I used to take great pleasure in telling prospective clients that we ran the business with only one bit of proprietary software. Everything else was open source. The one bit of proprietary software we had was a product called “Windows” and we needed it to test our Outlook plugin.

The point we were illustrating was that you can run a complex business that trades internationally without using proprietary software.

I was wrong about using only one proprietary application though. We were using another. But not any more. We’ve learned our lesson, moved on and put the mistake behind us.

We were also using JetBrains’ PHPStorm as our Integrated Development Environment (IDE). PHPStorm is proprietary software. For non-engineering types, an IDE is a software application that assists software engineers to develop, debug and maintain software.

JetBrains used to have a scheme whereby they gave free licences to open source projects.

Jet Brains used to be the best IDE for PHP software development.

So, we were happy to use the free licences without giving the consequences a thought.

Until Friday 13th (good date to choose) October 2017, when we got an email from JetBrains saying that they were no longer giving licences to developers who were paid to work on open source projects. That means every one of our 24 engineers.

Kindly, they gave us 14 days to either pay them a large sum or stop using their product.

We chose the latter option and are migrating to the completely open source Eclipse IDE. Eclipse have been doing a lot of work on their PHP support over the last few years. When we last looked at IDE’s in 2012, Eclipse was pretty rudimentary. Now, in 2017, it’s every bit as good as PHPStorm and in some respects it’s better.

The important part of this is the lesson we learned. We were a little complacent. We had been cruising on open source software for years. We were happy that we never got demands for license fees, or changes to terms and conditions or demands that we upgraded. We used what we needed to, changed what we needed to and otherwise enjoyed the competitive edge that open source delivered us.

We now know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch with proprietary software. The vendor owns the software and controls the customer.

We won’t be making the same mistake again.

Now we really do only have that “Windows” thing to worry about.