Potential WebSphere Portal customers often consider whether they should leverage an open source technology or purchase a leading horrizontal portal product such as WebSphere Portal. The 2013 IBM Exceptional Web Experience Conference had a session titled “Considering Open Source Options for Your Exceptional Web Experience Solution?: Explore TCO and How Free” delivered by Robert Lezon, East IMT Business Value Assessment Leader, IBM; Mary Byrd Nance, Executive Consultant, IBM. The session focused on how to evaluate total cost of ownership (TCO) and how that there is much more to consider than total cost of acquisition (TCA.)
The Allure of Open Source Options
First, there are a few things that are appealing and open source solutions might be workable but…
- Free isn’t always free
- In most enterprises, TCO can be 15% – 50% more expensive
- Open source solutions might limit speed, agility and responsiveness to lines of business
TCA & TCO Considerations
The TCA is easy to see and measure in several common areas.
- Maintenance and support
- Ongoing operations
TCO Analysis Approach
TCA is an quantitative number that can be computed and compared easily, but it is important to include a TCO analysis. This is divided into several key steps:
Identify key business requirements
Identify and evaluate key requirements. These can include functional, technical and non functional requirements. They will include things like personalization, mobility, availability, security, performance, etc.
After requirements are captured, identify a high/medium/low priority and value for each one and include supporting facts for both the open source and IBM products and determine the completeness of fit.
Evaluate solution for completeness
Out of the prioritized requirements can each solution meet your needs? Are there gaps in the solution that will preclude you from delivering core business requirements?
Evaluate required software
Does the software support your needs? Are there additional software products that are needed? Combining many different software products can be challenging so you want to consider those factors in your evaluation.
Determine custom development level of effort
Perform a competitive fit gap analysis. There are usually gaps that need to be filled in by custom development. These gaps directly affect the TCO and can have long term impacts. IBM continues to make substantial investments in their products. There is no guarantee an open source community will continue to do the same.
Determine if you have the skills to support it
It is important to assess internal skills to determine if you can support an any solution. Some open source solutions don’t have support available and you will need to support it yourself. There are an extensive number of skills you will need for any solution whether it is installation, development, maintenance, upgrades etc.
The session than transitioned into an example of the evaluation of the process process and some of the key evaluation points. Some of the key points that stood out in a TCO analysis are:
- Open source solutions may be free but support costs are typically sepparate
- You may need to purchase other enterprise class products such as a database where that is part of the core entitlements to WebSphere Portal
- Development and maintenance costs can be significantly higher for open source solutions
During the presentation quite a few statistics were also shown which are from IDC’s Whitepaper An Evaluation of Build Versus Buy for Portal Solutions. The paper is from 2007 but still has many relevant facts and statistics. It is being refreshed for 2013 and may be available this summer.
To summarize the approach when considering an open source solution vs WebSphere Portal, it is important to
- Start with business requirements
- Perform a comprehensive completeness of fit analysis
- Determine the scope and level of effort for integration
- Effectively capture the TCO factors, not just TCA
The session was delivered by IBM’s Business Value Assessment (BVA) team. I have worked with them in the past and they are definitely a team to consider reaching out to if you find yourself considering an open source portal solution.