Monday, December 1, 2008

Interwoven's FOSS FUD

In a throwback to 2003, the Interwoven blog has a post spreading some good old fashioned FUD about open source software. The general message is that, while the software is free, open source will wind up costing you more money in the long run because it lacks the functionality of commercial software (presumably like TeamSite). Like most blanket statements about whole categories of software, the accuracy is dubious. However, like most myths it is built on a grain of truth. Here is how...

In the choice of build vs. buy, it is nearly always cheaper to buy - or share (in the case of open source software). The trick is finding the software that most closely matches your requirements to minimize the amount of customization that you need to write. If the best fit is TeamSite (and sometimes it is), buy TeamSite. It will be cheaper to buy TeamSite than to take another product and make it just like TeamSite. Nevertheless, be forewarned; even if TeamSite is a slam-dunk for your needs, the license is not the only thing you will be paying for. Like any web content management system, expect to spend a considerable amount of money on customization (unless you are totally satisfied with having your site look exactly like the mutual fund demo that the sales engineer prepared for you and 100 other prospects). Having done TeamSite implementations, I can assure you that TeamSite is not cheaper than average to implement. I guess you could say that all CMS are like puppies: some are free, some cost lots of money, but they are all expensive to take care of.

Depending on your requirements, the best fit may be a platform that just happens to be open source software. To give a concrete example, just look at the Interwoven Blog site . You would be crazy to buy TeamSite (at over $100,000 in licensing) to manage a site like this. That is, unless you were Interwoven, in which case it would be very embarrassing not too. In addition to the high licensing cost, the amount of configuration to turn TeamSite into a simple blogging tool would be many multiples of what it would take to set up and theme a pure blogging tool like WordPress or Moveable Type.

I think what is most interesting about this post is why Interwoven felt the need to write it. Are they feeling threatened by open source software in general or a specific open source application? I would much rather them spend the effort in improving their own product than spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about others.