Open Source, Closed Minds

September 24th, 2002

I’ve been pitching web collaboration via Open Source tools lately. I’m trying to generate interest in having people contract me in to supply them with a working Open Source based collaboration portal and to provide advice and development in those areas.

Specifically, I’m demoing to companies a full-featured Open Source based intranet site with news items, comments, forums, downloads, weblinks, etc and comparing its features to more extensive (and expensive) solutions such as Microsoft’s SharePoint. A really good example of such a comparison is the case study of the Government of Hawaii’s portal.

Last week I was in a gigantic multinational company. The presentation went well – they were impressed by the scope, manageability, extendability and feel of the demo site. They liked the idea of saving bucketloads of dough. Everything was going smoothly.

Then they remembered that the previous week they had received an internal memo declaring that Open Source software was not to be used in the company unless a commercial solution did not exist. They’d have to review that memo and see how it affected this decision. I’m not privy to the contents of the memo, but it sounds to me very much like Fear Uncertainty and Doubt rearing its head.

They also said that some company-wide desktop app Microsoft licensing agreement allows them to use SharePoint portal services throughout the company, so that would mean they’ve got it “for free” too, so maybe there wouldn’t be any advantage to my suggestions. I’m fairly doubtful that the licensing will include adding unlimited Win2k SQL servers and SharePoint servers, but I guess huge multinationals can afford to spend whatever money isn’t being looted by their executives on blanket licenses.

7 comments to “Open Source, Closed Minds”

  1. This is very interesting. I like to learn more about what you’re doing and talk about whether it’s right for some of our US clients.


  2. Your proposed solution sounds like Zope+Plone!! is it is it? 🙂

    excellent choice!

  3. Zope+Plone is where I would go for larger more flexible needs, but my foot-in-the-door choice has been PostNuke. It’s good for making a flexible and easy-to-install and maintain turnkey system, and a major attribute for BigCos is that it is listed as an IBM Global Solution, which tends to carry some weight against the FUD.

  4. You could also look at phpgroupware
    does all of that and more, including beer recipes.

  5. Stanley and all,

    does anyone know more about phpgroupware.org? their site does not seem to be reachable. (error is Anonymous Accounts not installed, alert administrator)

  6. I’ve recently worked with an attempt at an IBM WebSphere/QuickPlace/SameTime collaborative solution as well as Microsoft’s SharePoint Team Services in the US Federal Government. I think the company above was referring to the “free” (i.e. bundled with Office XP) SharePoint Team Services (STS) “applet.” STS installs MSDE if you don’t have your own SQL Server, scales very well and includes a tidy package of functionality with zero coding required.

    Probably the biggest advantage is that if the company is already running a Windows network, STS can participate in the existing authentication method, which means you can add users or groups by simply referencing their domain credentials.

    This single problem is a huge roadblock with implementing other solutions in a Windows networked environment. You have to figure out how to get LDAP working with MS Active Directory. Otherwise, you have to fat-finger in all your users, and experience has shown that most are highly resistant to another set of credentials to maintain.

    Moral of this story: if you want to create an open source collaborative services solution, make sure the LDAP/authentication piece rocks, ’cause that might be the thing that gets you in the door to stay. We’re suffering pain and nashing of teeth trying to make the IBM solution available to 10,000+ users with no LDAP/AD integration solution worked out yet! Arghg!

    I came on this post from a Google search on open source. Just moved and my new location doesn’t support broadband static IP yet, so I have to outsource rather than bring up my own server. Was trying to decide between an ISP hosted STS solution and something open source.


  7. Hi,

    Very interesting. How did it go? If not too late, I was working on something similar and ended up with Convea http://www.convea.com/ as the recommended option. Convea is an excellent Open Source Intranet or Groupware offering.