David Wheeler answers the question “Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)?”. From his introduction: “This paper provides quantitative data that, in many cases, using open source software / free software is a reasonable or even superior approach to using their proprietary competition according to various measures. This paper examines market share, reliability, performance, scalability, security, and total cost of ownership. It also has sections on non-quantitative issues, unnecessary fears, usage reports, other sites providing related information, and ends with some conclusions.”
OSS/FS has significant market share in many markets, is often the most reliable software, and in many cases has the best performance. OSS/FS scales, both in problem size and project size. OSS/FS software often has far better security, perhaps due to the possibility of worldwide review. Total cost of ownership for OSS/FS is often far less than proprietary software, particularly as the number of platforms increases. These statements are not merely opinions; these effects can be shown quantitatively, using a wide variety of measures.
This doesn’t even consider other issues that are hard to measure, such as freedom from control by a single source, freedom from licensing management (with its accompanying risk of audit and litigation), and increased flexibility.
Realizing these potential OSS/FS benefits may require approaching problems in a different way. This might include using thin clients, deploying a solution by adding a feature to an OSS/FS product, and understanding the differences between the proprietary and OSS/FS models…OSS/FS products are not the best technical choice in absolutely all cases, of course; even organizations which strongly prefer OSS/FS generally have some sort of waiver process for proprietary programs. However, its clear that considering OSS/FS alternatives can be beneficial.
OSS/FS options should be carefully considered any time software or computer hardware is needed. Organizations should ensure that their policies encourage, and not discourage, examining OSS/FS approaches when they need software.