This year’s shrinking budgets have forced CIOs, CTOs and IT leaders to make difficult decisions to improve the viability of their organizations. The typical decision-making process comes down to a combination of reducing headcount and postponing or cancelling new or existing projects. Reducing headcount can rob an organization of unique skills and experience, demotivate remaining staff and have a negative impact on service levels. Canceling or postponing existing projects may have an immediate effect on the bottom line but longer term negative impact on the business. Canceling new projects also robs the organization of an opportunity to innovate their way out of the current economic crisis and will ultimately leave them at a competitive disadvantage.
So before you go canceling a project and chucking anymore jobs, remember that there are alternative technologies that can and should be considered that will result in enormous cost savings and long-term innovation. And a happy accident of pursuing these alternatives is that it puts the IT budget holder in a stronger position when renegotiating contracts with existing IT vendors. 
Even in these tough times, the options are many. For instance, you can replatform existing technology deployments onto an equivalent open source technology stack. Open source products don’t have an up-front license fee and many are backed by commercial entities that can provide 24x7 enterprise support subscriptions. The most significant cost savings can be achieved by replatforming proprietary database and application server deployments onto proven open source alternatives. Anywhere open standards have been embraced by your IT department, the cost and risk associated with these migrations are minimal, and the savings can be enormous – savings so big you can keep your people and your projects. 

What are Open Standards?

Open standards create a fair, but competitive, market for the implementation of industry standards and do not lock the end user (you) into a particular vendor or technology. The organizations that administer open standards do not favor one implementation of the standard over another and make the standards available for all to read and implement. 

Avoid Big Software Vendor Lock-In

In theory, business applications that are built to conform to standards should be portable across all technologies that support those standards. In reality, however, the big software companies often blur the lines between open standards and their proprietary extensions to these standards. Once the end user makes use of the proprietary extensions, the portability disappears. The more use a developer makes of these proprietary extensions, the more locked in they are to that vendor from a technology and a business perspective, and the more difficult and expensive it becomes to migrate off that proprietary technology.
Writing portable, standards-based applications has many benefits, including being able to deploy the application on the most suitable technology stack from a price or performance perspective.  Avoiding vendor lock-in on the technology has the added benefit of putting the purchaser in a stronger position when it comes to negotiating with technology vendors. You can tip your hand and let your vendor know you can get a better deal elsewhere. 

Innovation in a Difficult Climate

The economic downturn of the early 90s saw the rise of Linux in the enterprise where brave and far-sighted CIOs embraced Linux as a platform which gave them the flexibility and control that they needed to innovate, or to cut costs without having to compromise on functionality or retrain staff. This time around that success will be repeated further up the technology stack at the database and application server level for exactly the same reasons.  
In some cases, Linux came into the enterprise through the back door because it was free and could give a new lease on life to machines that had been made redundant by the bloated requirements of Windows XP. This success would not have been as widespread if there was a fee for the operating system or the hardware as a budgeting approvals process could have gotten in the way. 
Today, open source database and application server providers like Ingres and Red Hat offer developer technology stacks targeted at enterprise Java developers that are being distributed free of charge and are designed to maximize developer productivity and fuel creativity. These technology stacks can be used as a vehicle for innovation with the benefit of a vast community of developers who are available to provide assistance and support.  
Companies that encourage innovation during a difficult climate will emerge from this economic downturn in a stronger position than their competitors who bury their heads in the sand and hope to get through it unscathed. Open source technology providers who enable and encourage this innovation will be the trusted partners that these companies will look to in the future. 

Open Source vs. the Big Software

In the current economic climate, nobody can afford to pay premium prices for commodity technologies. The last economic downturn demonstrated the rise of Linux. This time, the turn of the databases and application servers will be commoditized. 
Open source alternatives to proprietary technologies have been proven in many mission-critical deployments, and the cost savings that can be achieved by switching to these open source technologies are significant. Using the money saved to fund new innovations could mean the difference between surviving and thriving in this difficult climate.

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