All too often, people have wrong impressions of open source software (OSS)
. Just what is open source software, when should organizations use it and what misunderstandings should organizations avoid?
Consultant Seth Gottlieb
answered these questions in his Web Content 2007
presentation entitled When Open Source Makes Sense
. Seth has been working in content technologies for the past ten years and has a background in open source issues.
Open source licenses allow for free redistribution of the software including the source code and depending on the specific license, can allow the user to derive works from that software. Companies may choose to open source their software to slash distribution costs, and instead profit from support licenses and/or selling a "professional" or "enterprise" version of the software.
In Monday's session Gottlieb busted seven myths about open source projects:
# This type of software is a trap and that in the long run, it will cost you more than commercial software
# Developers are hobbyists and hackers and their software is unreliable and insecure
# Support is not available
# It'll cost you no money to deploy
# OSS software is better
# OSS embraces open standards
# Communities around open source projects are vibrant and helpful
Of course, every myth has elements of truth. And Seth's position is that used in the proper situation, open source software can be a better alternative for some companies.
Gottlieb provided real world examples from the travel industry to show which companies would be best to implement open source, which companies should use commercial software, and which situations might call for a combination of both.
The take away? Open source alternatives can be viable, but an organization must carry-out the sober diligence exercises of one, understanding exactly what they think they are getting from an OSS option; and two, understanding clearly what the software options are and how many of the OSS myths might apply to them.