Everyone these days is thinking about the economy and how to hold on to their cash in what seems to be the worst downturn of the last 60 years. Open source vendors that had for the last 24 months been emphasizing other OSS benefits like control, risk-mitigation, better fit to business, and standards, seem to have made a strong return to value-oriented messaging.
We've done our share of "recession marketing" as well, but here at Liferay, what we've been emphasizing is that Liferay Portal is not only a smart choice to save you cash today, but also to give your business sustained competitive advantage for the long-term. I've been taking this message to the market and people have responded well. Because while they want to show decision makers that they can save money with open source, they also want to choose technology that's fit for business long-term. No one wants to take the rap for short-sighted choices three or five years down the line.
I'm bringing these arguments together here, divided into two sections: "Doing more with less" which shows you how Liferay can save you money today, and "Investing in the long-term," which shows why Liferay makes sense in the long view as well. I hope those of you who are trying to make the argument for Liferay and OSS in general will find some of these ideas helpful in making your case.
Doing more with less
1. Use your existing software and people. Liferay is famous for its compatibility with a wide range of existing infrastructure software, including the popular contenders like MySQL, Oracle DB, SQLServer, DB2, WebLogic AS, Websphere AS, Oracle AS, JBoss AS, and Tomcat. This means Liferay not only costs less to acquire because of its open source license, but it also has lower ancillary costs. If you already have licenses for these products, you can use them for your Liferay installation. This also saves on training costs since your existing IT staff is most familiar with products already in-house.
2. Built-in CMS, Collaboration, and Social Networking. Liferay has also long been known for giving you a lot of functionality out of the box. We did this because so many portal deployments have historically flopped—portal software sat at the edge of infrastructure (a link b/t the app server and applications) and didn't provide immediate solutions for business problems without a great deal of investment. In other words, they didn't give you anything unless you spent a lot of money doing integration and customization.
So Liferay has taken the strategy of providing immediate solutions people typically need for their web-based applications, within the infrastructure of a portal that brings you long-term integration and reusability benefits
You know about our WCM and its use in a lot of production systems. Our collaboration suite is being used by Cisco, OCLC, and LavaLife. And The Cradle and pjoon.com, among others, are using Liferay's social computing features.
By taking an agile, phased approach to development, Liferay users can deploy a solution for web publishing or collaboration immediately (in as little as a week to 3 months), then follow up with short project iterations to add other components.
3. Web-oriented architecture and lightweight integration (Mashups, widgets and more). A lot of people are talking about the benefits of so-called "Web Oriented Architecture," which forgoes some of the overhead of heavier SOA tools and conventions like SOAP web services, governance tools, and ESBs. So some Liferay customers are taking a lightweight approach to integration using widgets and RSS, XML and JSON data sources along with our pre-built portlets like Google Maps. You can also export portlets as applications to Facebook or import iGoogle gadgets and iPhone websites. These mashup-oriented solutions are surprisingly effective for certain use cases and take very little development investment.
4. Support for scripting languages: PHP, Ruby, Python, Groovy, etc. Scripting languages are gaining acceptance in the enterprise, and choosing a Java-based solution shouldn't have to mean jettisoning your investment in these technologies. That's why Liferay pioneered the ability to deploy portlets based on these popular scripting languages into a portal solution. You can simply upload a ZIP and Liferay add the necessary files and libraries to get your simple PHP or other app running.
5. Reduce capital expenditures and save on operating expenses. The open source savings equation should be familiar to all of us by now, but here's a more concrete calculation. We took a list of our customers from the second half of 2008 and discovered that they saved about 93% on average over IBM and Oracle retail prices for their first year. The capital expenditure part of the equation is eliminated with Liferay, of course, but our annual subscriptions options start at less than a few thousand dollars per server per year, and you have four different SLA options. So if you don't need 24/ 7 support, you can opt for a lower cost package, but round-the-clock service is also there for your business-critical deployments.
The other side of the coin: investing in the long-term
Of course it's not enough just to focus on cutting immediate costs if the solutions you choose reduce your competitiveness in the future. So here's a list of the ways Liferay prepares you for the next economic upswing.
1. Build a solution that fits your business. One of the reasons why our customers continue to choose Liferay over other point solutions for CMS, social networking, blogs, wikis, forums, and IM, is their ability to customize Liferay and integrate it into their business. For example, one of our clients started out using Liferay with an SSO solution into some popular forums and Wiki providers, but in phase two they're going to move that all into Liferay so they can customize the user experience for their particular business need. In this case, they're driving revenue by reducing the time to market of their solution partners, which in turn increases the sales revenue.
2. Usability matters. Today's web users are sophisticated and accustomed to consumer sites like Facebook and Google Maps with intuitive user experience. As a portal vendor, we understand that a major part of our value proposition lies in providing a reusable presentation layer. So we've invested strongly in UI and our front-end team led by Director of UI Engineering Nate Cavanaugh has been constantly improving and innovating around our user experience.
Rich internet applications are also seeing significant development, so we're doing our best to support a variety of presentation frameworks, be it AJAX through JQuery or some other leading libraries, or JSF with our ICEfaces and other JSF library support. We've also seen community members put a Google web toolkit or Flex front-end to Liferay with some positive results.
All this is important because user adoption is key to long-term return on investment. If no one is using your web application, you'll waste a lot of time and resources on a solution that doesn't impact the business.
3. Innovation, security, and maintenance. Because of Liferay's open source model, which is among the most open even among OSS vendors, you can expect to benefit from new features, improved security and reduced maintenance costs over the long term.
One major part of the equation is our strong open source community, which constantly innovates new features and adds stability with bug reports and fixes for performance and security. Liferay has a ten year development history starting in 2000, and our community growth has been fiercely organic. Not to diminish the valuable offerings of other open source companies, but Liferay is one of the few OSS companies that didn't suddenly appear on the landscape, and we're still financially independent and profitable, which allows to make decisions favorable to the community.
In addition, many of Liferay's features are sponsored by clients, which means they pay for development of features that address their business requirements but also can benefit other users. Liferay in turn promises to maintain that code long-term, reducing the maintenance cost to the sponsoring client. Other users and customers can then benefit from the new features, improving on them and multiplying the benefits to all parties.
4. Lower total cost of ownership over the life of your application. Reduced capital expenditures are nice, but as a Gartner report recently pointed out, it's not enough just to spread your costs around to other places. Fortunately, Liferay is also less expensive to maintain over time. Oracle's annual maintenance costs for WebCenter Suite, for example, are 11 times higher than our retail price per server for the highest level of support. And you should also factor in the reduced maintenance costs for custom features if you have a sponsored development relationship with Liferay, as well as reduced additional maintenance for supporting infrastructure.
More reasons than ever to choose Liferay
The cost / benefit analysis for open source software can be tricky and saving money is not a guarantee. But more importantly, it's foolish to make a cost-based decision today only to lose out on future competitiveness and revenue streams. Liferay's customers have been smart about their savings—they're investing in their futures with Liferay open source software, and it's a perspective you should take to any open source software you're evaluating today.
And as a final note, if your organization is resisting open source adoption due to legal issues or a general discomfort with OS-licensed software, I'll write a follow up post about making a case. But here are two initial points:
1. Liferay's MIT license is the most liberal and non-viral license out there, which is reassuring for businesses.
2. Liferay's EE is available under a commercial license for those who prefer that option, with the added benefit of a long-term subscription to maintenance updates.