By Tom Groenfeldt
When MultiPlan, a provider of healthcare cost management solutions, decided it needed a portal for clients, it evaluated several commercial offerings before selecting an open source-based platform from Bluenog.
"We were looking at IBM, BEA, Oracle, Sun, and what stuck out with Bluenog is they were much cheaper than everybody else and they were more willing to work with us than anyone else," said Mike Milo, director of architecture at MultiPlan in New York. "Since we are a small to medium-size business, it was a better fit."
Bluenog's Rich Portal is based on JetSpeed, with several additions written on top of the open source program. Milo is pleased with the working relationship MultiPlan has with BlueNog, including a contract programmer working on-site to implement a new system on the portal. Commercial vendors weren't always so easy to work with.
IBM required developers to attend several days of training before receiving a demo version of WebSphere to work with.
"The training was to have us in their building so their sales guys could hammer us," recounted Milo. Other vendors haven't been any better, offering "free" software, but requiring costly maintenance contracts or providing systems that would only run on proprietary hardware.
Milo does, however, find some drawbacks to open source, especially in technical documentation. "A big commercial product, like something from Microsoft, has tons of writers doing excellent documentation," he said. "With open source, you have to dig into the community to figure out how something works. But we roll with it and figure it out."
Scott Barnett, co-founder and COO of Bluenog, said the Piscataway, N.J. company aims to help clients manage their open source software and move beyond the binary choice of open source or commercial. "You now find nearly every IT shop has open source," said Barnett. "Bluenog makes it easy for a customer to keep them integrated and working well and to have a single throat to choke. Commercial vendors won't support open source."
The company developed ICE, short for Integrated Collaborative Environment, to include over a dozen open source applications for content, reporting, presentation and collaboration along with security and governance. Bluenog provides support and maintenance. The system is available in modules, since the vendor realized that most users will have at least one commercial application they will keep, and often they have many different variations of content management systems or databases.
The financial crisis has increased the interest in open source, Barnett added. "Companies running IBM, Oracle and Microsoft are paying a lot in support and maintenance of the applications. It's still largely the case that 80 percent of a CIO's budget goes to just keeping the lights on. If you have only 20 percent of your budget for innovation it doesn't leave you a lot of room. And if an IT budget is cut, most of the cuts will be in innovation." Taking 10 percentage points off an 80 percent maintenance budget can increase the innovation budget by 50 percent.
News reports, he added, say Oracle is earning more from maintenance than from selling new licenses. Stories like that are prompting CIOs, especially in the larger end of the mid market, to look at open source solutions.
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