The days of proprietary software and all the glory of the big software giants like Microsoft and IBM may slowly be fading away. Although they won’t disappear tomorrow, there’s a new game in town and businesses are starting to see the value moving their way. Well, okay, they aren’t exactly “new”, but open source vendors and solution providers are starting to get the attention they deserve from the enterprise.
Overview of Open Source
The Open Source movement started a long time ago with a fellow by the name of Richard Stallman. It was Stallman who created the GNU General Public License (GPL) that many open source products are licensed under today. But it didn’t end with him.
The movement really started to gain momentum with Linus Torvalds who, along with a ton of other independent programmers created the Linux operating system in 1991.
Open Source is exactly that: it’s software that is created by people (some in their spare time), whose entire code base is open to all to see, critique and modify as they see fit. Users of this software tend to operate as “quality assurance teams” letting the vendor know when there are problems, providing new add-ons or functionality.
Most open source products have a dedicated developer community hanging around supporting them and anyone else who uses the product. These communities of support drive the ability to have open source solutions in the enterprise.
So as Open Source products grow and become used by companies across the globe, there’s still some concern about using them in-house. Most of the time it relates to whether the software is really well supported. However, more open source solution providers offer support contracts with their products. So the product is free, but you pay for the support.
Some of different products and technologies in the Open Source world today:
• Open Source Languages – Arguably the most popular language today is PHP with Ruby, Perl and Phython very close behind.
• Content Management Systems – The one most people recognize maybe WordPress or Joomla, but there are lots of others out there. Plone is another popular choice along with Drupal, Pligg and Magnolia.
• Alfresco – The most interesting one to note – the only open source enterprise content management system to be recognized by research analyst Forrester as a contender in the Enterprise Market. Research analyst Gartner doesn’t even recognize open source as a viable option in the enterprise yet.
Blogging/Social Networking Platforms
You must have heard of Movable Type. This blogging platform is owned and maintained by SixApart. They just recently released a completely open source version of the popular blogging platform called MTOS (Movable Type Open Source). Definitely one to look into.
Servers/Desktop Operating Systems
For Operating Systems, Linux is still on top and CentOS (which is Red Hat Enterprise Linux).
For desktop operating systems, you should be hearing a lot about Ubuntu – the Bossie Awards named it as the desktop OS for open source.
Apache still has the upper hand for Java Application Servers and Apache Tomcat for Web Servers.
Finally, MySQL, who was just bought by Sun Microsystems for a lot of moola, is the reigning database server.
Is Open Source for My Organization?
That’s a great question. Take an inventory of your development team and see how many of them are actually closet open source developers. You may be surprised.
What’s important to remember is that Open Source solutions are viable options for the enterprise today. So when you are conducting your Product Selections, be sure to include one or more of these solutions in your review. And when you do a competitive analysis of your competitors, take note of any open source technologies they may be using.
Don’t let the term “open source” scare you off. You’d be surprised how many proprietary vendors are struggling to go open source with some of their products and solutions. It’s a new world, might as well be part of it.