This book is not a tirade as to why you should use open source. Rather, it is a sober reflection and a pragmatic approach to an ocean of opportunity. Companies that learn how to take advantage of open source software will have an advantage over those that do not. Information Technology (IT) 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.
If this book is successful, it will transform the conversations between programmers and managers, merging the best of both perspectives. No longer will programmers and managers speak at cross purposes and argue for different values. Instead, the techniques and recommendations in this book can help them focus such conversations on the value that software can create, regardless of its origin, and how to manage the risks involved.
The fundamental problem with using open source is that it is so profoundly exciting to everyone involved. Developers see a way to keep learning and to apply their skill and craft using open source projects to build systems that solve problems in creative ways. IT management is thrilled with the possibility of cutting costs, building solutions for less, and gaining power in negotiations with vendors.
But that excitement can too easily blind otherwise sophisticated professionals to hidden costs, unacknowledged responsibilities, and governance challenges inherent in using open source.
If using open source were as easy as just installing Linux and learning to use a few open source tools and applications, the world would have completely converted to open source by now. But it is not that easy.
Organizations with the highest skill levels, such as Google, Yahoo!, and Amazon.com, as well as financial services companies, scientists, and researchers, are all heavy users of open source. But this does not mean that mere mortals cannot succeed with open source. Millions of people around the world at organizations large and small are making open source work for them.
This book will be a guide to making open source work for you. To get it right you have to understand what open source is and what it is not. You must know the problem you are trying to solve and the quality of the tools you are using. You must understand the fully loaded costs of using open source and have a strategy for acquiring and maintaining the needed skills. You must understand how to craft a hybrid stack of open source and commercial software that makes sense for your organization. You must understand open source licensing, the new commercial services for open source, and the ongoing attacks on open source.
This book approaches these problems in the following 10 chapters by Dan Woods, with assistance from Gautam Guliani, along with an additional series of appendixes by Gautam Guliani that identify the most promising open source for various problems facing IT departments:
The origins, evolution, and life cycle of open source, and an evaluation of its potential benefits for the enterprise.
How to determine the quality of an open source project, and whether it is right for your company.
An analysis of the knowledge required to effectively implement open source, and a discussion of how an enterprise can build skills from within.
How to calculate the return on investment of open source, and make a compelling case to management.
A low-risk plan for adopting and applying open source.
Where to find help in implementing open source projects, and how to evaluate competing offers.
Closing the productization gap, and expanding the opportunities for open source deployment.
The legal underpinnings of open source licensing, with evaluations of GPL, Copyleft, LGPL, BSD, and others.
FUD, the legal challenges being mounted against open source, and how an enterprise can manage the risks involved.
Build versus buy, the middle road less taken, and how using open source will change your IT department for the better.
Building a platform and assembling the right portfolio of open source software.
Recommended solutions for replacing commonly used desktop applications.
Recommended email application and server solutions.
Recommended portal, groupware, and collaboration solutions.
Recommended web publishing and content management solutions.
Recommended application server solutions.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of using open source is the process of self-improvement that an IT department undergoes in learning how to make open source work. All of the fundamental issues in IT—understanding requirements, finding a focus, building skills, managing scarce resources, and designing a coherent architecture—must be addressed. Solving these issues through pursuing a course of open source adoption can bring new empowerment to an IT department.
This book is not a vitamin pill that will make you a muscled-up open source superhero in one swallow. It is more of a workout routine based on the distilled experience of years of work by IT professionals.
Open source should play some role in most IT departments, including yours. This book will show you how to get it right—not through reckless enthusiasm, but through prudence, patience, and a methodical search for risks and ways to remedy them.
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