Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Gerardo A Dada, Carmen Gonzalez, JP Morgenthal, Elizabeth White, PagerDuty Blog

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Succeeding with Open Source

Meeting your needs

In this issue, Bernard Golden, author of Succeeding with Open Source, discusses open source software, its pros and cons, and how to choose the right Linux implementation for your business.

What is open source software and how is it different from traditional software?
The primary difference between open source software and traditional software is the licensing conditions under which open source is distributed. Traditional software licenses tightly control the use and distribution of the software in order to ensure consistency, so they can realize revenues from license sales. This means, for example, you are usually restricted as to how many machines you may install the software on.

Open source software, by contrast, is distributed under licenses designed to encourage widespread use with few restrictions. This means you can use the software on as many machines as you choose.

Another important difference between open source and traditional software is that open source is distributed as source code, which users are encouraged to modify and redistribute. Users can modify the product to better serve their needs rather than being forced to live with the product's functionality as is. One of the few restrictions about open source is that, should you modify the product and redistribute it, you are expected to make your source changes available.

This is a general overview of open source software licenses. There are additional nuances depending upon the specific license. For most IT shops, license differences don't really mean anything because they don't modify the product and don't distribute to other organizations. If you want to know more about licenses, Larry Rosen's book Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law (Prentice Hall PTR, 2004) is an excellent reference.

Is all open source software also free?
Open source software tends to be extremely inexpensive, available on CDs at a low price, and usually also available for download at no charge. Open source products are usually not built by commercial entities but rather by informal project teams, so there is no company as such that distributes and charges for the product.

Anyone can take an open source product and distribute (and charge) for it; however, open source licenses preclude a distributor from imposing conditions on users and preventing them from further distributing the product. What this means, in effect, is that even if a commercial entity distributes an open source product at a given price, the purchaser can then make it available to others for free. Essentially, this forces distribution at no cost, or at the cost of distribution. So, open source software tends to be available at no cost.

This discussion applies to the software itself. There are many organizations that offer open source support, training, consulting, and other services, all of which have a price. Since software has virtually no marginal costs associated with additional copies, open source software tends to be free; however, open source services have significant costs like labor, marketing, and capital, and therefore are not free.

What questions should managers be asking their employees when the employees suggest using open source tools?
The most important question a manager should ask is, "How mature are the product elements our organization needs?" Because open source is so easy to download, many times implementation of the software begins before other important organization requirements like training, documentation, support, and so forth are considered. A formal process to assess the product in its entirety is important. The Open Source Maturity Model, described in Succeeding with Open Source, is a tool that enables IT shops to perform open source assessments. Without asking the question about the maturity of all the product elements, the organization runs the risk that it may be unprepared to support the product it has implemented.

What are the basic advantages and disadvantages of using open source software?
For most organizations the biggest advantages of open source are its low cost and control. We've talked about pricing already, but control can be just as important. Using open source, organizations have a lot more ability to use software in ways that work for them. They can implement as many copies as they want, rather than being limited to only installing on certain machines. Organizations can control how often and how soon they want to upgrade to a new version of the software, rather than being forced to move based on the vendor's plans. There's no vendor lock-in either, since the software is not usually provided by a commercial entity. Finally, the availability of source code means that, should it choose, the organization can modify the product to better suits its needs - no one-size-fits-all situation.

The downside to open source is implied by the answer to your third question. Open source is much more of an unbundled product compared to its commercial counterpart. The other product elements users can usually depend on (training, etc.) need to be found and assessed by the user organization. In effect, IT organizations need to take on an integration role. This integration responsibility is the flip side of the enhanced control described above: the control carries responsibility along with it.

There are so many open source software packages around. How do I know which ones are "ready for prime time"?
As noted, a formal process like the OSMM is important to determine if a given product is suitable for your organization. Relying on "buzz" or opinions expressed on product forums is dangerous because the organization's requirements aren't taken into account. Only by assessing all of the product's elements in light of the organization's requirements can it be determined if the product is "ready for prime time."

Which open source packages provide the greatest value for users in terms of overall capability and maturity?
This is a great question. Many organizations have realized excellent ROI on their Linux implementations and are eager to consider other open source packages, but aren't sure where to turn for other open source candidates. The broad coalition of major technology providers that endorsed Linux is not so obvious for other products, so it takes a bit more persistence to find good products. I call this search "reaching into second- and third-tier open source products," not so much because they're not good quality, but because they're not so well known. The best established of the lesser-known products are MySQL (www.mysql.com) and JBoss (www.jboss.org), both excellent candidates for the enterprise software stack. MySQL is a very fast SQL database, while JBoss is a fully certified J2EE application server.

The Apache Software Foundation (www.apache.org) is an umbrella organization for a number of valuable open source applications like Struts (Java Web applications), SpamAssassin (anti-spam software), and some Web services software like Axis.

Zope (www.zope.org) is an enterprise content management system designed to enable decentralized control of Web site content. Plone (www.plone.org) is a portal product built on top of Zope. Computer Associates has recently announced support for Zope and participated in the creation of the Plone Foundation.

Snort (www.snort.org) is a network Intrusion Detection System that helps organizations improve their security by doing network traffic and protocol analysis as well as packet logging and attack detection.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; there are over 80,000 open source products and it's impossible to keep up with all of them. The critical thing to keep in mind is that each of them must be assessed for maturity in light of an organization's requirements to ensure that the product in question will serve its intended purpose.

About Bernard Golden
Bernard Golden is the CEO of Navica.
[email protected]

More Stories By Kevin Bedell

Kevin Bedell, one of the founding editors of Linux.SYS-CON.com, writes and speaks frequently on Linux and open source. He is the director of consulting and training for Black Duck Software.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, discussed recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model for ...
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effici...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal...
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, discussed how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your aud...
"At ROHA we develop an app called Catcha. It was developed after we spent a year meeting with, talking to, interacting with senior citizens watching them use their smartphones and talking to them about how they use their smartphones so we could get to know their smartphone behavior," explained Dave Woods, Chief Innovation Officer at ROHA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...