As the president of a small open source start-up company, I sometimes run up against the old saying, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" (feel free to substitute your large company of choice).

I can understand the thinking behind this statement as one that comes down to risk. It is perceived to be less risky to go with a large company with a large professional services arm and a long history of implementations. In some cases, this line of reasoning is correct but I think most of you will agree that it is not ALWAYS correct.

I spend most of my time thinking about Java based eCommerce and am often asked about the risk of choosing an open source framework like Broadleaf Commerce (BLC) versus a packaged solution. There are a couple of myths that are used to discourage the use of open source that I'd like to comment on:

Myth One: You can't get support for an open source framework.

This is just not true. Most open source frameworks provide community forums where free support is available. Many (like ours) also provide commercial support services that can be customized to fit your specific needs. In the case of BLC, the framework itself is a combination of other very popular frameworks and standards many of which have there own support forums and professional service organizations.

Myth Two: You can't find professional services for an open source framework.

By definition, the source code of the framework is available. Because of this, you are empowered to hire anyone with the relevant skills to help customize or troubleshoot an issue you are having with the framework. Compare this to closed source solutions where (in general) the only way to get an enhancement or bug fix is from the provider of the framework. Also, as mentioned above, many open source frameworks are supported by companies that offer commercial services.

In some cases, the risk of using open source is less:

Example One: Product Maintenance

With commercial software, you typically pay a percentage of the original software license cost for product support. This "license tax" puts you at the mercy of the vendor's release schedule. With open source software, you are empowered to hire your own employees, contractors, and consultants as needed to get YOUR specific business changes made on YOUR timeline.

Example Two: Proof-of-concept

Doing a proof-of-concept with an open source solution is very low risk. For solutions like Broadleaf Commerce (BLC), developers can freely download the framework, test it out, ask questions in a community forum, and quickly determine the feasibility of using the framework for their specific business needs.

Example Three: Current technology stack

Several of the leading commercial eCommerce frameworks are built on technology stacks that introduce some risk. ATG, as an example, utilizes a proprietary MVC (droplets and form handlers) and a proprietary persistence framework (repositories). WS-Commerce utilizes Java development patterns that have been out of favor for years (EJB 1/ EJB 2). On the other hand, Broadleaf Commerce is based on popular Java frameworks including Spring and open standards like JPA.

It is important to include risk as a consideration for choosing your next eCommerce framework. For those that rely on old sayings rather than performing the due diligence required to truly evaluate risk, I'd urge you to take a closer look.

After all, nobody ever got fired for choosing Broadleaf Commerce