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Case Study: Clusters and Image Processing, Part II - page 5

The ImageLink Case, Reviewed

  • March 25, 2002
  • By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Every company that throws its weight behind Open Source has to deal with the problem of making sure that it is not a total money sink. There is also the constant struggle not to lose talent to paying work--after all, everyone does need to eat and pay the rent. Here are ImageLinks' ways of dealing with these issues:

  • Subcontracting work to leading contributors of OSRS projects. These people have proven themselves in a number of ways, which is far more valuable than a resume from a stranger! They are also often already leaders in the community and industry and incredibly skilled programmers in their own right.

  • Plugging ImageLinks during press coverage of the OSRS site.

  • Convincing clients to contribute their contracted code, libraries, and more back into the Open Source community.

I also spoke with Frank Warmerdam about how he talks clients into taking the source code he writes for them and giving it back into the Open Source community

. He points out that data translation is a cost that most companies in the remote sensing and GIS industry need, but it is not typically a core software feature. The following issues help him to sell Open Source solutions to his clients:

  • Frank works remotely. This reduces the cost to the client in terms of the resources they have to allot to him.

  • Frank's project sizes are typically small, from $4,000 to $10,000 in total costs. For medium- to large-sized companies, this is a small amount to risk.

  • He pitches clients on Open Source translation work by pointing out that he charges less if he can make the code available for others.

  • Once he's written a translator for one client, he can then turn around and offer it to others. Additional work must be done to integrate the tool into another client's package, but he can do this at a much lower cost from the company's point of view than developing the translator from scratch.

  • Once he's written a translator for a client, that client has access to his additions once he makes translators for other clients, as discussed previously.

  • Frank will not do "closed source" work. This convinces many clients to give Open Source a try.

  • Frank does not use the GNU Public License (GPL) or Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL). He instead uses the MIT X license (www.opensource.org/licenses), which clients are more comfortable with. It essentially places the code into the public domain rather than affecting anything else involved with the project or requiring the release of already existing code.

  • Frank is known in the community from discussion lists, newsgroups, and his contributions to Open Source projects. Some clients approach him, thus saving him marketing efforts.

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