Open Source can save you millions: Part 1, the intro…

After dealing with some vendors in the last couple years, I’ve come to realize one major tone keeps rearing it’s ugly head: Vendor sales people will tell you anything to get you to buy their product or service, regardless as to whether or not their product/service is the best solution at the best price out there.

Now, wait just a minute. I’m not going to demonize salesmen or be some hippie tree hugger and say, “don’t buy commercial products, man!”. Some companies and products are pretty damn good. Some are definitely not. Some are ridiculously expensive; some are not. But How do you know which ones to actually spend money on, or not to spend money on, if your company, or personal outlook on life, is telling you to just listen to a vendor and buy his products? When was the last time you went to your grey beards and asked them if they have a solution to your problem?

Well, I’m not a grey beard, but I am a big proponent of the “DIY” projects. I try to do things around my house all the time, and that includes my home network. I also carry that philosophy into work.

This is a multi-part blog that is going to attempt to outline why I’d rather spend $100,000/yr on a Salary for a good worker than to spend that same amount on some appliance to install in the Data Center. Here we’ll be talking about replacing products from companies like CA, Centrify and others with some already built-in modules in your Linux/Unix environments that many people don’t even know they have. We’ll talk about that topic in the next blog though, because I really want to focus on the fact that good Security and IT products can be difficult to come by. And sometimes you have a solution to your problem inside your organization already, but don’t know it yet. Don’t automatically think that if there is a problem, your solution is to buy another product or service from your vendor supply chain. Stop throwing money at the solution hoping it will work out!

Here’s what I started with. There is a large need to get all of our Linux/Unix environment to authenticate to Active Directory (AD). Just like the VAST majority of companies out there, we are largely a Microsoft shop. News Flash: Almost everyone is. And that’s because AD is the best at what it does; no one comes close. Same for Microsoft Exchange; I beg you to tell me who makes a product that comes anywhere close to what Exchange does. Regardless, we need to auth to AD from Linux/Unix, and the costs surrounding 3rd party vendors is ridiculous. Now I know people need to make money, but over $100 grand every couple years for software and support is insane to do such a simple task as this. I talked to a co-worker and he led me down the path of, “Why pay to do it when you can do it for, well, basically free?”

Free is a relative term, right? I mean, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” So you’re paying my salary, and the salary of a Linux/Unix admin, and whoever else, but weren’t you already paying those salaries? And How much does it cost your company to have a (most likely well paid) Linux/Unix admin sitting around all day doing account provisioning, password resets and setting up users to have the specific access they need? Shouldn’t your account provisioning team be doing that? The costs of that are pretty high. According to a Gartner study it could cost up to $600,000/yr just sitting there resetting passwords on 300 Linux/Unix systems. Now, that number is pretty high. They are basing that on $17/password reset X 300 servers X 30 accounts per server which is $153,000/yr times 4 times a year = $612 grand.

Whether or not you’re doing that many password resets is irrelevant, and lets say a password reset costs $10 in time, and lets say you’re resetting 50 passwords a week. You’re still spending over $25,000/year on performing password resets! And that doesn’t even account for user account management, managing the rest of your server fleet, managing all the “passwd” and “shadow” files on those servers, etc… So in reality, are you going to spend $125 grand on a solution to save $25 grand? I don’t think so. But How about spending $0 to save $25 grand? 🙂

So, at the end of the day, all I’m trying to convey here is that you need to rely on your employees. If you give them the tools to succeed, you allow them the latitude to innovate  and you treat your business like a small business, I promise you that you’ll get cost savings and better service.

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