Why open source gets my attention

From CMS Report's very beginning, I had every intention to talk about not only those content management systems (CMS) that are open source, but also those CMS that are considered propriety systems.  I personally don't have a problem seeing companies making profit for the products they develop and promote.  Yet, if you look at the majority of posts I have written in the past year you'll find that about 95% of the articles center around open source CMS and not propriety systems.  Part of the reason I don't talk much about propriety CMS is that I just don't have the same access to them as I do with open source software.  However, a tiny article in one of the IT trade magazines reminded me another reason why I talk so much about open source software.

In ComputerWorld's February 12, 2007 issue there is a small article on page 8 titled, "There’s lots of Web 2.0 talk...but where’s the real action?"  The article discusses how commercial Web sites are looking into AJAX and other Web 2.0 features, but never seem to go beyond the Web 1.0 search tools.  Siderean Software Inc. believes they have the answer with their Seamark Navigator search software.  Siderean claims that want separates Seamark Navigator apart from the rest of the the other search software is that it uses relational navigation as opposed to relying on keyword search or guided navigation.  What caught my attention though was how ComputerWorld described the product.

Schmidt thinks it will give you a flavor for what Web 2.0 might offer, at least as far as search goes. Seamark Navigator doesn’t just index and search data within the Oracle domain, it also crawls external Web sites, blogs and podcasts that contain related material. Brad Allen, Siderean’s chief technology officer, points to “tag clouds” that visually show high-traffic items, indicating information that others think is valuable. That, he says, can be helpful when you’re looking through myriad forum posts. Pricing starts at about $125,000.

Please, read that last line again. I can't help but offer at this time a few sarcastic comments with regards to how this propriety system has been described to me.  What this article says is that for $125,000 USD a full suite of Web 2.0 features are not provided but only a "taste of Web 2.0".  Huh?  So before I spend my company's hard earned money on this software...how could I with good conscious not look at other choices besides propriety software?  What features would I find if I looked elsewhere?  How about using open source CMS that contain not only the Web 2.0 features I'm looking for but more than likely originated from a community of developers that actually helped invent Web 2.0?  Oh and by the  way, this open source software can be used at the starting price of either free or at very minimal costs.

I'll be the first to acknowledge that it is possible that the Seamark Navigator provides companies a few options that may not be available in an open source solution.  Regardless of whether the software is open source or propriety,  it is more important that the software meets your business and strategic goals.  In the end of the analysis though, I have a hard time advocating the purchase of expensive software for any size company if free or cheaper software that is fully functional for my needs is available.  What attracts me to open source software is not that it is free but that in most cases the use of open source software just makes good business sense.  Both Google and Amazon understood the value of open source early on in their company's history and I'm amazed there are so many companies and organizations still afraid of using open source solutions.

If you are a CEO, CFO, or CIO reading this article...do yourself a favor and see how scalable and reliable many of the open source CMS are today.  Please take a look at a CMS such as Alfresco, DotNetNuke, Drupal, Joomla, and Plone.  See if any of the open source CMS actually would fit the bill for you and your company.  Take a look at database systems such as MySQL and PostgreSQL and see if they also meet your business needs.   Perhaps instead of spending all that money on a propriety system you can invest a few of your IT people into the open source communities where they can co-develop a product that meets not only the needs of the community but also the needs of your company.

The use of open source may be a win-win situation and cost your organization a lot less than a starting price of $125,000.  Yet, using open source is not all about the price, but because open source offers a competitive advantage.  I assure you, if you don't use open source, your more successful competitor likely already is using the software in one form or fashion.  Why just reach for a "taste of Web 2.0" when you can have the whole meal?