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Open Source vs. Proprietary

A recent study conducted by Research 2.0 Senior Analyst and ebizQ contributor Dennis Byron states that the rivalry between closed and open source software doesn’t exist because big software companies began investing in open source years ago.  Byron argues that, in effect, enterprise open source is being co-opted by large enterprise software entities—or vice versa—and that the differences between open and closed source are becoming negligible from a market research perspective.



Byron is correct. Many open source endeavors (i.e. GroundWork Open Source, MuleSource, Zimbra to name a few) have matured to the point where there is no longer an open source vs. proprietary debate centered on ideology or software quality. However, a debate definitely still remains – but now it's a debate about value and comparative advantage.

[To give proper credit where it’s due, the theory of comparative advantage was first made famous by English economist David Ricardo in 1817. For more detail, visit Wikipedia.]

The questions of value and comparative advantage at the center of this debate can be applied generally to any sufficiently mature open source market. This article will focus specifically on the enterprise IT management and monitoring space, but the principles can be broadly applied.  Namely, in this example:

  • Where do open source solutions offer a comparative advantage?
  • Where do closed source, Big 4 (HP, IBM, BMC, CA) systems management solutions offer a comparative advantage?
  • How can I best leverage the strengths of each and have them play nicely with each other?

Where do open source solutions offer a comparative advantage?

For example, in the core areas of system monitoring, network monitoring, event management, notification and dashboards, the Big 4 have already lost or are rapidly losing their comparative advantage relative to open source solutions, especially against those open source solutions that use a best-of-breed development strategy, don’t use per-node based pricing, and can provide comparable scalability and distributed deployment options.

[One can surmise, although they would surely be loathe to admit it, that the Big 4 know they’re losing advantage here – witness the recent BTO and data center automation acquisitions by HP, designed to push the OpenView technology portfolio up the value chain.]

Where do closed source, Big 4 solutions offer a comparative advantage?

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