Gauging Open-Source Software Obstacles

By Doug Bartholomew Print this article Print

Think open-source software is ready-made for your infrastructure? Baseline gets real with open-source customers to find out the challenges and successes in working with vendors, customization, documentation and licensing. 

If you haven’t drunk the open-source software Kool-Aid yet, there’s a good chance you will soon.

That was pretty much the consensus about open-source software at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco this week. While there certainly is no paucity of stumbling blocks for organizations to negotiate when adopting open-source software, many companies are finding ways to overcome them so they can reap the benefits of non-proprietary software.

“We haven’t met any customers that just want to turn open source off, because they realize how much value there is in it,” says Karl Paetzel, marketing manager of the Open Source and Linux Organization at Hewlett-Packard. “When we talk with IT management at our customers, they say they want to do more with open source.”

One of the first issues companies must come to grips with when considering open-source software is licenses. That’s right, licenses.

In the world of technology, it seems even so-called free stuff often comes with a legal string or two that must be knotted and tied.

“Some people don’t realize there are licenses associated with open-source software,” says Paetzel. An HP site launched in January, FOSSBazaar.org, includes a license detection agent that helps companies manage their open-source licenses, he adds.

“We actually just picked licenses that we liked,” says Derek Gottfrid, senior software architect at NYTimes.com. “The Grey Lady” used open-source solutions for at least three different Web applications. 

*Read how one innovator wants to use an open-source mobile mesh network as for reducing urban gridlock with cars and trucks.

At the Los Angeles Times, the licensing issue has been a bit of a thorny issue, according to David Johnson, managing director of software engineering in the newspaper’s Web Publishing Services group.

“We need to learn about the license and see if it will fit in with what we’re doing,” Johnson says. “I don’t want to encumber our own developers with license that would require us to share, because there are certain proprietary aspects to the software we create.”

This article was originally published on 2008-03-28
Doug Bartholomew is a career journalist who has covered information technology for more than 15 years. A former senior editor at IndustryWeek and InformationWeek, his freelance features have appeared in New York magazine and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. He has a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University.
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