The cost of open source software
by Bart Copeland

Bart Copeland, February 17, 2010

Open source not freeMuch has been said in our inner open source circles about the cost of open source. But now, people outside the inner circle are understanding the value and costs associated with open source. Open source software bits are generally freely available for download, so the acquisition costs are low. But like any software project (open source or commercial), there are still costs with support, training, and maintenance.

A few days ago, Insurance Networking News published this article on "Why Open Source Software Isn't Exactly Free". As Joe McKendrick states, the insurance industry "relies on robust, bulletproof software for a range of applications" which also means tying together lots and lots of data. While there's been buzz around "mash-ups" to deliver a unified view of data mashed together from various sources, the real workhorse behind alot of these applications is dynamic programming languages. Our corporate customers like Credit Suisse and Bank of America have been using dynamic languages like Perl and Python to integrate various applications and databases that store massive amounts of transactional and customer data.

Like McKendrick says, these companies and many more, are starting to use the hybrid open source approach. Using open source components, whether Perl and Python, or other parts of the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL), backed by a commercial vendor that provides support, upgrades, and training. So they're still saving on the upfront licensing costs and leveraging the power of the open source community to get the best in dynamic languages for their mission-critical applications. But as a large enterprise who can't afford for systems to go down, they invest in commercial backing so they have "a throat to choke": a company to rely on at any moment, rather than the open source community to lean on without any guarantees.

As open source becomes more pervasive in companies (as McKendrick says, "a majority of companies are, to some extent, embracing the LAMP stack"), and savvy IT managers embrace the hybrid approach, we will explore the total cost of ownership of open source in an upcoming white paper. Stay tuned....

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Category: open source, perl, python
About the Author: RSS

Bart Copeland is our CEO and president. He's passionate about ensuring that everyone at ActiveState has a lot of fun while solving complex problems with applications that provide real benefit to our customers. He holds an MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix and a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of British Columbia.


2 comments for The cost of open source software

Hajimemashite, ActiveState!!

I am using ActivePerl522 in Japan.

The key system of Japan is using the character-code of Shift_JIS (NOT Unicode).
The programmers in Japan are using ActivePerl522 to treat this Shift_JIS.

And, Shift_JIS cannot be treated well with Perl5.8 or Perl5.10.
So ActivePerl522 is the latest version for Japan (in my conception).

I know ActiveState to be an undertaking for profit.
However, I want you to save the perl5.005 refugee.

I want you to keep opening ActivePerl522 and PPM to the public free of charge.

Anyway, I thank ActiveState.
I was not able to work if there was no ActivePerl522.

Arigato, ActiveState!!

INABA Hitoshi


Hello Hitoshi,

Can you please explain further what the issues are that prevent you from using a more recent ActivePerl release? Perl 5.6 added unicode support, which was improved in 5.8 and 5.10. I see the module that you link to (Sjis) actually has support through the upcoming 5.12 release, so I'm not entirely sure why you would want access to a 10 year old release.

Of course, the blog system isn't an ideal place to have this discussion. Please feel free to bring it up on the ActivePerl mailing list, or if Windows specific, perl-win32-users, which we also monitor.