The almighty question:
Go Open Source or buy Commercial software?
Of course, the answer is much more complicated than that. We will attempt in this post to define some of the factors that are playing a crucial role to this decision. However, we will mention only a few; we expect to get the rest from you as food for thought!
There are a few dimensions to be defined concerning software:
2. Coding quality (bugs)
3. New Features/Upgrade circle
The main focus of this post will be the area of telephony soft switches / call centers.
Buying a call center nowadays can be a cost upwards of 250,000 €. The equivalent deployment cost of an open source solution is nil! Zero! Nada! Still, let’s provide an analysis of the factors to consider in both cases at hand.
Security: Security is a heavy-weight factor one has to take into account when making a software-related decision. This of course depends on the software available. In an example deployment scenario, we could have software that remains active behind a NAT/Firewall configuration, and as such could have less security implications on its own. In the call center case, the call center remains behind a NAT/Firewall configuration at all times, and as such the security implications are considered to be minimal.
Coding quality (bugs): I love this part. :-) Well, think about this: In a commercial software scenario, one can have a team of 100 people who are trying to perform thorough and analytical testing of the application in a corporate level, covering all scenarios applicable. This in principle is a good approach; however, let’s consider an Open Source call center such as asterisk.org: A project open to the community will have a potential of more than 10.000.000 people testing the software in real world scenario installations. When a bug is coming up, one can have thousands of people creating a patch very fast. On the other hand, the commercial software could also present bugs in its deployment, needing relatively much more time to patch them.
New Features/upgrade circle: This is also a very important factor in order to ensure the competitiveness of a company. This sector can be very complicated, involving a bug squashing circle first and foremost, followed by the developing circle (new features). The exact implementation may vary from project to project. In the majority of cases, personal experience has showed that Open Source projects are faster in developing circles and in bug squashing. Notable examples include: asterisk.org, kamailio.org, sip-router.org.
Support: This also constitutes a sensitive area. Support is defined by what one pays, and what one gets, in both cases. The difference here is solely the payment level(s). Usually an Open Source project is cheaper than a commercial project in terms of support funds needed.
Administration: In this area, commercial projects have a better chance to shine, since they offer better administrative interfaces. One doesn’t need a deep and thorough knowledge of what needs to be done. Effectively, following a wizard in GUI with “Next” buttons can do the trick. On the other side, the open source projects require a rather deep and analytical knowledge of the sector at hand in order for someone to run them successfully. Thus, the main difference here is the qualified staff aspect. In both cases someone will need to be paid, the question is whether this someone will be an external support company, or one’s own qualified staff.
There is a further, more complicated question to be asked: Should someone pay somebody else to innovate for them (in the commercial software case) OR take the responsibility and attempt to create innovation in a company internal level? Is that even possible?
The Open Innovation Team!
(Follow us also on Twitter)