Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Craig Lowell, XebiaLabs 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
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device.
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...
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...
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
“delaPlex Software provides software outsourcing services. We have a hybrid model where we have onshore developers and project managers that we can place anywhere in the U.S. or in Europe,” explained Manish Sachdeva, CEO at delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
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 effi...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
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.
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Unless your company can spend a lot of money on new technology, re-engineering your environment and hiring a comprehensive cybersecurity team, you will most likely move to the cloud or seek external service partnerships. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Darren Guccione, CEO of Keeper Security, revealed what you need to know when it comes to encryption in the cloud.
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
What are the successful IoT innovations from emerging markets? What are the unique challenges and opportunities from these markets? How did the constraints in connectivity among others lead to groundbreaking insights? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Carmen Feliciano, a Principal at AMDG, will answer all these questions and share how you can apply IoT best practices and frameworks from the emerging markets to your own business.
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...