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The Open Source Juggernaut

Open Source software is a community-based, evolutionary software development methodology that’s radically changing the world’s software landscape. Companies like Microsoft have relentlessly attempted to sow Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) in the minds of today’s technology decision makers regarding Open Source solutions, but the steady concerted effort within each Open Source community to augment their project’s security, stability and feature set is steadily winning the hearts and minds of today’s enterprise IT departments. As of March, 2009, Apache is running on 2/3 of the world’s web servers, and BIND has even a higher market share, working as the preferred DNS server for 98% of the world's hosting environments. Other Open Source projects like the Firefox web browser, Asterisk PBX, and Sugar CRM, are slowly but surely grabbing a significant market share in their respective sectors and transforming the way we do business.
Open Source solutions are:
  • Free of Licensing Fees – The costs for Open Source software are as good as it gets . . . nil, nada, nothing. You’re not charged for using, improving or re-distributing Open Source software.
  • Flexible – The main benefit of using open source software is not the cost of the software, but the wider economical margin of being able to build the right solution for any unique technical challenge. Open Source software offers its users unparalleled flexibility, so that any business requirements to customize, integrate, or support their applications are not constrained by a software license.
  • Transparent – Open Source means that what you see is what you get. You can inspect the code line by line to ensure that no disgruntled programmer has buried logic bombs, trapdoors, Trojan horses, viruses or any other nasty surprises in the code. There is no worry that the weak link in a security strategy might be some proprietary application with poor defensive measures. You can add security features to Open Source if you wish and ensure a consistent level of protection across all applications in the system.
  • Vendor Control Liberated – Often, organizations can be ‘locked-in’ to software products because the costs of switching to alternatives are prohibitively high. Proprietary software vendors can ‘lock’ users in to their products by ensuring that they’re not readily compatible with potential rivals and can then increase the price of product upgrades or support without too great a risk of losing their customer base. Not only is there absolutely no incentive for Open Source developers to inhibit compatibility, Open Source projects tend to use open standard formats so there is little danger of being ‘locked-in’ to the application if something more compelling happens to comes along.
  • Innovative – Open Source communities and projects encourage innovation. New ideas, needs and problems you think are important are probably already on the minds of others. As you work together with an Open Source community, you can better define your needs and suggest changes to the developers. Innovation is a significant key for building a competitive business, and with Open Source projects, the underlying technology can easily be improved and customized, giving you a more competitive edge.
  • Standard Based – For many Open Source developers, peer review and acclaim is important, so it's likely that they will prefer to build software that is admired by their peers. Highly prized Open Source projects are distinguished by clean design, reliability and maintainability, with an adherence to standards and shared community values. By publishing the source code, developers make it possible for users of their software to have confidence that there is a basis for their claim of coding excellence.
As a result, the Open Source model is absolutely transforming the software landscape all around the world. The Deshpande & Riehle study, "The Total Growth of Open Source", describes how the number of Open Source projects, total number of Open Source lines of code, and the way the software model is expanding into new domains & applications, are all growing at an exponential rate. Established commercial software giants like IBM, Microsoft, and Citrix are pouring millions of dollars into Open Source projects, and changing the way they do business to work under or collaborate with the open source world.

This Open Source model is a juggernaut . . . it’s a freight train coming down the side of an enormous mountain, and much to the chagrin of the commercial software establishment, little can be done about the way it is going to fundamentally change the way we all do business.

The Challenge of Deploying Open Source Technology within the Enterprise

Although Open Source software, OS platforms, and OS development tools provide an absolutely compelling case to reduce costs and effectively solve business problems, there are a number of challenges the ITC staff must understand in order to minimize any potential costs/risks of using Open Source solutions. The risks of Open Source will depend somewhat on the individual customer environment, the industry the company is operating in, the knowledge and skill of internal personnel, the licensing model chosen, the organizational and governance models the company is employing, and whether the customer intends to change the code. Open Source projects are developed in various software languages, run on different platforms and databases, and they encompass a huge variety of end user applications........................

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