Saturday, January 13, 2007

The ripple effects of Open Source

I cannot quite remember when it happened for me? I have been aware of Open Source software for quite some time but have not been a strong advocate. My opinions were that it was interesting but just a bunch of techies having some fun. Now when I consider what I am using for everyday activities I have to conclude that even this most obstinate luddite has been brought from the dark side. Admittedly some of these applications are not quite Open Source but they are FREE - e.g., utilities from Google, Skype.

Moving up a level it is interesting to observe the reaction to Open source in the commercial world. Having worked for software vendors for many years I understood and accepted the traditional sales model. My customers understand the traditional model and accept the pain that goes with it. The feedback I get is that customers do not mind paying for value but get very uncomfortable with: the sell and run approach, or constantly being dinged for incremental add-ons, lack of communication/roadmap top secret. Customers do raise concerns over Open Source - they need to see a real Company behind the product which offers support and will be around for the foreseeable future. Alfresco seems to be in a new wave of Open Source companies which have a business model and are altering the way companies look at Open Source.

Recently I have invested a lot of effort into WCM with Alfresco and like many reading this article we believe Alfresco will cause a significant impact in the CM world. My question for this article is what effect will Alfresco have on the traditional CM vendors, e.g., Interwoven, Documentum, ..? Can traditional vendors:
- compete on initial cost
- compete on openness of code, roadmap, feedback, bugs..
- offer the same ability for prove the technology or POC without the substantial upfront costs

Traditional vendors have to pay for the high cost of sales and are almost locked in this less than perfect traditional sales model. If Alfresco is successful, then my opinion is that the competition has to react and change. All of the above issues need to be addressed and in addition the vendors need to step up and prove they are the leaders. They should be concerned!!