Free as in Puppies

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ernest.park's picture
President Obama has said he is prepared to go through the budget "line by line" to cut wasteful spending, but has so far failed to give any specifics of how that would be done. President Obama reached out to Scott McNealy from Sun to deliver a white paper regarding FOSS. Scott focused on the key offering of FOSS to business, vendor lock-in, and avoided the “free” position. 


"It's intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software," McNealy said. "Open source does not require you to pay a penny to Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or any proprietary vendor any money."        


Scott McNealy said in 2005: "Open source is free like a puppy is free".,1000000121,39202713,00.htm   



Richard Stallman on Free Software vs Open Source (06/29/08) (paraphrased)

Ernest Park: At the end of the day, free software, OSS, FLOSS, etc - there are a lot of names to describe non-commercial software made available in a framework that encourages participatory development, and a lot of opinions and points of view, many distinct, all personal. I believe that for the moment, we can both agree that our values differ in some specific ways. However, would you mind providing a comment less vague and subjective, focused more on the community acceptance and success of the GPLv3 family of licenses?

Richard Stallman: The free software movement is not merely personal. It is a political movement like the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, etc.

You've described the activity using the ideas associated with the term "open source". The free software movement's goal is not even included in that description. Thus, a thoughtful free software supporter knows better than to endorse the way the issue is framed by your site.


Note - The interview above was the result of four rather long emails. The interview was intended for the blog, and the summary above was edited directly from the email exchanges.  In practice, what does “Free” in FOSS really mean?
  • Freedom
  • Low cost, vendor selection, innovation and healthy financially driven competition
  • Skype 
While FSF puts software freedom right up there with the civil rights movement, I believe that their interpretation of freedom may be less relevant than the operational offerings of FOSS community. Companies choosing to use and fund FOSS projects are doing so for the operational benefits – cost, availability, avoiding single vendor solutions. Their selection is likely not driven by need to take a political stand for software freedom. If the innovation is being driven by the customer, the sponsor, FOSS will continue to represent a set of standardized tools and platforms,  and vendors will provide integration and support around those platforms for fees. As long as FOSS provides the price/solution options to customers and service providers, it will continue to evolve and grow.

******  "A move to open source will lower costs and increase capability," said Mr Tiemann who is also the vice-president of Red Hat, the world's leading open source technology solutions provider. "This is the kind of change we need if we are ever going to see the government reform its operational capabilities and cost basis. If they fail to do this, it's one more stick in the mud. The capital markets are telling us today we can no longer afford much more status quo," he stated.  ****** Aside from the socialist ideals, FOSS is also a growing commercial business and a viable alternative to closed source. Will FOSS kill closed source? No. It will start to reduce the financial value of former proprietary technology to utility, thereby reducing the cost of commercial solutions while still offering plenty of choices. FOSS offers
  • Rapid time to completion – components are readily available for use, also, no licensing cost allows more money to be spent on implementation of existing FOSS technology
  • Educated user base – availability across a large user base has created a strong core knowledge in popular projects
  • Deferred cost – spend money on management of solution rather than license – lower upfront cost
  • Favors rapid innovation – closed source vendors need to capitalize on their investments in proprietary technologies 
  • Oversight – access to source code allows review of potentially unfavorable technology 
“Do not expect to automatically save money with open source software, or OSS, or any technology without effective financial management," said analyst Mark Driver of Gartner.  


COSS: Sun Microsystems, a strong proponent of FOSS, used the very appropriate term “Commercial Open Source Software” and the largest self-proclaimed contributor to the FOSS community measured in LOC. 

COSS offers

  • Vendor support – established engineering and customer support
  • Implementation – vendor trained internal and external engineering for solution delivery
  • Value added performance and experience – support and upgrade options that deliver value added experience for a fee
  • Management – vendor tools, processes and staff to provide long term operations of infrastructure 
  • Project evolution – vendors grow key projects to meet customer and community needs, and provide support for such innovation 
  • Responsibility – FOSS licenses absolve the creator from damages tied to use a project. COSS vendors contract to accept such responsibility or mitigate the associated risks 
  • Protection from single vendor lock-in – offers a viable alternative to entrenched commercial vendors with costly and closed solutions 
  • Competition – Commercial FOSS offers a HUGE advantage. It allows vendors to compete to deliver solutions working from the same basic origin, where the community and the customer benefit from numerous cost and QOS alternatives
How does FOSS really differ from commercial software? Maybe it doesn’t. Does it make that much difference that we can look at the source? FOSS provides the threat that a customer “could” do it themselves, but they don’t want to. The access to the source in business practice puts a financial cap on the overall value of a FOSS based solution that any vendor proposes to deliver, since beyond a certain price threshold, competitors will be happy to step in. The winner in FOSS is the enterprise customer who gets favorable and constrained pricing, and the beneficiary is the community who get the use of these great tools at no immediate financial cost.

Business and government needs to have rules, support, someone to call. Security needs checks and balances. Business want FOSS +. They want COSS. The developers of the largest COSS projects are paid fair compensation for their work. They are not starving evangelists working for the good of mankind without recompense. In practice, COSS is the next vendor, the new old thing. COSS allows vendors to compete commercially with the same projects, with the same core source.

How much does a free puppy cost? If you plan to feed it, care for it, get it a rubber ball, a leash and a bed, medical care and a nice coat for winter, then it costs a lot. How much does that free puppy cost if you plan to get a maintenance contract, onsite support, and all the vaccine boosters for life? All software deployed in an enterprise requires maintenance, management, oversight, security, hardware, infrastructure, and more. License is a small and relatively manageable cost of software in comparison with keeping it running over its useful life, and the availability of similar solutions from alternative sources makes for healthy and competitive financial business.  


Who wants a free puppy?

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