Free Software Foundation President Richard Stallman recently went on a tirade against software as a service (SaaS), suggesting that consumers of SaaS are "putty in the hands of whoever developed that software."
Apparently, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, missed Stallman's memo, because it's advertising for a Salesforce.com developer to help it manage its proprietary (gasp!), SaaS (gasp!) CRM system.
Not that Canonical is alone. Red Hat, Hyperic, MySQL, and other open-source companies also use Salesforce. Are they bad? Are they putty in the hands of Salesforce? Maybe. But they're also companies that need to make the trains run on time, and apparently, they felt that Salesforce was the best tool for the job.
My own company uses SugarCRM (as well as Zimbra and other open-source software), and we've been very happy with it, but we also use proprietary software where it's more mature and hence makes more sense. Open source will eventually be on par or better than its proprietary counterparts in most or all product segments, but until then, we need to use what works.
This is the point that Hyperic's Stacey Schneider makes while analyzing the comments of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Stallman, relating how Ellison's critiques of SaaS sound eerily similar to early complaints about open source, all of which have been disproved over time:
We didn't do (open source and SaaS) because they were cool, or for any desire to be some sort of fashionable IT software company. We did it because it makes sense for our users, and both are an approach to building more affordable, useful, and scalable IT.
In other words, if it works, do it, whether you're a vendor or a buyer. It's really not any more complicated than that.