LINUXWORLD - Open-source advice abounds

It's not the be-all and end-all, but open source can still save money

Still looking for ideas about bringing some Linux and other open-source applications to your company?

In New York at last week's LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit, experts have been advising attendees on what to look for and how to evaluate choices, and offering their real-world experiences with deploying open-source software inside their own operations.

Evaluate open-source just as you would any other software

As open-source software has moved away from the margins and into the hearts of corporate data centers -- and corporate IT thinking -- in recent years, it has systematically gained new converts and interest. That doesn't mean one size fits all, or even that open-source solutions are a fix for all existing IT problems, incompatibilities and shortcomings. Instead, open-source applications should be seen as one part of a company's overall IT portfolio.

That's the opinion of Andy Astor, CEO and president of EnterpriseDB, an open-source database vendor in Iselin, N.J., who spoke yesterday at the conference. "It's just a hammer," Astor said of open-source applications. "It will not build your house alone."

For corporate IT departments, open source and Linux can be sensible choices, he said. But using both still requires the same due diligence and research needed when selecting what proprietary software to deploy. "Don't forget how to run a project," Astor said. "Open source doesn't change that -- don't get sloppy."

He said several key points should be kept in mind when deciding on open-source applications:

-- "Don't be overly excited or panicked about it because it's open source," Astor said. "This has got nothing to do with being open source. It's a tool."

-- Costs for evaluation, testing, deployment and support will likely be similar for open-source and proprietary applications. Real cost savings will be for licenses, which can save 5 percent to 25 percent of a product's total cost of ownership, Astor said. "Projects are difficult. They're large. They're complex. Open-source projects are no different," he said.

-- Where open-source applications can shine in corporate IT environments is in software features and easy customization, he said. Corporate users care less about seeing the code than about getting quality software that works and is supported by a large community of open-source developers who are responsive to making fixes, improvements and other needed changes.

-- If you are paying for support for your open-source applications, make sure that your support vendor has staff members who are active members of the open-source communities that maintain and develop your software. Astor said. "Be sure your vendor is a 'joiner' so they have the expertise," he said.

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