We think that for many projects it is! Here’s a quick overview of the longer talk we’ll be presenting at The Internet Show.
Over the last 4-5 years a number of frameworks have matured and grown to be more suited to the development of large projects – some notable examples being Drupal and Magento, in particular, and these frameworks are being used in an increasing number of enterprise environments (some quick well-known examples – Fox, Breville, Samsung, Olympus, Ford etc).
We beleive some additional factors further contribute to the
Open Source code allows faster turnaround with framework problems – as your team has direct access to the framework core itself. This removes many time consuming and expensive holdups as small framework problems can be resolved by your team; while the larger problems can be handled as support requests as you would for a commercial framework.
Because of the prevalence of Open Source, skilled programmers are obviously readily available. A problem to be aware of is that there is a wide variety of skill level in the marketplace and assessing programmer skill before hire is crucial. In particular it’s important that your architects be proficient to ensure that correct architectural decisions are made in early stages of the project and expensive mistakes are avoided. This is where hiring a ready-made team with experience can actually be cost-effective in the long term.
An additional crucial factor that has changed is the creation of long term funding models for new frameworks. Prior to this change, users were at the mercy of often-slow part-time development teams – for instance, Joomla has only released 1.6 fairly recently after some years delay. An example of this new funding model is the Magento e-Commerce system project, which provides a full featured eCommerce system. Magento has Magento Community, Professional and Enterprise versions ranging from free to $13k per year. This allows commercial-grade support to be available while retaining the open source advantages of exposure to a large community and thus having many contributing authors submitting code for filtering and inclusion. The Open Source model has shown itself to be capable to producing quality systems that are widely in use – GNU/Linux being just one example of many. The Magento funding model allows Magento to retain open source advantages yet to be responsive to enterprise needs.
An interesting and important market trend is that surprisingly, PHP work, including on PHP frameworks such as Magento and Drupal, is emerging as more profitable for developers – and this will become a driving force as time proceeds. When producing a product is more profitable, the market will inevitably respond by producing more of that product and thus refining what is available. Over the short to the medium term this can be expected to yield increasing and inevitable changes in the development market.
Empirical figures and conversations with developers suggest that the larger frameworks can significantly reduce costs, or allow greater implementation scope, for midrange projects. Some developers have estimated that the savings on some Magento developments was around 40-50% over a well-known commercial framework. The cutoff point at this stage appears to be around 1000 hours – there are large scale efficiencies and savings inherent in large-scale commercial development platforms that start to kick in and make those more effective for these larger projects.
It’s important to understand that there are course for horses – Open Source is not appropriate for every enterprise development project and it’s vital that your developers be able to tell the difference. In the meantime, there’s a lot to be saved on appropriate projects!
Perhaps we'll see you at The Internet Show on May 4th and 5th!
[Ed note: Brian is speaking on this topic at the Internet Show, on May 4th at 11:00 and May 5th at 12:35 – details at http://www.terrapinn.com/exhibition/the-internet-show-melbourne/seminars.stm]