Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Flint Brenton, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, John Esposito

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
When people aren’t talking about VMs and containers, they’re talking about serverless architecture. Serverless is about no maintenance. It means you are not worried about low-level infrastructural and operational details. An event-driven serverless platform is a great use case for IoT. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Animesh Singh, an STSM and Lead for IBM Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, will detail how to build a distributed serverless, polyglot, microservices framework using open source tec...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
Presidio has received the 2015 EMC Partner Services Quality Award from EMC Corporation for achieving outstanding service excellence and customer satisfaction as measured by the EMC Partner Services Quality (PSQ) program. Presidio was also honored as the 2015 EMC Americas Marketing Excellence Partner of the Year and 2015 Mid-Market East Partner of the Year. The EMC PSQ program is a project-specific survey program designed for partners with Service Partner designations to solicit customer feedbac...
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his Day 2 Keynote at @ThingsExpo, Henrik Kenani Dahlgren, Portfolio Marketing Manager at Ericsson, discussed how to plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change t...
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...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, 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. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, 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 opportuni...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...