source software you implicitly calculate how much it'll add to the value of the product. It may cost 5000$ to develop a feature and one company is willing to pay 1000$, but maybe you can sell it as a "nice to have" to 100 companies for 40$ each. Guess what, a closed source company can do that but an open source company can't.

Sure, in total it can be more effective, but that won't help if those who lead the plow see "Hey, I can pay 5000$ for an open source solution or 1000$ for a closed source solution. Of course all those "nice to have" companies would prefer they get it for 0$ rather than for 40$, but they're not in control. And every attempt I've seen to create any form of money pool system has been a big failure.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098152)

"In the long term it's NEVER cheaper to follow a vendor's lock-in."

And you know this how? By the skewed reports showing the short term, best case costs?

Common FUD from a common pontificator!

Re:Hidden costs of open source (4, Insightful)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097864)

But for commercial use, it just isn't always optimal.

We're not talking about COMMERCIAL.
We're talking about GOVERNMENTAL.

In this case cost is a far secondary issue.

1) while License is usually cheaper than full IP rights for one item, when it comes to deployment of thousands it's often cheaper to purchase IP rights and be free to deploy as much as you wish (one per every citizen of the country...?) Also, starting your own support dept. in this case may be desirable, especially if the problem is in the software and the vendor is not willing to fix it.

2) Cheaper. Safer? More available? Without creating dangerous lock-in? Without danger of losing backwards compatibility?

3) Yes. It doesn't have to be gratis. It must be open.

4) The life cycle of a well established product ends when the vendor says so, and that's the final end. The life cycle of an open-source product ends when you're not willing to support (pay for) its development. Nobody can force you to upgrade if the current version is better than the new one.

5) A lot of software could be written for the cost of licenses of purchasing software that is already written. It's taxpayer's money better spent if the taxpayer gets a piece of software they can use in return, than if a foreign firm gets to sell some licenses.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (5, Interesting)

wrook (134116) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097874)

I'm curious. Who do you get for support for Microsoft products. Does Microsoft offer support? And by support I mean, if there is a bug in Word corrupting your mission critical documents, will they promise to fix it? And will they give you a projected time for completion on the work. And will they give you periodic updates? And will they send you a patched version as soon as it is fixed? How much does that kind of support cost? Are you sure it's really cheaper than an open source project?

And what happens when Microsoft "End-Of-Life"s a product? Can you get support from a third party? Can you develop internal resources to provide support and add small features? Or do you have to simply buy whatever Microsoft replacing it with, regardless of whether or not it fits your needs?

And when you say that finding people able to do internal support (I assume first level support, since you can't really do anything else with proprietary software) is easier and cheaper with more popular software, isn't this simply a training issue? Do you really have such a high turnover rate in your company that most of them were trained in using software at their previous job? Or are most of them trained at your company, meaning that it doesn't matter if it's the most popular software or not -- It just matters that you can find initial training at a reasonable cost?

Certainly I think it's a good idea to get support for software you buy. However, I have never worked at a proprietary company that offered anything resembling what I think of as support. "Support" in the industry means get the off the phone as quickly as possible because every minute on the phone eats your entire profit. Sure we did special one-off deals for customers who bought 10,000 copies of our software, but we gave them a bloody hard time of it. If they didn't threaten to not upgrade to the next version, they wouldn't get anything at all. We might fix their bug in the next service pack, or maybe not, at the whim of the program manager.

Real support, meaning having someone who is contractually obliged to help you when your software doesn't work for you only seems to be available for custom built software. And if you aren't getting source with your custom built software, you're getting ripped off.

Or at least that's been my experience. It would be interesting to see how your experience differs.

Who ever said anything about microsoft ? (3, Interesting)

twisteddk (201366) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098028)

Microsoft isn't the ONLY choice when it comes to vendors. Microsoft is just a supplier of OS (and a few applications). For mission critical stuff, most companies use stuff that's a LOT more expensive than what microsoft charges. And frankly, yes, when I have a business critical error in an MS product, I WILL get it fixed, one way or another, that's what I do for a living, and I'm good at my job. But when all else is said and done, show me another OS that'll run for instance a SAP gui, Toad, Quest Space Manager, Business Objects, Dimension and Oracle, has decent text editing, integrated network support, spreadsheet and is intuitive. Show me, and I'll happily try to convice my customers to choose that platform. But thing is, MS being the single OS that EVERYONE supports, you're pretty much locked in on that platform because of your application needs.

That doesn't mean I can't choose MySQL over Oracle (if my applications support it) and similar. It doesn't mean my server side HAS to be MS if I can do it with something else. However, if I do choose the OSS product, I still have to get my business critical support from someone who will charge a bundle.

And when all else is said and done. It's all about my business. Software should adapt to my business, my business shouldn't have to adapt to the software. So IF I choose a software that can do what I want, that'll be a lot easier (and cheaper) for me to live with, than with software that needs millions of dollars in development before it can do what I need it to. And that's just the initial business costs, think about the TCO and added support costs aswell, the investment in knowledge and manpower etc. and you may understand why so many businesses are choosing the "easier road".

In essence it's the inhouse vs outsource debate in a nutshell. With inhouse, you have total control, but also total responsibility and have to carry the total cost. With outsource, you put everything into the hands of someone else, and they provide you with a service (hopefully) equal to what you pay for it, and that payment is pretty much transparent for a number of years.

Re:Who ever said anything about microsoft ? (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098128)

But when all else is said and done, show me another OS that'll run for instance a SAP gui, Toad

A Wii will run Toad [mariowiki.com] .

Quest Space Manager

Why do these software companies have to make their products names sound so much like video games?

Business Objects, Dimension and Oracle

Wasn't Oracle moving toward Java, which "runs everywhere", and web apps, which also run everywhere?

has decent text editing, integrated network support

What desktop operating system doesn't?

spreadsheet

Apple Numbers. OpenOffice.org Calc.

and is intuitive.

No interface is intuitive; even the nipple must be learned. By "intuitive", did you mean "almost any employee that we hire will have already been trained on the software by another firm"? In that case, GNOME is close enough to Windows for it not to matter until you try to administer the system.

Re:Who ever said anything about microsoft ? (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098228)

Man, I was completely expecting you to show that a Wii platform could run all those options.

I guess I'm back to designing all my user machines around PS3s instead of Wiis.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (2, Interesting)

djjockey (1301073) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098080)

Sorry in advance for what will be perceived as pro-microsoft, but here goes:

Support for OTS software, or hardware, or anything standard for that matter is very different to support for customised or specialised tools. Microsoft will not likely care that you have found a bug affecting your mission critical documents. However, I've yet to see a bug in off the shelf software that does affect mission critical documents. Not saying it'll never happen, but lets face it, most bugs are security, GUI, or minor. Wait a little before jumping to the new version, or better still wait till need has outgrown the functionality. I've seen companies running office 97 till just last year. Because it worked.

End of life ain't that bad. Most Microsoft tools have 10yrs +, and it's not like they suddenly stop working. Just accept that there won't be any support, patches or whatever. But hey, when was the last time you patched Word for one of those mission critical bugs? If you haven't found them in the 10 years, chances are it'll keep working. (ok, if Microsoft had their way, they would... but that's another issue). Custom software will lock you in more than vendors will. Maybe a generalisation, but for now, you don't like Word, change to Open Office. Yes, there's a cost, just like there is a cost for changing from Word 2003 to 2007. But when talking about enterprise systems or niche tools, it's a lot worse - you can end up changing software, vendors and business processes. All of that costs money.

I dare say that you need a lot less support buying off the shelf from a locked in vendor than going open source (you know, cause it's cool, suits your religion or seems cheaper up front).

What annoys me more is when companies don't like the off the shelf stuff and pay to hack it and redesign it - creating the worst of both worlds.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (1)

blake1 (1148613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098124)

Of course Microsoft offer support. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by 'mission critical documents' but they offer a high level of support for all of their products.

They will create patches for you if you discover a bug which is effecting your systems and, in most cases, this graduates to a KB once they have tested it fully. The turnaround for this type of thing is usually as long as it takes them - in the order of days (not months, and sometimes less) - and in the meantime they will devise a workaround suitable to your environment. I couldn't comment on cost, though it is obviously worth whatever they charge considering how many large companies are onboard.

Microsoft's definition of EOL is that they will no longer patch bugs found in the product, nor will you be able to obtain support either online, via email or telephone. It doesn't begin shutting down servers, though I suspect if you are running any 10 year old hardware it may be well past the due time for you, as the administrator, to begin a hardware refresh cycle. With an Enterprise-level agreement you will not be paying for the copy of 'Windows 2000' or 'Windows 2003" but rather 'x copies of Windows Server OS' so it makes sense that in order to get the full benefit of your licensing you upgrade your operating system and software whenever possible.

I also don't buy your comment that you can only have first-level support for a proprietary product. Using MS as the example we have been, I think you'll find that the majority of people supporting Microsoft systems are Levels 2,3,4+ (whatever 4+ may be).

My experience comes from working in a range of large corporations, both consulting and in-house, where Microsoft was the ONLY option due to the quality of the overall product and support provided on their enterprise products.

FWIW I use Mac at home.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (3, Insightful)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098070)

1) But proprietary software needs support as well. So there's no real difference here between open source and non-open source.

2) That's application training, and regardless if it's open source software or not, people will need training. Again no real difference.

3) Many companies do NOT let you review source code. SOME companies allow you to license the source code for a LOT of money.

4) This is silly.. Would you say Windows is 'well established'? They fudged up the successor to XP for a long time, otherwise you have to change to the latest flavor of Windows in 3-5 years. In fact, they will actually not SELL it to you anymore! No such problems with open source.

5) True, a lot of stuff isn't available in open source. However developing your own apps in-house is not necessarily a bad thing as you say it. I've seen plenty of big time commercial packages just fail again and again due to bugs or in the end just not fitting it's purpose for what it was bought for. The advantage of in-house custom made, means it should fit 100%, you have debugging in your own hands, can be cheaper in the long-run, you don't have to worry about the product being discontinued and if it's good, you might even sell it to other similar companies.

So I will have do disagree with your final conclusion. I'm not saying open source is ALWAYS cheaper, but you'll have to look better into the situation before you can make that assessment.

Open Source Initiative's definition (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098090)

Open source doesn't mean the software is FREE, it just means it is open source.

The Open Source Definition [opensource.org] , for what it's worth, was originally based word-for-word on the Debian Free Software Guidelines [debian.org] .

Techonologically, a lot of software just inst available as open source.

I'm aware that video games are in this situation, but this article is about the public sector. Could you describe a couple genres of software used by the public sector that have no Free equivalent? Even electronic medical record software is free software, thanks to VistA CPRS developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

So for a long term saving, it's often cheaper to stay with what you've got

Until it's end-of-lifed. Migration costs from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2007 aren't necessarily less than to OpenOffice.org unless employees need, for example, the Access component.

Re:Hidden costs of open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098188)

Platform change with proprietary software is FORCED
Platform change with open source depends on hardware
Better switch ASAP. Bureaucrat is spewing BS.

I run ext4 with the '98 era PC. Can you access the latest win7 data with a windows 98 PC? EOD

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

brufleth (534234) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097814)

You do know that Open Source does not equal free right? Open source or not they're going to be paying for support. It is altogether possible for a closed proprietary system to ultimately be cheaper than open source because support is much cheaper and easier to get.

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098108)

> It is altogether possible for a closed proprietary system to
> ultimately be cheaper than open source because support is much
> cheaper and easier to get.

I specified in my OP that long term thinking was essential so let's try that:

What will happen to the costs you are talking about if all major governments switched to open source driven by a politic and social will ?

They would most likely go down as more and more people are taught as early as in school how to manage those systems and that software becomes a public and collective property.

Open source is also said to help the local economy so I can't restrain myself from seeing it as part of a future trend that should take place in many sectors, agriculture for example; We might stop shipping lettuce across the country when the the oil needed to power transportation will run out and grow it locally where feasible, thus helping the local economy...

As I said, switching to open source is a decision that needs long term goals.

After performing analysis at different governmental agencies, I most of the time recommend to stay with their proprietary software. I they ask why, I tell them that switching to open source would require directions and budget from top executives in the government and a clearly defined political will to make the switch succeed.

Also, you must be aware that every company on Earth will lobby against such an idea, don't you?

Re:Do this guys know the definition of user lock-i (1)

Super_Z (756391) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098158)

Support for open-source solutions is definetly cheaper because anyone can offer that support without any prior agreement with the originators. With a closed-source solution, you are locked into the vendors support regime. Think Oracle vs. PostgreSQL.

Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097488)

Do they really think it's better to pay for an egg every day than for a chicken today and then nothing for the foreseeable future?

Re:Duh... (5, Insightful)

shanmuha (668499) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097518)

Do they really think it's better to pay for an egg every day than for a chicken today and then nothing for the foreseeable future?

....then pay a little for the chicken feed and pay a little for cleaning up the cage and pay a little vaccinating the chicken etc.. Clearly, you have never bought a live chicken for the eggs :)

Re:Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097598)

You're right, the egg production industry can't possibly be in active balance! They obviously are doing money laundering for some shady criminal organizations, or maybe they're funded by the government to hide aliens.

The "maintenance costs" of the Open-Source-chicken exist even for proprietary-solutions-eggs, and in many cases are higher for the latter.

I knew I should've gone for a car analogy. Anyone got a good one?

Re:Duh... (3, Insightful)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097690)

The egg production industry has economies of scale and security of supply that a single-chicken-owner can't match.

Re:Duh... (2, Informative)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097950)

If you can call the product of a pumped-full-of-chemicals, non-species-appropriately fed, mentally crazy chicken, still an “egg”.

Have you ever tasted the egg from a chicken that lives and eats, like it’s supposed to? After that, a industrial cooked egg tastes like a piece of nasty jelly, void of any taste.
And with the healthiness it’s even worse.

You get what you pay for...

Re:Duh... (4, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097968)

Users of open source software don't exist in isolation; the economy of scale is huge in their case, too.

Re:Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097744)

Why pay for two bus rides every (work)day when you can buy an electric car?

Yeah, buying an electric car is really expensive and you also need to pay for the electricity, batteries, taxes, spare parts etc.

Re:Duh... (1)

slugstone (307678) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097860)

Have you seen what Tyson has done to chickens? It is a road to ...Oh wait off-topic. never mind

Re:Duh... (1)

chilvence (1210312) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097948)

I've looked after chickens, so I know its not as simple as keeping a housecat. But I would never have been anal enough to reach for my calculator to work out the average cost of eggs based on a new bag of feed every x days. It doesn't come down to bits of paper with numbers on them, it comes down to personal choice. Of course then you get the pleasure of having a much clearer conscience and a feeling of self satisfaction when you make your free range omlette.

Public institutions ought to have enough salt in them to get over the issue of TCO, and instead look at it as making a little extra effort to work in a way that benefits the local public, rather than lazily and continuously sinking notes into MS because it happens to be easier.

But obviously doing things in a positive way is not on the agenda for any current world government.

Re:Duh... (1)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098072)

well, you just left the comparable parts of the analogy... to get back into the comparable parts: say feed, vaccine etc. costs less than 1 egg a day AND the difference is more than

price of a chicken / days it has left to live

I've read from several hundred big companies, governments and governmental institutions who reported that the savings of switching to FOSS quickly exceeded the initial costs...

Re:Duh... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097658)

I hate to break it to you but that's not how governments work. Long-term sustainability is no longer on anybody's agenda.

These people sell public real estate to private companies and then rent them back because it gives them more money NOW. Who cares that it's going to cost more in 1-2 years. That's the next guy's problem.

They get a fat bonus from the private company that got the great deal and they don't have to deal with a deficit. Nothing else matters.

How about the other side. (4, Informative)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097506)

Yes, there are costs to adopting open-source, that's the basic message when you use a bureaucrat to English translator.

How about these from TFA:

A 2007 AGIMO survey revealed that 68 percent of government agencies were either piloting or using open source software.

Centrelink, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and National Archives of Australia were known to use open source products;

Looks like it's getting a fair hearing.

How about the cost of government bribery? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097578)

...or of mere stupidity, if that's a simpler explanation?

It could be legitimate (4, Informative)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097584)

On the developer front:

If you have a lot of database stuff, Visual Studio can be much cheaper to develop for, so long as you ignore Microsoft's Architectural Group. For me, moving to Linux isn't just about saving money, really, its to break free from the corporate brain cramp that is Microsoft Architectural guidelines. Visual Studio and C# are great tools, but, if you have to use evaporate 2x as productive multiplier to do 10x as much stupid stuff, there's hardly a savings.

On the office front:

OpenOffice's spreadsheet is not even close to Office 2007 Excel. We developers can say Open Office spreadsheet is good enough, but telling that to someone who lives and breaths Excel is only for laughs.

Re:It could be legitimate (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097664)

I've gone Monodevelop and C#, and there's not much about Visual Studio that I'm missing. Thus far, cross platform compatibility seems fine too. Develop on Linux, deploy on Windows feels slightly kinky, but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Re:It could be legitimate (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097668)

it is certainly true that if you take both and compare you will see a lot more in excell than in oo but does this really matter? How much of this advanced stuff is actually used by majority of brain damaged gov. officials?

Re:It could be legitimate (5, Insightful)

Sumadartson (965043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097844)

If you're brain dead, you can't use the advanced stuff in excel. If you're using excel for the advanced stuff in a critical application, you must be brain dead. Why, for the love of god, is the advanced stuff in excel ever used? I still don't get it.

Honestly, the amount of business critical applications buried in excel macro's is shocking. And, as we all know, the person who wrote the macro never leaves his/her job. This is especially dangerous for government who, for particular branches, have to be able to transparently show how they came to certain decisions. Any responsible official will stay away from excel for all but the most menial of tasks.

Re:It could be legitimate (4, Informative)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097696)

"OpenOffice's spreadsheet is not even close to Office 2007 Excel. "

95% of the users I know use it to make phone lists and such with no calculation at all, because they never saw that Word and its companions can do tables too.

Re:It could be legitimate (1)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098022)

Excel is much better for a phone list. It's easier/faster to input data and it offers automatic filtering (you can filter using a list of values for a column, like say filtering by country or city). Excel also has "grouping", similar to the GROUP BY operation in SQL. It's accessed through a wizard in a menu option, no need for formulas.

Re:It could be legitimate (1)

WhiteHorse-The Origi (1147665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097756)

I use OOo Spreadsheet for everything excel can do... Perhaps you're using the wrong program for your tasks?

Re:It could be legitimate (1)

mythz (857024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097772)

Personally I think Mono Develop has a long way to go before it can match the productivity of VS.NET + R#.
The Mono Develop IDE itself is a speed demon in comparison, but the developer becomes the bottleneck and generally has to write a lot more code, manage imports, etc - its not as good as having R# write most of the code itself.

Re:It could be legitimate (5, Informative)

micheas (231635) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097912)

On the developer front:

If you have a lot of database stuff, Visual Studio can be much cheaper to develop for, so long as you ignore Microsoft's Architectural Group. For me, moving to Linux isn't just about saving money, really, its to break free from the corporate brain cramp that is Microsoft Architectural guidelines. Visual Studio and C# are great tools, but, if you have to use evaporate 2x as productive multiplier to do 10x as much stupid stuff, there's hardly a savings.

On the office front:

OpenOffice's spreadsheet is not even close to Office 2007 Excel. We developers can say Open Office spreadsheet is good enough, but telling that to someone who lives and breaths Excel is only for laughs.

However people that use their spreadsheets for statistics will tell you that using Excel for you calculation is about as productive as using substituting rand() for your equations.

Here is one of several papers [csdassn.org] about the fact that Microsoft has no interest in fixing the broken nature of excel for statistical work.

Think long term (1, Flamebait)

bguiz (1627491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097600)

Yes, vendor lock in, training costs, etc, will cost more than maintaining the status quo, since the licenses for proprietary software are still valid for next few years.

But long term?? Without a doubt open source is the cheaper option there. Bite the bullet now, and several years down the road, you'll be thinking what a good choice you made when the current version of Windows, MS Office, et cetera, become obsolete, and you need to "upgrade".

Re:Think long term (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097778)

Sorry, it's not absolute. A lot of the time OSS saves you nothing and will more often cost you more. My organization has years of experience with this and we've where it makes sense, and more often where OSS solution don't. For small businesses OSS can make a lot of sense financially (assuming you have a plentiful talent pool to hire support staff). Once you are in the big leagues it's totally different.

The cost of software is trivial for medium to large businesses, so not paying software is not enticing; it's all about support and having somebody to sue. Additionally, OSS software support is very hit and miss, hackneyed... And frankly there are only a few OSS software vendors that can provide quality enterprise level support. I'm not even going into the scalabiilty limitations of OSS replacement solutions in a lot of cases. There are cases where OSS choices are the better choice financially, because you know enough about the setup to forego paying for support (e.g.: Apache or a generic DNS servers are known quantities).

It's not that OSS is flawed, not at all. It's that age old problem of there is no accountability/responsibility for quality and support the majority of OSS software that is in existance. And frankly, the code quality for most OSS solutions (even Apache) doesn't compare with good commercial code. These problems and facts I'm stating are not new, are well known, and well established by even some very well known staunch OSS icons. Sorry.

Re:Think long term (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098048)

Once you are in the big leagues it's totally different.

The cost of software is trivial for medium to large businesses, so not paying software is not enticing; it's all about support and having somebody to sue.

I don't believe you've worked in medium or large companies after that statement.

Additionally, OSS software support is very hit and miss, hackneyed...

Not really. I've received excellent support from Novell and their FOSS offerings.

And frankly there are only a few OSS software vendors that can provide quality enterprise level support.

As opposed to proprietary where there is only a few proprietary software vendors that can provide quality enterprise level support. And note, I do mean quality.

It's that age old problem of there is no accountability/responsibility for quality and support the majority of OSS software that is in existance.

There are plenty of commercial support options for enterprise/corporate/small business FOSS software, see Sun Microsystems, IBM, Redhat, Novell etc. This is no different from not being able to get support for the majority of win32 applications out there, the core set that companies tend to use however do have proper support options available.

I'll do it for $250 Million (0)

WhiteHorse-The Origi (1147665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097608)

Seriously, and I'll bring a bunch of my friends. We can do it for $250 million.

Re:I'll do it for $250 Million (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097632)

Sounds good. I'll join.

Re:I'll do it for $250 Million (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097636)

I hope you're joking. Otherwise the fact that you are thinking you can do it tells me you have no idea what it takes to do such a migration :)

Re:I'll do it for $250 Million (1)

WhiteHorse-The Origi (1147665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097710)

Well I can do it because I don't have to pay $50million in bonuses to worthless CEOs. FOr that money, I'll just hire 50 google employees for a year.

Re:I'll do it for $250 Million (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097754)

Great. So those 50 employees are going to manage to train the thousands of users to use the new software, train the help desk to deal with the problems, double (triple? quadruple?) the help desk as there will be increased problems from users, write all the new custom software that has no equivalent on linux, and still have money left over to purchase proper support contracts from businesses that will support mission cirtical software?

Yeah, no you wont.

As usually, price is the only criterion. (5, Insightful)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097640)

As usually, price is the only criterion. And I remember a letter of prime minister of Peru to Microsoft. He explained clearly and plainly that the TCO was moot. It doesn't matter if the analysis is good or bad. It matters that proprietary software is not suitable for government.

Government must not allow for vendor lock-in. It must not create a situation where their data is hostage to a private company.

Government must be transparent in all its processes. Their software included, being open for public scrutiny.

Government must use secure software. No black-box encryption can be considered secure.

Government's duty is to be as accessible to wide public as possible. That means, amongst all, open API for their services, and software available to all citizens no matter what their material status. No paywall of any kind to let only the rich have their way.

OSS is not a choice of "cheaper". It's the choice of "doing things the right way".

Re:As usually, price is the only criterion. (3, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097724)

Obviously the issue is the people who are doing the analysis... consultants...

This is the reason [despair.com] why this kind of thing is all screwed up:

If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem

Re:As usually, price is the only criterion. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097728)

You're certainly referring to this [archive.org] , which someone should point to the *ahem* honorable gentleman from the Australian Government.

Re:As usually, price is the only criterion. (1)

bguiz (1627491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097816)

And I remember a letter of prime minister of Peru to Microsoft

Could you provide a link to mentioned letter?

Re:As usually, price is the only criterion. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097896)

see the AC post above yours, it's it.

Re:As usually, price is the only criterion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098154)

So what you're saying about lock in with a software vendor is that open source solutions that claim they're compatible with their close source counterpart (ie. MSO and OOo) are lying? Just more double talk from the OSS front. Thanks for clearing that up.

Just been through this with them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097702)

Just been through a tender process with a federal agency. After submission, we had to provide risk assessments on all the open source packages proposed in the system. No questions asked about any of the commercial packages even though some had less history and share than the OS stuff.

They seemed happy enough once we provided them with the risk assessments.

Their site seems down at the moment, but the AGIMO have a nice document on usage of open source software in government organisations.

Ain't THAT the TRUTH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097706)

It's always the used cars, sloppy seconds, and used needles. Why can't we do better? Are we that shitty?

Frustrated by the lack of a staggered approach. (3, Insightful)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097734)

I work in state government and what bugs me is we don't put at least say Open Office on every single machine.
It literally costs nothing to do and could at least begin the transition to open source solutions.

Sadly we use document management crap for users incapable of using a filesystem properly, so the saveas and save dialog boxes are replaced by a front end which hands documents being loaded to a specific server. I am not aware if this system can tie in to the open office system.

Stage 1 should be, firefox on every workstation, open office on every workstation, imgburn on every workstation and VLC on every workstation. We should also be virtualising with Virtual Box.
We do in my dept actually put VLC on as default (in conjunction with media player and so on) but it's not enough.

Slowly slowly get the users used to multiplatform open source packages, it doesn't matter if it's a 10 year, very very slow transition, it results in completely free systems in the long run.
I for one am a Windows guy at home but I'd be more than happy to be forced to learn that stuff and support it, from what little I know of linux is it may be missing some UI polish and some enterprise level administration stuff, you can on the other hand lock things down exceptionally well, diagnose problems remotely very well and overall have a pretty reliable system.

It's really sad, but I guess this goes back to the 'no one ever got fired for buying intel' saying, it likely applies to MS applications and OS's as well :/

Re:Frustrated by the lack of a staggered approach. (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098074)

IBM. Nobody was fired for buying IBM.

Misleading headline (2, Insightful)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097802)

According to the headline, the Australian senate says that open source (I guess they mean free software) is expensive, but they actually said that switching is expensive. The headline is supposed to provide us with the best possible understanding of the whole article, given the restricted space, not require us to read the article just to check if it agrees with the headline. Set higher standards, Slashdot!

Re:Misleading headline (1)

ghmh (73679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098232)

You must be new here...

No way (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097804)

Australia is definitely a country where I DON'T want to live.

Re:No way (1)

12WTF$ (979066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097888)

Excellent decision, asshole. Please stay away.
We have enough of you running the country.

Re:No way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098112)

How come you elect assholes to run your country?

In what timeframe? (3, Insightful)

jhhdk (1120433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097808)

Switching costs > Licencensing costs

X$ > Y$ per year !? something about this equation doesn't make sense.

Wouldn't you have to know how many years we're talking about?

Yes, assessing it isn't free (3, Informative)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097838)

'If the cost of assessing it [open source] was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice.'

cost(assessing) > cost(software) where cost(assessing) > 0 and cost(software) = 0

That's true, but doesn't mean anything, so it's a bullshit reason.

And? (2, Insightful)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097890)

It's fairly uncontroversial, isn't it?
* there is a cost for running proprietary, closed source software - usually made up of licence costs plus support costs
* there is a cost for running FOSS - not licence costs, but support costs
* there is a cost for implementing any new software to an organisation, in terms of cost of change, reskilling, downtime, training etc.
Just because an app is free, doesn't mean it costs you nothing to implement it. Any decisions regarding moving from one set of software to another should consider the total cost of change
On top of this, governments do not consider the long term - they want to make finances look good for the period they are in power, so they can get a good economic soundbite at the end of a term and hopefully get re-elected.

Whats interesting (2, Informative)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097902)

Is that most CS talent in Australia *should* be classical Unix, the Darl SCO kind ready.
Australia did not just print out MS CS degrees, they actually funded real Unix CS.
We like our mini military-industrial complex and did fund some maths/CS aspects of our top educational institutions.
So where is the brain *gap* ? We do not have a bunch of xbox playing cubical chumps running our .gov.
Someone fixed something with this.
As someone in Australia did with Saddam Hussein and wheat, Australia can do with software and Redmond.

Re:Whats interesting (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098018)

But this article is really about IT. Its a blue collar occupation. My brother does it. He trained as a cook. He earns more than me too. The CS people are off working for CSIRO, DSTO and the BOM or contractors.

I work for one of those contractors and frankly, 70% of the CS graduates who work for us are glad to be given a safe little windows box with a copy of outlook to organise their meetings, while the rest of us either put up with the corporate linux install or overwrite it with something more inspiring.

Proprietary software platform use open-source too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31097918)

Open source is not just about Linux or OpenOffice, many if not all proprietary applications use at least one type of open source software. Such as compression library, boost c++ libraries, STL libraries, SQLite, MySQL, parsers, image and graphics libraries such as GIL, Imagemagick, html or XML libraries, networking libraries and many many others.

If you business is software, you have to be a complete moron to ignore all that and create everything from the ground up and maintain them - God knows how long it would take to deliver. The cost does not come from whether the source code is available, it is the vendor who try to lock you in that costs you.

The difference in administrating systems (3, Informative)

plusser (685253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097922)

Sounds like we have a difference in administration approach between open source and closed source software.

Open Source
- It's Free
- But if you want something special you will need specialists to write the software and test it for you - Cost lots
- You'll have to pay for your own training
- If you change your computers in future, chances are the software may still be able to be made to work

Closed Source
- It's expensive
- Carefully researched product - will probably meet the needs of your business without much tailoring
- Training will be provided as part of package
- If you change your system in future, chances are you will need to buy the latest version of the software at greater expensive

Options for legacy systems
- virtualisation or emulation - but both have their own administration costs

However, there is one factor that I haven't discussed yet, that is the attitude and stability of the software vendor.
- Some vendors write such highly specialised versions of software that they change little between versions. If you are using such a system then is it probably worth risking the software being closed source.
- But some vendors want to maximise profit, so they will revise the software with short lifecycles and sometime be sneaky enough to remove commonly used features on more basic versions of the software, so that when you do upgrade you have to pay even more or change your processes around the lack of that particular feature.

The horrible truth is that IT companies have a habit of pulling wool of the eyes of governments. This is partly due to the fact that the requirements are often vague and incomplete, but also due to the complexity that governments insist on without understand the consequences. Fact is programming time is like any other engineering type function, it costs money.

With regard the the article, there is too little information to say whether the Australian Government have made the right choice. However, if you want to base the information on the experience with UK government, chances are the politicians have made a complete hash of whatever decision they have made, because they when want a system to perform too many different functions without realising that they are trying for levels of efficiency that could never be achieved, cost more money and finally ending up with a system that doesn't work properly due to fundamental design structures.

Sometimes it is best not to try and implement a one size fits all policy, but too break parts down into their constituents and build systems on a more modular basis. For example two departments may use software from different vendors and have to exchange data, with each other in a define way - the interface software could be open source based and maintained either by the company/organisation/government or a contractor. However, there will be a point when you get to the lack of diminishing returns when trying too hard costs even more, at which point you implement risk management and move on. The problem is that governments are full of people that think they "Know it All", but they in fact "Know everything about nothing" and don't understand when to stop arguing a case as they is no more benefit to what they are saying, obstructing proper process.

So to answer, Open Source or Closed Source - it depends on the application and how you understand the pitfalls.

Let's dumb it down, shall we? (1, Insightful)

digipres (877201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31097974)

From TFA:
> "If the cost of assessing it was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice."
We don't understand it. Do you understand it? This stuff is hard. Have you tried rebooting?

> "While open source software may reduce licensing costs, the cost of support could be an issue."
I was flipping burgers last week and now I are teh IT guy. Have you tried rebooting?

> "Centrelink, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and National Archives of Australia were known to use open source products; however, it was up to individual agencies to make procurement decisions, AGIMO said."
Yes, yes we do. And so do quite a few others. Betcha no-one in the proprietary software world knows who we all are. We're here though, and we're not going away.

Maybe it really IS too expensive to switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098078)

If Australia's government is anything like the US, there is a large number of low-paid support staff that are union members with seniority. The main benefit of open source vs. Microsoft is requiring fewer people to support it. The immediate savings in licenses is pretty much wiped out by conversion costs in the short run, but the real money is when you don't need so much support labor. Somewhere, there are bureaucrats who see fewer vendor perks, fewer warm bodies to supervise, and a shrinking fiefdom. But if the body count and the fiefdom have to be protected at all cost, there really will be no savings. The bureaucracy can outmaneuver the legislature, every day of the week.

Clearly they forgot to ask my department... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31098098)

we're running Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with Open Enterprise Server 2 as our core infrastructure, with a bunch of open-source services providing critical functionality to the entire department across all states. Sure, we pay for support, but in the three years I've been there we've used that support on a total of 7 occasions.

Graham Fry = idiot (2, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098140)

"If the cost of assessing it [open source] was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice."

Newsflash Mr Fry - if you're using free software that's what you'd expect. Since when did zero multiplied by anything become a number?

Imbecile.

Meh, no money saved. (2, Interesting)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098230)

I would like to see open source used more, but it won't save taxpayers money.
If the government has a billion pounds in tax money and spends £500 million on Microsoft Office and £500 million on limos, coke, whores and personal swiss bank accounts, what will happen if they ditch MS Office and get free software?

a) They reduce tax by £500 million.
b) They reduce tax by more than £500 million by also paying back the money they embezzled.
c) They spend £1 billion on limos, coke, whores and personal swiss bank accounts.

Sadly true for CAD (2, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098234)

While document handling, such as the replacement of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word dependent operations, benefit massively from the switch to standards compliant software, I'm afraid that CAD isn't there yet. Try designing circuitry or hardware with open source software and you'll see what I mean. Tools like AutoCAD for your metal work and the circuit libraries for PowerPCB just aren't avaialble in the open source equivalents.

For Active Directory, though, that monster should have been replaced by Bind and Kerberos and LDAP years ago.

an interesting thread, but... (3, Insightful)

pointbeing (701902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098248)

...software costs are so low that for me they're not even on the radar. For me the biggest factor in TCO is people costs, not hardware or software.

In the quantities I procure what used to be called the MS Desktop Pro license (a copy of the current desktop OS, copy of the current version of MS Office Professional Plus and Windows server and Exchange CALs) costs me ~$200 per year per workstation - chickenfeed, really.

A call to the helpdesk costs about $25, a deskside visit costs about twice that but since it isn't my field I'm not gonna address application development costs, even if I did think our developers were smart enough to code in something other than Windows. Hell, they can't even figure out how to make existing applications compatible with IE8.

But I digress - support types generally have little love for software developers and vice versa ;-)

Anyway, over the long term open source software would probably save money but in the short- and medium-term (let's say three years) migration costs would be ridiculously expensive - sticker shock alone keeps it out of the budget.

Part of the up side is I'd be able to extend PC and server lifecycles for a year or so since Linux generally requires less hardware than Windows, but as mentioned earlier OO Spreadsheet is not an acceptable replacement for MS Excel for power users and there is no direct migration between MS Access and OO Database - the only way you can get them to play nice with each other is through an ODBC connector.

I've got one 500-user Access database (yeah, the person who thought that up should be fired but it happened before I hired in) that simply can't be migrated to OO - right now I'm trying to get it migrated to either SQL or Oracle.

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