Despite being free on one level, if you look at opensource from a business perspective you realize they are looking at the costs slightly differently.
If they are looking at all that is. To be considered by a business, the opensource alternative has to be noticed first, and that isn't trivial considering the vast majority of opensource projects don't exactly have a marketing budget.
One way to lower the barrier to entry is to make an opensource solution really easy to try out, but sometimes even that isn't enough. Often an opensource alternative is noticed, but its not a perfect fit for what the business (thinks it) needs. The free part is less impressive when you have to consider customization costs, integration costs, long-term maintenance costs, etc. Most businesses don't want to have to notice their software, they just want something that works.
Now for the plug. I'm one of the developers for TurnKey Linux, an opensource project that aims to develop high-quality software appliances that are easy to use, easy to deploy, and free. The project's motto is "everything that can be easy, should be easy!"
We've been building a family of installable live CDs that are based on Ubuntu (Debian too soon!) and are each pre-integrated to serve specific usage scenarios (e.g., CMS, database, Wiki, web development frameworks).
We only launched a few months ago, and we're still officially in beta, but thanks to the feedback from the community we've already made pretty good progress (up to 9 appliances now - we're covering the low hanging fruit first)
- auto-updated daily with latest security patches
- MacOS X themed web management interface
- easy to use configuration console (written from scratch in Python)
- packaged as an installable Live CD that runs on real machines and VMs
- minimal footprint - includes only minimum required components (about 150MB per appliance)
- based on Ubuntu 8.04.1 Hardy LTS
We're hoping this kind of last-mile integration effort will make opensource alternatives an easier "sell" and promote adoption.
Check us out!