10 Rules for adopting Enterprise Open Source – A Cynic’s Guide


Open Source Software (OSS) has come a long way over the last few years, with offerings such as Linux, the Mozilla Firefox browser, the JBoss J2EE application server and the Apache Web Server becoming mainstays of many enterprise architectures. The consequential adoption of the radically different OSS business model continues to disrupt the software industry. However, this disruption is not restricted to vendors. Decision makers for a given project are now faced with the challenge of evaluating and comparing the total cost and risk of software associated with two quite different models: open source and closed source.

This evaluation is further complicated by the uncritical analysis of much OSS by commentators and even the buyer’s trusted advisors. This uncritical analysis follows understandably from the unchallenged premise of all OSS as an altruistic endeavour (sharing your intellectual property and expecting others to return the favour), and a business model which claims zero upfront cost. The arguments for or against adopting Linux, OpenSQL or JBoss are well established and understood. However, OSS is so diverse from both commercial and technological perspectives that for most OSS projects at least as much due diligence is required as for closed source software.

This insight focuses how to evaluate these less well known OSS projects for use in the enterprise. Furthermore as a cynics guide, it will highlight the risks and ignore the better known benefits. In doing so, this insight rebalances the debate and highlights the obvious fact that the initial attraction of zero upfront software cost must be balanced with by a range of risk factors. Each risk highlighted is based on actual case studies that author has direct knowledge of –details are withheld for confidentiality reasons.

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What questions should you ask before embarking on enterprise open source software?

This document looks at the suitability of open source software for the enterprise. In order to balance the popular trend, it aims to look for the drawback and the disadvantages rather than the positives, and comes up with 10 rules for IT Management to use when considering enterprise OSS projects.