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Open Source Software - Origins and Projects Open Source Software - Opportunity Open Source Software - Advantages, Tradeoffs, and Disadvantages

Trends in Open Source Software

According to a survey of information technology executives and business managers performed by CIO.com, 53% of organizational enterprise is using open source software. Approximately 80% of an information technology budget is used for standard operations and 30% of that budget goes directly into paying the salaries of employees performing routine maintenance. Given the requirement to streamline budget, there are less discretionary funds and capital for investment in hardware and software technology. Management is increasingly turning to open source software to address this issue.

FOSS: Free open source software assets can affect information technology initiatives in positive and negative ways. The major benefits are driven by a confluence of cost optimization, flexibility, and innovation. The principal risks are unmanaged software assets that can introduce technical and legal challenges: security, intellectual property management, and audit compliance. There will be costs that have to be budgeted in conjunction with its implementation.

The successful integration of open source software will require an organization-specific governance model which:

  • Addresses the unique elements and characteristics of the open source model.

  • Communicates policies regarding open source software to employees.

  • Supports audit initiatives and intellectual property laws.

  • Filters incoming open source software assets based on quality of code, license compliance, maturity, and utilization in the market.
  • Controls the deployment of open source software.

  • Establishes a relationship with the open source communities and technology providers.

  • Manages the delivery of open source technologies distributed beyond the enterprise.

  • Replaces the traditional waterfall model; open source projects typically will utilize Agile or Scrum iterative development methodologies.

Open source software is not an all or nothing decision; it can be utilized in hybrid combinations with commercial software.

Intellectual Property and Patents

Many software developers consider source code not to be an executable device, but rather a description of device execution. This assumes that source code is not by itself covered by patent law and that the fundamental premise would apply even in countries where software patents are accepted. Its viability will need to be tested in the courts. Independent nation states, negotiated integrated trade zones, and geopolitical spheres of influence apply different regulations and laws to software and intellectual property. Some countries accept software and algorithm patents; there can be ramifications with intellectual property infringement. Open source software packages have started to include switches or a patch that enable or disable patented code fragments according to the country where the code is used.

The availability of source code directly applies to the detection of patent infringement by patent holders, and the absence of an organization holding all the rights on the software makes it difficult to use standard mechanisms for defending patent litigation: cross-licensing or payment of royalties.

European Governments

European governments use open source software as a counterbalancing tool to intellectual property law and promote competition, innovation, and the public interest in a free market economy. They support competition more than in the United States. European anti-trust regulators will evaluate and grant access to its markets based upon a balancing among leading commercial software and availability of open source software.

Several European countries have policies which promote government agencies and municipalities to consider open source software as alternatives to monopolistic commercial software such as choice in web browser, Linux in place of the Microsoft Windows operating system, and MySQL in place of a commercial database.

Open Source Software - Origins and Projects

The Open Source Initiative was founded in the late 1990's as a innovative, community-enabled model for creating quality software based on widely accepted industry standards. The foundation of open source software distributed under the GPL: General Public License is that any organization or person that releases code into the market under that designation places no restrictions on its use. Open source software is available free or at minimal cost. The Open Data Center Alliance is a collection of more than 300 companies which together represent over $100 billion in annual information technology spending which promotes open standards and shared information. The bottom-up grass roots nature of open source has led advocates to view the projects as a populist foil to commercial software, where a company keeps the inner workings of its applications secret.

Commercial vendors have built for-profit businesses around open source products. The three most common business models are:

Open source software has thrived and played a prominent role in building the Internetís infrastructure. Many companies rely on Linux-based computers and Apache web server software to display their web pages. The Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers have emerged as formidable competition to Microsoft Internet Explorer / Edge and Apple Safari.

Red Hat, Inc. is the leading provider of open source software products to the enterprise community: Red Hat Linux and Fedora - Linux, middleware, management products,  applications, and cloud computing.

Open Source Projects

Open source projects are supported financially and used by leading information technology companies to shape markets in their own interest.

Significant acquisitions in which an up-and-coming open source company has been inquired include the Java Platform and language by Oracle Corporation, MySQL by Sun Microsystems and subsequently Oracle Corporation, SpringSource by VMware, and XenSource by Citrix.

The Java programming language is available in the public domain free of charge; however, there is component code of the platform which requires a specific license from Oracle Corporation. The Java SDK code based on the Java API library also can be downloaded free of charge. A license is required when class libraries based on Java API designs are used and when Java software components are downloaded. The consensus among information technology executives and technologist is that although there are components of the Java language available at no cost and unrestricted in use, the Java platform requires a license which enforces restrictions in use.

The complexity of the Java language and platform is a legal question involving a mixed set of guidelines. In the Oracle Corporation versus Google Corporation legal action at the United States District Court in San Francisco, Google legal counsel asked Laurence Ellison, chief executive officer of Oracle Corporation under oath, whether the Java language is free open source software. Mr. Ellisonís response was that he did not know.

Linux Operating System

Linux is a stable open source operating system that features development tools, desktops, and applications. Most Linux software is developed as open source software and distributed along with the application. Programmers can make their own contributions to a software package's development, modifying and correcting the source code. Much of the software provided for Linux also are open source projects, as are the KDE and GNOME desktops along with most of their applications. The LibreOffice office suite is an open source project based on the StarOffice suite.

Open source software is protected by public licenses which prevent commercial companies from taking control by adding a few modifications, copyrighting those changes, and selling the software as their own product. The Linux operating system is distributed under the General Public License provided by the Free Software Foundation. The GNU General Public License retains the copyright; the software is licensed with the requirement that the software and any modifications made to it remain freely available. Other public licenses also have been created to support different kinds of open source projects. The GNU: LGPL: Lesser General Public License allows commercial applications to use GNU licensed software libraries. The QPL: Qt Public License permits open source developers to use the Qt libraries for the KDE desktop.

GNU: GNUís not UNIX software has proven reliable. Many of the popular Linux utilities, such as C compilers, shells, and editors, are GNU applications. Leading Linux distributions will include the GNUC++ and Lisp compilers, vi and Emacs editors, and BASH and TCSH shells. There are many open source software projects licensed under the GNU GPL. With the GNU Public License, there are no restrictions on selling the software or giving it away free.

Several major software companies contribute to the Linux Foundation and provide Linux-variants for their popular commercial software.

Open Source Software - Opportunity

Open source software is being increasingly evaluated by organizational enterprise as an alternative to commercial software: affordability, performance, and usability. The strategic objective is to utilize open source software for improving the efficiency of IT infrastructure and innovating for competitive advantage. In order to ensure competition in the marketplace, the governments in different parts of the world are imposing regulations in accordance with their national agenda in order to ensure that there is an open source alternative to the major commercial software products.

Open source software has reached a level of maturity and acceptance, where it has become a standard practice as part of product evaluations to compare open source applications with commercial solutions.

Open Source Stack Open Source Software
Web Browsers
Web Browser and Content Presentation
Chrome Firefox
Mobile Devices
Google Android Google Chrome OS
HP webOS Linux-variants
Scripting and Web Servers
AJAX JavaScript Perl PHP
Apache Glassfish JBoss
Web Apps, Office Suite Applications, and Blogging
Operating System: UNIX- and Linux-variants
Apps, Office Suite, and Content Management
Google Apps Drupal
Joomla OpenOffice
StarOffice WordPress
Database Middleware
Ingres Open Message Queue
MySQL Apache ActiveMQ
Postgres JBoss Messaging
Programming Languages



Java 2 Objective-C
Python Ruby
Virtualization Technologies
Systems Management
CETi is in the process of reviewing and categorizing open source mobile databases. Information can be reviewed at SYS-ED software specific websites.

Open Source Software - Advantages, Tradeoffs, and Disadvantages

Proponents advocate the use of open source software for the following reasons:

Benefit Explanation
Avoid Vendor Lock-in Open source software is built on standard technologies and offers interoperability with commercial software. This can serve to mitigate being held captive to license and maintenance contract price increases from commercial software vendors.
Commodity Hardware The use of commodity hardware rather than commercial machines represents a significant cost saving. Both the initial outlay for base systems and hardware maintenance will be less expensive. Architecture independence allows software to be transferred across physical systems.
Innovation There are parties in the open source community working to refine and expand the functionality of open source software. Upgrades, patches, and bug fixes typically are released faster than commercial software.
Security In many cases, open source software will be more secure than commercial software and fewer remedial activities and resources will be needed to keep systems and data safe.
Value Since development costs are shared by a community of parties, open source software will be less expensive than commercial software.

There also are tradeoffs and disadvantages associated with open source software:

Tradeoffs and Disadvantages Explanation
Software incompatibility There can be inconsistencies and problems with integrating open source software with existing software.
Support and Maintenance There can be uncertainty and risk associated with the support provided with an open source software ecosystem: technical difficulties, maintenance, and troubleshooting. In many situations, there can be no guaranteed response time for submitted questions and problems.
Costs - Open Source Software There will be costs associated with free software. The open source software requires investment and development of salaried staff to provided specialized support and service.
Documentation - Shortcomings The completeness, quality, and third party availability of documentation associated with open source software typically is inferior to commercial software.
Intellectual Property There can be additional complexity associated with open source software. The absence of an organization holding all the rights on the software makes it difficult to use standard mechanisms for defending usage rights and patent litigation.

Footnote 1:
Includes comments reported to be made by Doug Cutting, founder and chief architect at Cloudera, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/25/media-guardian-innovation-awards-apache-hadoop.

Footnote 2:
Component code of Java is open source. The Java language in its entirety is not distributed under a General Public License.

This information is updated to reflect a review of white papers from Gartner, Inc., Forrester Research, Red Hat, and downloads of open source code.
Additional information about the open source movement is available at //www.opensource.org.