Six Options For Open-Source Support - InformationWeek

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2/23/2006
01:48 PM
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Six Options For Open-Source Support

Companies are turning to open-source software as an alternative to vendor lock-in.

Commercial software can be costly in more ways than one. As if hefty license fees weren't bad enough, product support is limited to whatever services the vendor agrees to sell you, at a price that's tough to negotiate. Of course, you could fix program bugs yourself if you had access to the source code—but the typical software maker doesn't provide this.

So how do you break the cycle of vendor dependency? One popular choice is to explore open-source alternatives.

Such nonproprietary software has key advantages. For one thing, it's free, at least insofar as no license fees are involved. Moreover, its source code is accessible to everyone, giving rise to a new class of support providers whose numbers are steadily growing.

Although enterprises are still in the early phases of adopting open source, the software is gaining ground. Fifty-six percent of companies used open source last year, up from 46% in 2004, according to a 2005 Forrester Research survey of more than 100 IT decision-makers in North America. The study further found that nearly 20% more were planning to use open source in 2005, compared with 14% a year earlier. And according to a separate report from Gartner, 95% of all Global 2000 organizations will have formal open-source acquisition and management strategies in place by 2008.

Despite their popularity, not all open-source initiatives originate with management. At many organizations, software-development teams pursue open source independently of the CIO and other IT leaders—and often without their knowledge.

With that in mind, CIOs would be well-advised not to buck the open-source trend. On the contrary, they should assume responsibility for open-source initiatives and ensure that their companies have the right support structures in place.

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