I finally got to meet Matthew Aslett of my old firm the 451 Group two months ago during our Bay cruise at OSBC. Matt is a very, very sharp guy, so I was not surprised to see in his recent blog post how he took some obvious anti-open source FUD and slapped a bit of irreverent truth around it.
Here is how Matt translates some common open source “concerns:”
“Open source lacks true and defined standards, best-of-breed capabilities, fully functional integration and knowledgeable staff to support it cost-effectively.”
Cynical translation: “I love Microsoft software.”
“Having tried to manage open source environments, the degree to which rather eccentric – apologies for the generalisation – open source custodians and Unix engineers customise their environments creates extremely bulky systems and applications that are difficult to manage.”
Cynical translation: “I know where I am with Microsoft software.”
“From an organisational perspective, in its level of customisation and lack of true industry standards, this is cowboy technology.”
Cynical translation: “No one ever got fired for using Microsoft software.”
“I would love to see open source continue to grow from a technology perspective. But would I rely on it in a business perspective? Absolutely not – at least not as the main platform driver in my organisation.”
Cynical translation: “Hey, I’m a pragmatist. But I really, really love Microsoft software.”
Of course, Matt is joking, but you could argue that replacing “Microsoft” with any entrenched proprietary vendor is a valid translation of people’s lingering uncertainty over installing open source in their organization.
Just as later in his post where Matt identifies some open source points brought up by the “Naked CIO” columnist could be made about ANY software…the reluctance to change is there – and its not about changing to open source…I think it’s about changing to ANYTHING. IT staff will tend to go with the evil they know…so even if the CRM or other software deployment is junk – some may be reluctant to change in order to not have to learn a new set of potentially problematic programs.
Ultimately, I think the cultural divide between open source and proprietary software IS breaking down. Some old school holdouts will remain, but as open source continues to become the most modern, robust alternatives in the application software space, the learning curve will disappear even faster.