Beware of dogma

Political debate in the United States today is highly polarized.  Many in Congress are so beholden to the dogma of their political party that they are unable to make rational choices that might even give a hint that the "other side" has a point.  The result is that Congress seems unable to act in the best interests of the citizens it is supposed to serve, resulting in historically low approval ratings.

IT is not immune from such polarization.  There are, for example, many IT decision-makers who simply swear by open source.  They believe so much in the open source model, and have had such positive initial experiences with open source tools, that they have taken the dogmatic position that all of their future software acquisitions will be made from within the open source portfolio.

On the other hand, there are decision-makers who have fully and with little reservation married themselves to proprietary platforms.  The support and sense of security they get from platform buy-in has become entrenched in their go-to-market strategy, and the very mention of open source may elicit an actual, audible snort.

I find many Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that need an effective, inexpensive way to start building out their infrastructure fall in the open source camp.  Unfortunately, many of them also discover that their open source toolkits have certain limitations that make it difficult for them to remain efficient and able to deliver competitively differentiated services once they build a reasonably sized customer base.

I find many proprietary platform supporters on the enterprise side, where business-as-usual often prevails.  The problem for this group is that they often find themselves saddled with excessive licensing costs and overly complex products that are integrated in name only, and require extensive customization to meet even relatively simple operational needs.

So here is my suggestion to both parties: Don't be so dogmatic.  Sure, open source solutions are attractive for a variety of reasons.  But they are not the end-all and be-all of software.  There are plenty of proprietary solutions that offer simplicity and reasonable cost -- and, most importantly, will actually do what's needed to support your growing and increasingly complex business requirements.

It may mitigate certain types of personal/career-related risks when one buys fully into a proprietary platform that no one ever got fired for buying.  But, that does not tend to be the path to differentiated success and organizational excellence.  Few of us have the luxury of being able to burn through more budget and staff hours than we absolutely have to.

Actually, when it comes down to it, both MSPs and enterprises have very similar needs nowadays.  They need agile, cost-efficient solutions that scale, deliver rapid time-to-benefit, and play well with others.  These characteristics are not the exclusive domain of either open source or proprietary software.  Nor is it impossible for either class of solution to provide them.

Chris O'Malley is CEO of Nimsoft.  He has devoted 25 years to innovation in the IT industry -- most recently growing businesses in cloud and IT Management as a Service solutions. Contact Chris via the comments below or via Twitter at @chris_t_omalley.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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