Ideas on Enterprise Information Systems Development

This blog is devoted to ideas on Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) development. It focuses on Lean Thinking, Agile Methods, and Free/Open Source Software, as means of improving EIS development and evolution, under a more practical than academical view. You may find here a lot of "thinking aloud" material, sometimes without scientific treatment... don't worry, this is a blog!
Every post is marked with at least one of Product or Process labels, meaning that they are related to execution techniques (programming and testing) or management techniques (planning and monitoring), respectively.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Open Source for EIS?

Short Answer
It is safer. And cheaper. And auditable...

A bit longer answer
I could stop here because every IT professional heard this at least once in life, but companies still rely a lot on Windows in both client and server sides. Today I read from a big Brazilian newspaper that USA's Department of Defense estimates that 55,000 new computer viruses appear a day. Guess which operational system these viruses aim for?

If you are not convinced, I will summarize some figures I found here (as of June 2010):
• Windows:
-1 to 1.2 billion MS-Windows virus signatures
-Only 1 million signatures are checked by an antivirus => 0.1% can be scanned
• Others:
-270 Apple Mac (OS-9 or older) viruses
-No known Apple Mac OS-X viruses as of June 2010
-60 Linux viruses (of older distributions)
-No know Linux viruses as of June 2010
• And more:
-55,000 new Microsoft Windows malware per day (as of March 2010)
-Compare to 22,000 daily average in 2008 and 40,000 daily average in 2009.

Why people still use Windows and MS-Office in companies? The answer relies on legacy. Legacy technologies, and a terrible asset found in many enterprises: IT people with legacy minds.

Sorry for being so direct and a bit rude, but I challenge anyone to prove, unless recent heavy investments justifies, that Windows and Office are not replaceable by Linux and Libre Office on most enterprise areas. Libre Office does 95% of what Office does, and the other 5% probably you will find few users in your organization who really need it. Some other softwares, in special the graphical tools, are not Linux-friendly in general, however, even for companies with design bureaus - people that uses CAD and such -  again you will find many users that don't need Windows. And still, why use MS-Office?

The IT Legacy Minds
I think that with the figures above, it is very unlikely to justify "scientifically" the use of Windows in most organizations, even when we talk about previous investments. Think of the money spent on Windows, Office, and anti-viruses licenses. Sum up the cost of repairing infected machines, the loss of information, the resulting productivity losses, the private data disclosure, and you see that the cost of training people to use Linux and Open Office is much, much lower.

A real problem is with legacy systems, written to run in fat Windows clients. In the case of business systems, if they are more than 10 years old, it is justifiable, if not, it is strange that your developers or your software supplier haven't developed them for the Web, given that one of the things that were clear after the Y2K problem was that fat-client information systems were much more expensive to maintain. In other words, unless some clear necessity of using fat clients justifies, IT people made a wrong decision.

In some specific areas, such as industrial automation, fat clients are really necessary, however, even in these cases, you can develop in Linux. I myself took part of a team which developed, deployed, and supported, from 2005 to 2009, an industrial application made in LabView for Linux. In fact, we were one of the firsts to put in production PXI-SCXI hardware running Linux in the world, and we did it for an offshore oil producing plant - a quite severe environment.

Therefore, I feel free to conclude that the main barrier is really the lack of IT professionals to deal with Open Source solutions, and this problem is caused by  the number of IT professionals that simply don't want to study new things. It seems paradoxical, however, in my opinion, IT people are quite conservative!

There are also personal interests involved: if the organization adopts an IT structure that is safer and bring much less security problems, maybe some people will loose their jobs (you can find a fable on this type of employee behavior here).

Finally, I would like to mention a post from the Agile Scot blog: Department of Defense (DoD) is #1 using Open Source for Government. As the title suggests, the DoD uses a lot of Open Source, thus, even if your organization is bigger than the USA's DoD, do you think you have more tentatives of invading your systems than them?

1 comment:

  1. Rogerio

    Congratulations by the post.

    I would like to highlight the growth and dominance of Open Source technologies such as mobile phones, tablets, ebook readers and other emerging