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Innovation, Maintenance and Open Source

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A NetworkWorld article quotes Google’s GM of Enterprise Business as saying:


“insane complexity of technology is leading companies to spend 75% to 80% of IT budgets simply maintaining the systems they have already.”

The 75%-80% figure is a little higher than the 60%-70% figure I’d seen in customer research we did a few years back. But the issue I have with the quote is the suggestion that spending on systems you have already is a waste of money or time.

Very few companies have the luxury of implementing greenfield applications.

Most of the time, your new app has to integrate with a large number of your old apps. And that may require some tweaks to your old apps. Or maybe your company changed or added a new business process, so you’ll need to make some modifications to your existing apps. That’s not waste, that’s a normal business expense.

The alternative would be to throw out the existing app that needs to be modified and start again; to me, that’s waste.

If you tell me that SOA or loosely coupled web services are the answer. I’ll agree, to a a certain degree. But now, instead of modifying existing app “XYZ”, you’re going to modify existing component/service “YZA”.

On the topic of innovation, here’s a good article from Business Review Online about customers using Open Source as a means to drive innovation. Interesting that OpenLogic is seeing customers that either want to save money or open up technical innovation. I’m surprised that customers don’t want to do both.

We found that customers that adopted Apache Geronimo (support from IBM) or WAS Community Edition (WAS CE) were seeking to save money and build a platform that allowed their developers to write and deploy applications faster and with more flexibility.

Often, they were using Apache Geronimo or WAS CE for a specific project that needed to get rolled out ASAP. But, these customers cared about how “this stuff will work with the stuff I already have“. They wanted to know what options they had if the app transformed from “a quick and dirty request to something that users relied on, would be less productive without and wanted more out of“. Cost savings, a platform for innovation and future flexibility and choice were all considerations.

Most IT folks know that applications seldom fade away quickly, they just get integrated and maintained with all the other “legacy stuff“.

The pic is from A.M. Kuchling over at Flickr

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I am taking a semi-break from IBM life as I return to finish a PhD in Industrial Engineering. I’ve held roles in market intelligence, strategy and product management. I’m ex-product manager of IBM WAS Community Edition, and blog about enterprise open source topics.

Innovation, Maintenance and Open Source
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