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August 29, 2005

Open Source for the Enterprise: A Guide to the Benefits, Risks, and Responsibilities of Using Open Source

If using open source were as easy as simply installing Linux and learning to use a few free tools and applications, the world would have completely converted to open source by now. Certainly, the benefits of using open source are attractive and significant: "Becoming the sort of IT department that can successfully use open source means empowerment, saving hard dollars, and ensuring freedom from captivity to vendors," observe Dan Woods and Gautam Guliani, authors of Open Source for the Enterprise (O'Reilly, US $22.95). Large and small businesses alike that are enticed by open source's possibilities--saving money on license fees, reducing support and integration costs, gaining access to the functionality of thousands of programs, and much more--must necessarily hesitate when they consider its incumbent risks and responsibilities.

"IT departments are waking up to the profound opportunities open source provides to save money and better serve the business. In Open Source for the Enterprise, I try to explain what open source is, how it is different from enterprise software, and how IT departments can take advantage of it by building skills and implementing new governance processes to control adoption," explains Woods.

Woods and Guliani describe their book as "a sober reflection and a pragmatic approach to an ocean of opportunity." Written from an IT department's perspective, Open Source for the Enterprise is organized around the common problems facing those who struggle in the trenches. Rather than plunging into the popular, spirited debate of why open source is superior to proprietary software, the authors offer an intelligent discussion aimed to help technology and business executives determine whether they can benefit from using open source in their environments.

"Companies that learn how to take advantage of open source software will have an advantage over those that do not," Woods and Guliani explain. "Information technology departments that build the skills needed to put open source to work alongside existing systems will serve their companies better than those that do not. This book aims to be a guide to the challenges IT departments will encounter when they undertake this journey."

As Woods and Guliani point out, in order to make open source work, businesses will need to have a clear understanding of what open source is and what it is not. They'll need to understand the fully loaded costs of using open source and have a strategy for acquiring and maintaining the needed skills. This will involve crafting a hybrid tack of open source and commercial software that makes sense for the organization. Open Source for the Enterprise approaches these and other issues in ten succinct chapters, beginning with a discussion of the nature of open source; the book concludes with a series of appendixes that identify the most promising open source applications. Other topics covered are:

  • The open source skill set
  • Making the ROI case
  • Designing an open source strategy
  • Support models for open source
  • Open source under attack
  • A comparison of open source licenses
  • "Open source should play some role in most IT departments, including yours," notes Woods. "This book will show you how to get it right--not through reckless enthusiasm, but through prudence, patience, and a methodical search for the risks and ways to remedy them."

    Additional Resources:

    Open Source for the Enterprise
    Dan Woods and Gautam Guliani
    ISBN: 0-596-00119-8, 219 pages, $22.95 US, $32.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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