Moving to open source

Doghouse – Migration

Article from Issue 261/2022
Author(s):

Thoughts on migrating to open source – which doesn't have to be overwhelming and might result in significant cost reductions.

Several people have approached me with issues of "migrating to open source" and do not seem to know how to get started. Sometimes these people represent companies, sometimes educational institutions, and sometimes governments (local, regional, or national).

Most of the time, they seem to have the impression that migrating to open source is something that happens with a finger snap. Other times they seem to have the impression that it is an overwhelming task that can never be done, so why even start.

I have several philosophies on this that have been used successfully by various people and groups.

1. Start with Applications

There are many applications that work across multiple platforms: web browsers, office packages (like LibreOffice), databases, etc. These open source applications can substitute for more expensive proprietary applications and will keep you from tying yourself to operating systems that are not free.

Over time you may find that all of the applications that are now being used are available on other operating systems, so moving the operating system itself is relatively easy for the end user.

2. Isolate the Proprietary Functionality

You may not need the hard-to-substitute proprietary system on every desktop or server. Try isolating those applications to one server, which means you will need to buy fewer server licenses (and perhaps fewer application licenses) for the people that need them. This prepares the way for switching the desktops completely over to FOSS.

3. "Go, and Sin No More"

Yes, you have proprietary systems that you built with closed source software, and they are working perfectly fine. You say, "Why should I switch to FOSS? It is a no-win move." In the short run, I agree. The training and work to move a perfectly working system to FOSS is probably not worth it.

However, if you are building a new system, for new functionality, consider using FOSS to build it. None of your users know how the new system is "supposed" to work. None of them have been trained in using the new system. By using FOSS, you may save thousands (or in some cases, millions) of dollars in license fees.

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