Open source not cheaper, Sun is dead: McIsaac

As long as cost-cutting dominates the IT landscape the rush by enterprises to seek out Linux and open source alternatives will continue, despite the fact it isn't any cheaper than proprietary software, Meta research director Dr Kevin McIsaac said last week.

"Frankly, open source is no cheaper than proprietary software, because the biggest cost is support," he said adding that in-house support is not a viable option.

"Unless you are a Telstra, you don't have the economy of scale to support open source software; it is not a viable option.

"It is important to have several viable competitors to avoid single-vendor vision and drive down costs."

Addressing delegates at an open source conference in Sydney last week, McIsaac said the big loser in the rush toward open source is Sun Microsystems which will end up being another Digital Equipment Corp, as the server hardware market is effectively commoditised.

With reference to Telstra’s recent claims about cutting 50 per cent of IT costs, McIsaac said: “There needs to be a good story around open source before it can be considered a cost saver.

"It is common for open source applications to be integrated to form a solution and integration should be around applications and infrastructure."

The open source development model, not the software, is key to its success including the ability to collaborate over the Internet, McIsaac said. With the apparent shift in server hardware platforms from proprietary to commodity systems, McIsaac said RISC-Unix systems are becoming increasingly irrelevant and Intel will dominate the data centre by 2007.

“With an annual price-performance improvement of 30 to 40 per cent, Intel systems will gradually replace Unix and mainframe systems and Sun will become the next Digital,” McIsaac said. “The question is when and how it will occur. Bill Joy leaving the company is an indication of its demise.”

Critique aside, McIsaac said open source could be the formation of a new model in vendor-user relations.

“Economic and business models will change to reflect the open source model,” he said. “Leverage open source to commoditise your infrastructure and implement it in phases as it matures.”

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