Saving with FOSS

Published : Nov 20, 2009 00:00 IST

THE free thinkers of the software world have for long been pointing to the fact that Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) can play a vital role in developing economies like India. A recent study by Rahul De, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, explores and substantiates this claim using 20 case studies of government departments, firms and educational institutions that have adopted FOSS for their operating systems on desktops or servers and applications.

The IT@School project in Kerala (where desktops replaced Microsofts Windows operating system with FOSS), the public sector behemoths Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and New India Assurance Company and an unnamed private e-commerce firm are among the key case studies presented. For example, at the LIC, which handles digital data pertaining to over 100 million insurance policies, 3,500 servers and 30,000 desktops (across about 2,155 offices) run on GNU/Linux.

In a pilot study in 2003, the LIC deployed Linux on some of its servers and saved Rs.120 million. Subsequently, it migrated all its servers and almost 60 per cent of its desktops to GNU/Linux-based applications. The companys tangible cost savings is around Rs.240 million for servers and Rs.180 million for desktops.

The study forecasts that the cost savings in 2010 from the replacement of 50 per cent of desktop operating systems in the retail market would be Rs.9,847 million (Rs.3,600 a unit). Further, FOSS deployment on servers is likely to cut costs by Rs.1,380 million ($28.75 million) in 2010.

Other than expenditure reduction, which has been found to be the primary motivation behind FOSS adoption, the study points to strong intangible benefits from being able to tinker or modify the software to suit ones requirements, learn new skills, create new products, and be able to distribute it freely.

Deepa Kurup
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