The debate over whether it is better to go to a company like Microsoft or Oracle to buy proprietary, or to go down the Open Source route where the software is often free when developed by a community or enterprise Open Source with a subscription covering service, support and other aspects, has been raging for years. The truth is that it’s not always a question of whether one type of software solution is better than another as you will often find them being used in hybrid IT systems.

However, it is important to understand and think about the advantages and disadvantages that Open Source and proprietary software applications and operating systems create. Mike Curtis, Executive Director of Service Delivery at LinuxIT, says that there “Has long been a question of whether to build or buy software, but this implies the decision is an all or nothing one; and there are advocates in both camps that would have one believe that this is actually the case”. Yet their opinions are often far from the truth.

Build or Buy How Do You Like Your Software

What is the hybrid approach?

Whenever you are considering which approach to take, it’s important to have the flexibility to tap into advantages and innovations from both proprietary and Open Source systems. By following a hybrid approach, which involves a mixture of the two solutions, it is possible to profit from the benefits of both. They can complement each other. For example, application programmable interfaces can be created using Open Source coding to plug any operational or performance gaps that may exist in the proprietary software vendor’s product.

Is Open Source quicker to develop?

Bryan Foss, a visiting professor at Bristol Business School and an independent commercial and public sector board level advisor, says that with Open Source there is the possibility of being able to develop software more quickly than a proprietary vendor can. He cites Facebook as an example and then adds that “You must be prepared to maintain an environment which could be far more complex and costly than what we have been used to as legacy systems”. It is therefore important to compare all of the associated costs.

The decision should be made based on how it improves your business performance, and with this in mind Curtis adds that the wrong software choice can increase capital and operational expenses. So he advises organisations to speak to a company like LinuxIT to ensure that they are able to meet their mission critical requirements to enable, for example, them to remain competitive within the marketplace.

This will increase your own organisation’s ability to find the right solution and avoid the pitfalls of creating an unsupportable and overly complex IT environment. By going to a company like LinuxIT it’s also possible to avoid the pitfalls that are associated with the build or deploying Open Source and hybrid systems.

How do I avoid proprietary lock-ins?

Another key issue to avoid is the vendor lock-in that can often be associated with buying and working with some proprietary software companies. Yet it’s important to realise that even Open Source software is licensed, even though it is often free to download or install.

Switching to Open Source software could nevertheless offer your organisation the following benefits:

  • With or without LinuxIT’s outsourced support, it could save you capital and operating costs
  • It could provide you with systems that are highly interoperable, reliable, scalable and secure

If you go down the build your own route using Open Source software, you will need to undertake some due diligence and closely inspect the contracts to make sure they meet your needs.

Consider software-build costs

Building your own software from scratch can be as expensive, if not more costly, than buying software as there is a need to hire software developers to create bespoke solutions. That’s why many organisations – large, medium and small – are more likely to opt for an Open Source software platform that has already been partially developed. They can then adapt it to suit their organisation’s needs, and integrate the Open Source solutions with proprietary systems in order to maximise the potential benefits and ROI that both options offer.

For more ideas on implementing Open Source operating systems, please read our eGuide Open Source surgery: migrating from Unix to Linux.