I currently work for a very large retail chain. Already having a successful legacy eCommerce application written in ASP, new management came in and decided that to keep up with current technology and standards we needed a complete rewrite of our system. While I do not disagree, what happened next was disheartening. A new IT director came in that had bad blood with Microsoft and new management decided that we really should move open source tools and standards.
One by one the .net people we had dropped off as they brought in java developers. They auditioned major vendors. It came down to IBM and BEA, they chose BEA Weblogic Server and Weblogic Workshop. 4 years and a fleet of outsourced developers from India and we are in a precarious position, there are no associates left that know the platform or it’s architecture. The outsource vendor poorly documented the solution, and there are few consultants willing to easily divulge information. We are into BEA for more than we were ever into Microsoft and our system is nearly as proprietary as it would have been on .net.
Before you think this is a bashing article, I have used java on tomcat, it’s fantastic. I have used eclipse, it’s a great IDE. Unfortunately needing to use technology like enterprise java beans, that wasn’t feasible so open source becomes vendor tied, only to a different vendor.
Sometimes you wish people would take a few minutes to figure out the long term cost on open source solutions. Even in the Linux arena, when you take the amount that you have to pay competent developers and admins, you can easy suck up your saved costs in licensing fees. One of my close friends, and our last actual employee who was a Linux admin, left on Friday. It’s apparent on conference calls that all of the work and information is soley held by the contractors. The point to this little ditty is that our open source solution is more mysterious to us now than any .net based solution could ever be. I understand this is more faulty on the part of management and contractors, but the cautionary tale is the same. Waving your open source wand does not give you low cost of ownership and a truly portable solution that anyone and everyone can understand immediatly.
I am not going to end this little story with everyone thinking I hate Linux, java and open source in general. Quite to the contrary. I use SSH to get into a Linux box at home instead of using Remote Desktop, I always keep a copy of Fedora running on a vmware box on my notebook for those times when it’s handy, and there are many incredible open source apps I choose to use (including open office over MS office), I use Firefox more often than explorer, but you have to understand that in the big picture, Microsoft is not the enemy that everyone makes them out to be, and throwing your eggs in an “open source” basket does not aleviate all of the costs associated with traditional proprietary vendor solutions.
So here I am, our company was sold to a even larger company, we are on the eve of a huge decision choosing our platform for our intranet sites and business to business sites, and the words being tossed around are Open Source, Weblogic, Websphere, etc. No .net to be heard. Seems to me that a cost/benefit analysis that does not include Microsoft in it’s research is flawed from the start.
THE FINAL WORD: I am not saying either one is better. I am only saying, do not let your emotions make your IT/Financial decision because open sources is not always cheaper.