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Thread: Open Source Software

Author Image Gerry Patterson. The world's most humble blogger
PGTS, The site that almost invented humble sarcasm tags(Invisible to non-sarcastic browsers)

Cost Savings In Data Processing

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Date: Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:24 +1100

On February 3, 2008, the ABC Radio National program, Big Ideas, broadcast a speech by Dr. Paul Wooley. Dr Wooley is a merchant banking veteran with over thirty years experience in global finance. The speech he delivered then was an enlightening insider's view of the "finance sector", in which he proposed that Finance "markets" and in fact the entire "Finance Sector" were dysfunctional.

To back his claims, Dr. Wooley cited the changes in the distribution and allocation of resources and assets over the past four decades. Forty years ago (he said), the finance sector accounted for 10% of all corporate profits quoted globally. Today (he also said) this had grown to 40%! Clearly dear reader, there was something going awry when a sector of the economy could allocate resources to itself and continue giving itself an increasingly larger slice of the pie! Especially considering the fact that the sector in question didn't actually do anything! Their role has been essentially parasitic. Could there be a danger that the parasite might kill the host?

A transcript of Dr Wooley's rather comprehensive dissertation can still be found here. Although the language is formal and rather restrained, it did express the opinion, over eight months ago, that the global finance system was big, bloated, dangerous and on the brink of total collapse.

It would be difficult to argue against that prognosis, considering the events of the past couple of months.

One thing is for sure. The pie is going to shrink. There might even be some who want to have a good hard look at the whole concept of finance "markets". And your humble blogger would not argue with that.

But what does this mean for Computing and IT?

It probably means that many of us will be examining our costs carefully. The IT sector has ridden on the very same gravy train that the finance sector rode. Although they were not always riding first class. Nevertheless they embarked at the same station and joined the same banquet even though they may not have supped at the same table. Your humble blogger will be the first to draw to your attention the fact that the IT experts may not have had their noses as deeply in the trough as their financial masters did.

And, of course, the main attribute that does distinguish the workers in the IT sector from their financial masters is the fact that they participate in the "real economy. That is they do actually "do something" ... Yes your humble blogger realises how incredulous many ordinary working users are about that last statement. But trust me dear reader, some of us in the IT sector do actually do some work. We don't just spend all our time goofing off surfing the Web for porn, checking our share portfolios and writing our blogs (because we know how to bypass the company proxy filters).

There are segments of the IT sector that although they may not be as dangerous as the rogue elements of the finance sector, certainly are big and bloated. The extraordinary success of Microsoft last century lead to hubris and a certain amount of "overstretch". Using the leverage of their workstation market share, they made a move on the server market.

The performance, reliability and security of Microsoft servers has always been poor. The lack of adequate scripting languages (apart from open source software like Activestate perl or cygwin), has lead to highly inefficient systems administration, often requiring labour intensive operations and administrative procedures that involve GUI interfaces that are difficult to automate.

There are big savings to be made inside most corporations by deploying open source servers. One Linux host could replace several Microsoft exchange servers. FTP services, HTTP services and LAN services can all be carried out much more efficiently with open servers that use industry standard genuine open standards. There are also big savings in license fees.

The cost savings from Open Source servers and routers and Web Standards were discussed early last month in an article published in Linux World, called Five Outside-the box Ways To Cut IT Costs.

In my humble opinion, after rolling out open source servers, there are more potential savings to gained if Linux was deployed on the workstations. This would require a bit more commitment since such a deployment would require considerably more work, and user education. However since a lot of office work these days is being carried out using standard packages, it would be possible to replace client workstations. The once only cost of retraining and initial deployment would be recouped over the years in savings of license fees and improved performance.

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