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The new economic imperative for open source app dev

By Paul Krill
May 20, 2009 06:17 AM ET

InfoWorld - Finding it harder to get the resources needed to develop your business's apps? Open source options for software development, such as Ruby on Rails, offer ways to get software projects done during the current brutal economic climate by providing community-based resources and saving users from paying licensing fees.

With open source platforms, developers can access technology and community feedback free of charge. "I'd say open source is more economical for all types of development," says Caleb Houser, a software specialist professionally, as well as a student at Spokane Community College. Open source saves money that could be going for other things, he adds.

[ Microsoft argues it's the lower-cost choice for developers in tough times. | Has open source defeated Microsoft? Advocates say yes. ]

Why Rails developers say open source is cheaper -- and better Other developers concur. Open source is a lot cheaper than using Microsoft .Net tools, says Jason Derrett, a developer at the Squeejee Rails consulting firm. "We don't have to spend $2,000 per seat for development tools," he notes.

Community sharing also offers benefits, Derrett says: "If you want to talk about not just strictly dollars, the fact that the community can contribute to everybody else's projects and we can share those contributions means that you don't have to wait six months to get a release for a simple bug fix, so that's a savings."

A developer at the recent RailsConf 2009 touted potential savings presented by Ruby on Rails, citing less-expensive deployment and lack of vendor lock-in. "I prefer it because of the community and the resources and the ability to learn and the ability to look at the source code," says David James, a Web developer for Sunlight Foundation, which provides APIs to open up government data.

One developer, Norman Clarke of search marketing firm Add Three, chimed in that Rails was drawing some more focused attention because of the economy, even if overall interest had dropped a bit in the wake of the souring marketplace. With Rails, development takes less time and a lot of developers want to work with the platform, he said.

Clarke endorses open source as a more economical solution for both Web and other development projects. "Sometimes, companies think their time to market will be shorter if they use some commercial software, but the risk is that down the road they'll end up spending much more than they anticipated because they wind up with less technical support than they thought," he says. "Having another company own your core infrastructure is less than ideal, and software licensing fees can scale faster than your application's needs."

Reprinted with permission from InfoWorld. Story copyright 2012 InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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