eWeek.com has an article where they interview the VP of Architecture, Lee Thompson, of E-Trade. It's a great overview of how much time, money, and headaches you can solve by moving to Open Source software. The most interesting comment Mr. Thompson made however is on page four, where he discusses the rate of change in Open Source:
OK, so you know the phenomenon the phenomena is, the amount of change that you are sustaining on a Gentoo system is orders of magnitude larger than the amount of change that a typical proprietary operating system from anybody Solaris, HP-UX, mainframes, whatever [would go through].
Whatever operating system, the rate of patches coming out of the vendor is much lower than what you enjoy on, you know, my Gentoo laptop or your Gentoo machine.
And then I started looking, kind of watching this, obviously, from a technology management perspective. If you can sustain change faster than somebody else, you're going to survive, and the person who can't sustain the change is not going to evolve, and they're going to die off. This is almost more important a realization than the direct cost savings, which is still phenomenal.
I'm not a big fan of the Gentoo distribution personally ( not to knock Gentoo, I just had enough of compiling my whole system back when I ran FreeBSD ), but I think Mr. Thompson has stumbled onto yet another reason why Open Source is succeeding so well.
Many theories on business and management, not to mention pundits and journalists, talk about a business' ability to react to change. You will often hear "Company X failed because they were unable to react to change Y in the market" or "When Company Z entered the market it changed everything!". With technology being so pervasive in companies these days, I believe a company's ability to change is directly related to how fast they can change their technology.
But changing their own technology is only part of the equation. The technology they either purchase commercially or Open Source software they use needs to be flexible in handling the rate of change the business needs require.
I had never thought of it before today, but the ability of Open Source software to handle the rapid changes being thrown at it is one of it's greatest strengths. And considering most Open Source developers are working to either fix a problem they are having or to make life better for someone else, I think this quote from Ghandi is appropriate:
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world" Ghandi