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Open Source solutions
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What is the Open source movement?
The origin of "Open Source" comes from the term "source code" meaning the code written by developers prior to compilation. Open source made this code freely available to the world.  The concept has gone a long way since then with attempts to standardize open source. Developers are releasing source under different contracts, a good example being the GNU free software license which ensures companies cannot claim software & make it soley commercial. For more details on Open Source, see Wikipidea .   Details of the GNU agreement are available here .   Many developers are now following this movement, and even some commercial software writers like Sun Microsystems are releasing opensource software.

What's the down side?
So why would we not use open source software?  It's free, after all!  All is not as simple as the cost of purchasing software.   Even with purchased software one of the major costs of the software is ongoing maintenance.

With open source software this is complicated further.  Because of business's slow uptake of the software packages it can be both difficult & expensive to find experienced administrators to look after your environment.  There's also the issue of inter-operability.  When all of your packages are purchased from the one vendor (AKA Microsoft) you can expect them to integrate nicely together.  You can achieve the holy grail of Single Signon.

Another issue can be the extent of backwards comatibility when a package is updated due to vulnerabilities or enhancements.  we sometimes find that the controls around open source software updates are not all they should be, & backwards compatibility can be partially broken.   There are some very good examples of just this.

Also, where do you turn when you find a flaw in the software?  This is even trickier than finding an administrator!

So where and when can we use it?
Despite of some of the difficulties, many large organizations are beginning to adopt open source solutions.  With these adoptions there is a growing support base.  Some applications are being bought out by reputable software companies.  The open source world is maturing to the point where it is safe, secure & released with controlled measure.  Many solutions are being adopted as the standard - the HTTPD server of the Apache foundation has become the most widely used Web server in the world!  

With careful planning it can be possible to use open source servers & applications to reduce the total cost of ownership to the business.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss.

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