March 9, 2007

Joe Barr rips proprietary software vendor a new one

Author: Joe Barr

It seems to be a trend among some proprietary software vendors: attacking open source with lies. The latest appears in this week's Network World's Face-off, which features a slop-bucket full of self-serving hogwash by Ipswitch's Roger Greene entitled "Don't trust your network to open source."

If ignorance were a crime, Greene would be swinging from the gallows. His pathetically malinformed drivel is enough to make even hardened PR flacks cringe with embarrassment. Greene's marketing agenda is based on what he claims are three myths about open source. Just for the fun of it, let's take a look at his claims.

Myth #1 - Open source is free

What rock do you have to hide under in order to have not heard and understood the "free as in speech, not as in beer" mantra by the year 2007? Wherever that rock is, that is apparently where Greene lives, because he attacks open source software because it may have labor costs associated with it.

Unfortunately for Greene, he even screws up his screwed-up myth. You can get reliable open source networking software off the Net, without paying any labor costs at all, let alone the "hefty service fees" he claims you'll need to cough up. Has the man ever heard of an open source project called Apache? It has beaten Microsoft like a toy drum in Web serving popularity.

I'll give Ipswitch credit for eating its own dogfood, though. Its Web site is running Windows IIS 5.0 on a Windows 2000 server. Sure, like other savvy Windows users, they have learned that they have to reboot the server every week, but that's a small price to pay for the security and reliability such products afford you, right Mr. Greene? I guess if servers didn't need a reset every now and then, the hardware manufacturers wouldn't have put that big reset switch right up front, now would they?

Myth #2 - Bug fixes are faster and less expensive in an open source environment

Greene has absolutely nothing to say that disproves the assertion. The best he can do is to claim that it's not true, and then to ask, "Can you really afford to wait for one [developer] to agree with you on the urgency of action if your network is down?"

It's obvious Greene prefers the duplicity of the proprietary world to the transparency of open source. He is more comfortable with Apple's refusal to admit their wireless insecurities last year, for example, and their dawdling response to the issue, than with the BSD project's rapid and immediate fix for the problem.

Myth #3 - Your IT staff can buy a "raw" tool and shape it to their needs

First of all, Greene implies that open source software is not usable as shipped, that it must be modified by users in order to make it useful. This is no more true for open source than it is for proprietary products, but to the extent that it is true, at least the open source product can be modified by users.

Secondly, this "myth," like the previous one, leaves Greene dumb about any argument as to why it's not true. Instead, his pathetic, unsupported whine concludes that those companies who do use open source "will migrate to commercial software as business demands outgrow the ability of open source and the capacity its in-house technology advocates."

So why is Greene coming onto the field at all, if he is going to whiff at three softballs of his own creation? If I had to guess, I would say the answer is greed. Greene's firm hawks software for network monitoring, secure file transfers, and email servers. Let's see. Could the competition from open source products like Nagios and GroundWork Open Source; FileZilla; and Sendmail, Qmail, and Postfix give him an axe to grind?

That competition certainly divests him of an objective voice in speaking on the issue, since his bread and butter depends on besting those popular projects day in and day out, and provides him with a motive for slinging FUD as far and wide as he is able.

Network World asking Greene to comment on the perils of open source is like asking Ann Coulter if she would vote for a gay, liberal Democrat for president. I mean, really, what else would you expect them to say?

There are proprietary software products that are better than their open source equivalents. There are critical software products that have no open source equivalent. There are open source projects of dubious quality and reliability. Network World readers learned none of that from this Face-off. Presenting "marketing truths" to customers and readers under the guise of objective reasoning may be a common thing in the dark, dingy world of commercial software and its sycophantic press, but it has no real value to anyone, save providing a dying firm one more chance to stave off the inevitable with deceit and duplicity.


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