by November 10, 2003 0 comments

 I am generally expected to be an advocate of all things open source. So, it comes as a big shock to many that I often advice them against deploying open-source software in specific instances. 

With Linux getting a lot of attention these days, there are some who believe that open-source software is the answer to all their needs. There are those who would like to believe that they could run their complete IT infrastructure on free software.

While, theoretically that might be possible, it would be extremely unwise for most organizations to even attempt such an effort.

To start with, many organizations, particularly small and medium ones, may not be fully equipped to do the installation part themselves, for the simple reason that they may not have attempted it before. So, this would mean that they either spend a lot of time and effort experimenting or they bring in external expertise, which if not already budgeted for could throw all calculations about savings way out of sync.

Many organizations take an even more myopic route. If they are implementing commercial software, then they positively insist on and pay for a range of consultants, functional and technical. But, once they opt for open-source software, their viewpoint changes drastically. They become like kids in a chocolate shop. They now want to try out everything themselves or they expect the consultants to come at a fraction of the budget.

Do not forget that open-source software cannot meet every need that an enterprise may have. A search at a site such as sourceforge may show up thousands of projects, ranging all the way from personal information managers to ERP software, but a closer look will reveal that many of them are in early stages of development and are no where near ready for production deployment. Some, such as Apache, have matured enough to already own a major share of installations. Others have reached a stage where they are good enough for proof of concepts and prototyping or for checking out whether your organization can benefit from that class of software.

Then there is the small matter of some classes of open-source software being way behind commercial software in essential features. Network-management software is one such that immediately comes to mind.

More than anything else, from an enterprises’ point of view, open source and proprietary software represent two different business models. As you run multiple OSs or equipment sourced from competing vendors, even for software you should get the best out of both the worlds by mixing and matching them. Philosophy and dictates of the heart apart, it is up to you to come up with a judicious mix of both that will maximize your returns.

Krishna Kumar

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