Open Source Software a Frequent Flier on Virgin America

Open Source

This CIO article shows another vision that I have been telling people all these years. Businesses can save 80%-90% of software licensing cost by switching to open source software (OSS).

OSS not only costs less but also is easy to maintain and use. I have been seeing people using Microsoft Access, Excel, and other commercial software to manage their businesses by requiring trained professionals and requiring a lot of time to develop the support they need. To me, these are waste of time and money. I could use OSS with less cost and 60%-70% of reduced solution delivery time.

Another ridiculous joke is about SQL server. I see a lot of job ads looking for SQL server administrators and developers. SQL server is a pretty bad database server in terms of its limited SQL function support and very complicated installation and maintenance. It is just because Microsoft simply gives the software almost free to schools and public organizations so they have to stick to SQL server with no obvious reason and without realizing the tremendous challenge to install and use it.

So far, the only Microsoft technology better than OSS includes Microsoft Project and its contribution to OLAP. You can find better solutions from OSS for the rest of your IT needs.

The only thing I ask my company to do differently from Virgin America is to either make donation to OSS community or to go ahead to invest on the commercial version of OSS. Those commercial vendors in terms also make donation or even are part of the OSS community. This is the right thing to do and to help the OSS to grow. So, I would encourage people to do the same.


Quickbase, A Cloud Based Spreadsheet

QuickBase Logo

I have been evaluating a commercial software called Quickbase from Intuite recently. Intuite is the company which makes Quicken, a personal or small business financial management software. It is a great cloud based commercial software with very good deal on licensing cost, $30 per month per user. It is such an easy software to use that I can deploy an enterprise application in 1-3 months.

Due to my passion about open source software (OSS), I seldom give good comment about commercial software. But, Quickbase is the one that I would strongly recommend. It is quite odd that Intuite does not advertise it widely. I heard it from a customer of my company.

The software is very easy to use and integrate with your systems. I get a lot of projects up and running in 30 days with real time integration with the systems in my company. The best part of the software is that, once you load your data, the software already has a set of common reports created for you to use immediately. In addition, it also offers a lot of templates for tasks such as inventory, purchasing, marketing, project management, helpdesk, and others out of a can. These templates come with automatic email notification and dashboard reports. I do not find other software can do such tasks easily.

The Quickbase appears to be spreadsheet files over the internet but has a relational database on the back-end. OSS has similar software like it but is less integrated and end-user oriented.

The only drawbacks I found were limited disk space per account and low reliability. Although disk space is limited per user, it is still good enough for small to mid-size businesses. The low reliability is due to the fact that Intuite does not manage its data center well. I experienced two outages during my 30-day trial period, which I asked Intuit to improve. Intuit needs better data center and network people to run the business. Why do those people expect to provide cloud support with only 1-2 data centers in the same region of California? Its data center people are very naive and not professional. Nobody would run data center this way to provide cloud support!

Anyway, Quickbase is still a good software and is cloud based, which means you have no cost for hardware, maintenance, and monitoring. If Google uses it, too, it can not be that bad, right?