Costs Associated with Open Source Explained
Open source platforms have been part of the IT industry for quite some time now and cost has long been the driver for adoption.
Anyone using an open source platform knows that there are several key motivators to using them. Open source software is often issued under a general public license (GPL) that allows copies to be made, modified and distributed, supported by collaborative development and upgraded as needed.
Another motivator is, of course, cost.
Now ICT projects follow three broad cost structures:
- Software license (once off or recurring)
- Project implementation (professional services for the project)
- Annual support (usually activated upon project close)
There will be some cost associated to each stage of an ICT project. Since open source software can be downloaded and installed for free, you are in for a treat if you are technically minded, as there is generally no cost associated with a license and annual support.
If you work in an organisation, however, this can pose a problem. The system needs to be installed, configured and supported for others than yourself, and short of cloning yourself, you may find that you need to seek support elsewhere.
Now, partners and agencies of open source vendors typically are not allowed to support the free versions of software. Therefore, you may need to pay for a license, and there are going to be real costs associated with all three stages of your project.
What are Alfresco’s Open Source Costs
Alfresco provides two models of its software: the free community version and the enterprise version. The community version of Alfresco solely relies on its community users to help customise and configure the system while supporting a lesser number of features. The enterprise version integrates more features, and is supported by a network of partners.
Alfresco is distributed under an OSI-approved license – LGPLv3. In actual fact, it is ‘open core’, because the same software is distributed under two different licenses. The enterprise version is based on the free version and includes non-open source features.
The main license consideration is if you make a change within the source code, you are required to contribute back to the original starting point (e.g. Alfresco). Otherwise you have to give it back to the community for free.
There are many benefits associated with open source. Whether you are downloading a community version or an enterprise version, costs benefits include:
- Reduced vendor lock-in. Anyone can access the code, therefore in-house or alternative consultants can conduct the integration and customisation work. This means there is a certain competitive tension for the supply of services.
- Cheaper licenses. Either free or for a small fee, open source licenses are cheaper than those of proprietary systems. This is because the community contributes to a lot of the source code for the system.
- Increased cash flow. There is more cash available to support personalisation, coming from a cheaper licensing model.
If you want to help the community, participate. Build something. Install the software and help others get it up and running. If you don’t have the technical capability, or the time or energy to support it, consider an enterprise version so you can get the support that you need. We are always here to help.