David A. Wheeler's Blog

Sat, 15 Jan 2005

January 2005 release of “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!”

I’ve made another release of my paper “Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS, FLOSS, FOSS)? Look at the Numbers!” I made many changes, here are some of the highlights:

  1. In the section on governments, noted various documents useful for governments who choose to use OSS/FS, including the short article by Adelstein: and the European IDA’s migration guidelines.
  2. Added a longer explanatory essay, noting that software isn’t normally owned by its users, and thus the term “total cost of ownership” is misleading. A proprietary software user, in particular, doesn’t have the normal rights of ownership: they can’t view for understanding, modify, or redistribute. An OSS/FS user isn’t an owner either, but their rights are at least somewhat more similar to an owner’s. Included a link to the trusted computing FAQ by Ross Anderson; see the text for details.
  3. Added a section on the relationship of standards and OSS/FS, and in particular noted that OSS/FS can sometimes be considered an “executable standard”. After all, you can use it (so it’s useful as it is), AND you can also see EXACTLY how it works (helping to counter the problem of ambiguity that occurs in far too many standards). This is particularly obvious when a standards group creates an OSS/FS project to showcase how to implement a standard.
  4. I noted some alternative abbreviations of OSS/FS in the title. I’ve noted them for years in the text, but thought it’d help some people if the title itself acknowledged them. I actually like “FLOSS” (Free/Libre Open Source Software) as an abbreviation; but I didn’t think of that when I originally wrote this paper, and I figure that changing its title (or content) now would simply make the paper harder to find, as well as being a pain for me.
  5. Added info from Massachusetts on OSS/FS legal issues, and quoted its conclusion: “Use of either open source or proprietary software poses some legal risk to states. States face fewer risks in connection with the use of open source software compared to their private sector counterparts, and the risks that they do face can be managed.”
  6. Noted Torvalds is named one of the best managers of the year.
  7. Noted Chicago Mercantile Exchange example.
  8. Referenced Committee for Economic Development, which mentions OSS/FS relationship to innovation. See http://www.ced.org/docs/report/report_dcc.pdf or http://lwn.net/Articles/73678/.
  9. Added reference to http://searchvb.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid8_gci1036918,00.html
  10. Gave examples under support of some companies that provide commercial support for OSS/FS; including MozSource, AdaCore, MySQL AB, various Linux distributions, etc. Noted the lists of consultants for Debian and OpenBSD. I can’t list everyone; the point is just that this is an option.
  11. Added information on bounty/sponsor systems and software ransoms.
  12. Added reference to Coverity study on flaws.
  13. Improved the TCO section, e.g., noted Cybersource update to their TCO study. Noted switching costs issues; this drives most companies to start using OSS/FS on new deployments instead of existing ones to start with, since then there’s no switching cost to pay.
  14. Noted the humorous article “Total Cost of 0wnership” (note the zero), and added reference to “Wisdom of the Crowds” book.
  15. Noted various OSS/FS business opportunity, and an interesting report that salaries of core contributors are 5-15% higher.
  16. Added reference to Koders.com, and an interview about it. I put it in the innovation section - it’s much easier to innovate by being able to reuse all that pre-existing code for the “other stuff” — all you have to implement is the new idea, not the piles of “other” stuff.
  17. Referenced IBM’s Blue Gene/L supercomputer.

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