What not to do when eyeing open-source

When considering a migration to open-source software, IT users should keep in mind the mistakes of those who tried before and avoid falling into the same traps experienced by others.

That was the advice last week from Andy Astor, CEO of EnterpriseDB, at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, where he gave a presentation on the "Top Five Mistakes to Avoid in Migrating to Open-Source."

One of the most important things to remember, he said, is that using open-source software shouldn't be a goal if you don't have a clear idea about the rationale behind such a move. Doing it just to follow a fad is not a great idea, he said.

Instead, it's important to do thorough internal analysis and focus on avoiding these issues:

  • Failing to minimize costs and risks associated with a migration. "If you're not working hard to minimize the costs and risks, chances are you are going to be part of one of the attempts that fail," Astor said. "Understand your business case and if you don't know it, I would encourage you to walk away." By proactively and explicitly reviewing the risks -- and the best practices available to minimize them -- migration decisions will be easier, more focused and more likely to work.

  • Bringing in open-source for open-source's sake or because it may help your career. "Open-source is just a technology solution to a business problem," Astor said. "Open-source is not a religion. Open-source is going to just be a part of the [overall technology] fabric in general. Why are you doing your open-source migration is the right question. To reduce costs, to enhance security, to increase business flexibility -- these are all good reasons. What matters is if you are effectively solving a business problem and I would encourage you to continue to ask that question."

  • Fearing the unknown, including licensing concerns. "Open-source licenses are not that complicated, just unfamiliar," Astor said. "Don't sweat it, read it. It's not that hard."

  • Ignoring the open-source community. "The community is the direct force behind open-source software," he said. "Fundamentally, you ignore the community at your own peril. It's where you get active help, where you might get your next workers. If you don't have yourself or your vendor deeply involved in the thing that is driving this forward, then you're sort of standing there all by yourself. You can get a whole lot from the community."

  • Saying that because it's open-source, you don't need support. "A commercial organization needs commercial support," especially when it's running enterprise applications that matter to the business, Astor said. "You need to know that there's someone on the planet to fix things that go wrong."