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The Open Source Enterprise: Its Time Has Come

The problems that made open source code impractical for many businesses are falling away. Add in the 'cheaper' factor, and this should get interesting.


The cloud is another way that open source is extending its influence. If an economic downturn cools IT capital spending, some business technology managers may turn to rent-by-the-hour cloud computing resources to handle spikes in demand. If they turn to Amazon EC2, they're tapping into open source Linux, Apache, and a tweaked Xen open source hypervisor that powers much of the company's cloud's operation. EC2 can run files imported in Amazon's virtual file format, Amazon Machine Image.

Winston Bumpus, president of the Distributed Management Task Force that's pushing for business technology standards, says new standards are under development at DMTF to make it easier to identify and manage virtual file sets, importing them to run under the user's hypervisor of choice. In such a world, open source code in the cloud is going to work more closely with commercial code until the differences between the two become negligible, or at least invisible.

Virtual files, including when an application and operating system are coupled in a virtual appliance, "remove all that complexity of installing open source code, making sure the right pieces are there, and being sure you've loaded the right drivers," Bumpus says. "It eliminates the need for all that specialized expertise."

There open source is again, chipping away at that need for specialized expertise that has long erected a barrier to adoption. Better-integrated products, more usable interfaces, and more virtual appliances all provide a way around that wall. In an economic downturn, the business case for making use of these aids to open source adoption becomes stronger. Open source often still lags behind on features, as the software segment profiles that follow show. But some companies and governments are finding the price-feature-effectiveness mixture irresistible. If the economy gets worse before it gets better, others are likely to do the same.

Photo illustrations by Sek Leung

Photo illustration by Sek Leung
The Open Source Enterprise: Its Time Has Come
The problems that made open source code impractical for many businesses are falling away. Add in the 'cheaper' factor, and this should get interesting. Collaboration Is At The Heart Of Open Source Content Management
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