Open Source in the Enterprise
In the last few years Open Source usage as reported by various surveys has really skyrocketed. We all know Linux in the data center has high usage, I’ve even seen statistics that claim 32% of netbooks use FOSS vs. Windows. And I’ve even read claims that Linux desktop domination is only a few years away. Of course I take these claims with a very large grain of salt. However you accept or dismiss these claims, one thing is certain; Open Source offers significant benefits to companies of all sizes. The problem that I see is most companies do not have an Open Source strategy.
Recently eWeek published an article where they outlined 6 recommendations for Open Source adoption in business.
1. Develop an Open Source Software Policy
It has been my experience that most companies have buried their heads in the sand and fail to acknowledge the existence of Open Source. Before anything can be incorporated into the corporate culture a policy must be in place that outlines the usage and limitations. Just like your Email, Internet Usage or Social Media policy outlines acceptable behaviour an official Open Source Policy has to be in place describing acceptable use of Open Source in your company.
2. Place Open Source on Equal footing with Proprietary Software
Open Source has gotten a bad wrap over the years. It was and continues to be treated as the poor cousin when compared to commercial software. This of course is driven by misconceptions, negative stereotypes and ignorance. In many ways Open Source code quality is as good and in some cases better and more secure then proprietary closed software. Until Open Source is treated equally with proprietary software it will never be accepted in the Enterprise. There will always be a seed of doubt, a nagging feeling wondering if Open Source is good, trustworthy or reliable.
3. Develop an Open Source Software Support Approach
Paid maintenance and support with proprietary software is assumed and seldom questioned. It’s part of the cost of doing business. Why then, is it so hard to pay for Open Source support? Most Open Source projects offer commercial support for their offerings, yet few of us actually buy in. It may have to do with the history of Open Source and idea of “Free“. If software maintenance and support is part of doing business, then Open Source support should not be treated differently. Paid Open Source support can significantly reduce the anxiety of using and relying on Open Source for critical business processes.
4. Create an ROI Framework for Open Source Adoption
Convincing Senior Management on the merits of Open Source can’t be driven by cost alone. Anyone that believes Open Source comes with zero cost has no clue and should be ignored. While there may be no initial purchase cost associated with Open Source, there are always hidden costs like with any other new technology. These may include User training, IT support training and hardware upgrade costs to name just a few. Many companies make the mistake of simply looking at the bottom line when choosing Open Source. The best approach to Open Source adoption decision process is to calculate the Return On Investment. In other words when deciding between Open Source vs. Proprietary calculate the total benefit to the company over a period of time and compare. Higher benefit equals higher ROI.
5. Audit Current Open Source Software Usage
The first step is acknowledging Open Source is alive and well in my business process. It’s amazing how some levels of management have no clue their critical business processes are using Open Source. A company wide initiative to uncover and document all uses of Open Source will help in acknowledging Open Source is alive and well, and secondly help build a company strategy on the use and adoption of Open Source.
6. Incorporate Open Source Software into your Cloud Strategy
Everyone is talking Cloud these days. Most cloud frameworks are built upon Open Source. Amazon is a perfect example. The inherent nature of Open Source makes it a perfect candidate for Cloud integration. The major Open Source players have well established Cloud solutions, don’t ignore them, instead embrace their cumulative knowledge when building your cloud strategy.