Open source software, which includes a wide range of software tools, utilities, and platforms available to organizations, represents a class of software that is largely developed by open communities and usually distributed free of charge for commercial use. Organizations that leverage open source software across the enterprise often realize a number of efficiencies including low or no initial and upgrade license acquisition costs as well as reduced support requirements in a number of areas. Additionally, open source software typically gives an organization just that - open source code from which they can modify or enhance to meet specific organizational requirements, rather than wait for vendors to address requirements in future versions of their software.
The debate over use of open source software is an obvious one. Many software companies have invested millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of software packages over time for purchase by organizations and individuals. Their contention is that this level of investment has resulted in superior products as well as superior support that ultimately results in a lower total cost of ownership relative to open source solutions. Many of the hotly debated areas associated with open source software adoption, both for and against, include its:
- Reliability and stability.
- Performance characteristics.
- Security vulnerabilities, or lack thereof.
- ·Support options, both immediate and longer term.
An interesting reality is that many organizations have taken a position not to use open source software for many enterprise-level purposes, failing to recognize that they already have. IT organizations may debate, for example, the feasibility of leveraging open source platforms for web content management while failing to realize their websites already run on open source web servers like Apache™.
To realize potential savings from open source software, many organizations look for opportunities across a broad range of areas including tools for internal IT management, simple utilities, specific applications like productivity software, enterprise platforms, and underlying technical components that become a part of broader IT solutions.