A Community Effort

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 2009-01-30 Print this article Print

Lack of governance is the biggest obstacle to enterprise Open Source implementations. Getting the projects under control is step one.

Select widely supported platforms. Choose open source applications that have rich support and a strong community, says Ray Wang, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

“The richness of the tool, support community, and the wide range of widgets and theme options are key criteria,” Wang says. With a strong community, “you'll get the benefits of a community ecosystem,” he says. “You can't pay enough money for that kind of level of support.”

Keep abreast of release changes. Open source software is constantly being revised for improvements—one of the benefits of the open model.

“The pace of innovation is much faster with open source projects,” Wang says. “Releases often follow agile methodologies with frequent updates from small but powerful teams. With so many releases and bug fixes in play, users should keep abreast of changes on a weekly basis, at a minimum.”

Understand that open source welcomes active participation. Again, part of the success of open source stems from the fact that the software is continually evolving based on input from users. “Contribute to the community as much as possible. The power of open source is with the community,” Wang says.

Managers need to recognize that open source is more self-service than traditional packaged software, Golden adds. “Employees willing to take an active approach to the technology rather than passively expecting the vendor to deliver a complete solution are crucial,” he says. “Assess the [ability] of employees to understand technical capability and [their] willingness to roll up their sleeves."

If you’re modifying open source code, engage with open source project leaders. If any changes are made in code, they should be submitted to the community for review in order to be included in the mainline code base, Golden says.

“Attempting to maintain a separate code tree inevitably leads to extra effort and decreased quality,” he says. For example, the organization will have to repeatedly reapply its changes to every code release if these are not included in the code base.

Golden says organizations can work with open source communities via mailing lists or forums. They can report bugs or make suggestions regarding product features. “This gets your organization's use cases and needs into the discussion about what to do with the product going forward,” he says.

If an organization needs extensions to a product, it should evaluate contracting for them with product maintainers or leaders within the community.


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