Digital Transformation

Considering Open Source Options for Your Portal Solution?

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.

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Maintenance and support
  • Integration
  • 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.

Prioritize requirements

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.

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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

  1. Start with business requirements
  2. Perform a comprehensive completeness of fit analysis
  3. Determine the scope and level of effort for integration
  4. 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.


About the Author

Technical Director, Portal

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Thoughts on “Considering Open Source Options for Your Portal Solution?”

  1. Christopher Creel

    What are your resources references and evidence to support your claims?

  2. Iin addition, some competitors tell that IBM Technologies are too complex, to use it you must study too much. Now i think this not real. I create a Tool called CrackerJack Tool, that can install all environment for Portal or Connections in less then two hours!
    For me “install all environment” means:
    . Install Db2 and configure it
    . Create DB
    . install Portal / Connections
    . Migrate Portal to DB”
    . Install e configure LDAP
    . Make security
    . Install TDI
    . Populate DB for Connections
    . Install HTTP
    . Configure HTTP + SSL
    Using this tool, no more excuses.
    My focus is: move spending capacity of customer form setup to project.

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  3. The IDC study referenced provides many supporting references. Additionally many customers have gone through the due diligence of open source vs product evaluations and came up with the same decision.

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