Build vs. buy: why a free PaaS may cost more than you think

One of the commonly held myths behind open-source is that it is a more cost-effective option for building in-house solutions, such as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). In contrast, many organizations are finding success using commercial distributions based on open-source code. One example is Stackato by ActiveState, an enterprise-ready PaaS based on open source technologies such as Cloud Foundry and Docker. By looking at successful implementations, organizations can make an informed decision about whether to build or buy.

Open-source solutions, while free, only provide the source code and not much else. Going this route often requires companies to invest a great deal of human resources – not only to customize the solution, but to maintain it after it’s built. One such case is stated by Mozilla web operations engineer Chris Turra. “We initially chose Cloud Foundry…However, we decided to change course because we are not in the business of managing a PaaS”. The way Turra puts it, “We just want to keep people focused on writing code”.

The problem arises from lack of documentation, in-house expertise and the time required to solve technical issues. To address this, commercial solutions such as Stackato offer well-maintained docs, support and professional services geared towards enterprise use cases.

By leveraging external resources, organizations can get up and running much faster and can dedicate their time to innovating products rather than supporting their systems. As demonstrated by cases such as Mozilla, the costs of building in-house compared to using enterprise-ready solutions like Stackato can be underestimated.