Jan 30

I am going to tell a story just to give an understanding of the real value of FOSS in business.

I recently developed an SMS (Short Message Service) daemon for a project at work. The daemon is using the SMPP protocol to send messages. To save time (and money) I used an Open Source SMPP library (from Logica) instead of implementing the protocol myself. I tested it on a dummy SMPP server and everything worked just fine but when I tried it on the real server the daemon started behaving unexpectedly. After spending some time troubleshooting I figured it out. The problem was that the SMPP Server of my provider was sending multiform packages in some cases. The problematic package was send only when the daemon exceeded the maximum number of SMS per second. The submit response that the server was sending did not have a message Id (the field was missing), while it was suppose to respond with a blank message Id in case of an error, as the SMPP specifications require. The SMPP library was handling it transparently by reporting the error back to the server.

I contacted my provider to report the bug but unfortunately they could do nothing about it. Not soon enough at least. So it was up to me to fix the problem. Luckily the particular library is very well written so I was able to modify it  in order to handle the malformed package.

But what would happen if I did not have access to the source code? I would be stuck. Clearly the problem was not with the library and the vendor would have refused to make any changes as the library did not have any problems. Even if the vendor agreed to make the changes it would have been at a very high price. My provider would not fix the problem for years to come and changing my provider is not an option.

The bottom line is that FLOSS is not about cheap software. It’s about control. If you have the source code then you are in control of the situation, although good support from the vendor is always welcomed. Cheap price comes with the openest/freedom, since you are not restricted to pay support to a particular vendor if you are not happy with him.

P.S. : Some claim that Free Software is not the American way. They say it might hurt big software companies or prevent small ones from success. If the American way is the way of the American Revolution, then it’s about people seeking their freedom. Tolerating the artificial restriction of your freedom from someone who’s only purpose is making profit, is not the American way. Having this in mind, FOSS is as American as Software gets.

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10 Responses to “The real value of FOSS to business – A personal example”

  1. nick says:

    A perfect example of why to use open source. Way to go guy.

  2. John Doe says:

    If you think you have something about the American way, why haven’t you reacted to the Supreme Court decision that erased 100 years of populist fighting in one day. I guess people who don’t know why monopolies were called “trusts” are about to find out.

  3. Rufus Polson says:

    Oh, for Pete’s sake John Doe. It’s churlish to react to someone who makes a good point by objecting that they should be talking about something else.
    I’m seriously disturbed by that Supreme Court ruling, but that doesn’t make all discussion of Free Software out of line.

  4. TK says:

    Some companies balk at the notion they cannot grab code for free and build some kind of secret IP on top of it. I’ve argued this at length with a couple of folks at my job at a major computer manufacturer, and that’s the general argument I get most all the time.

    It’s the old business mindset where the thinking keeps them in the box without being able to peek past the old ways.

    “Give a brick, get a house!” — citation?

  5. Grishnakh says:

    The article is wrong about what The American Way is. It’s not about freedom; it’s about giant corporations controlling everything we see and do. Watch the movie “The Running Man” (and ignore the part where Arnold is successful in his mini-revolution); that’s what America is all about.

  6. ZoidbergMD says:

    You should have made a patch for what you added to the library and sent it to the maintainer(s) to have it updated so others won’t run into this issue. Otherwise, well done sir.

  7. Hamish says:

    FOSS not the American Way, hurting companies? You are now able to use and pay for a service, today, generating revenue and profit for you and the other company.

    If you have been forced to wait for a fix provided through the use of proprietary software, revenue and profit would have been delayed and reduced – and that, sir, is most definately NOT the American Way! FOSS is an enabler, proprietary is a disabler.

    Hamish

  8. Jose_X says:

    I get the feeling the provider is using proprietary software intended by its creator to break the standards so as to help achieve lock-in and get other developers to waste their time trying to keep up.

  9. Jordan Hall says:

    This is a perfect example of how access to the source code of open-source projects and really expedite development. It ensures you do not get into the coding dead ends and practical dead locks that can so easily be experienced when using proprietary software.

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