Customizing the Code

By David Strom Print this article Print

Open-source software offers a number of advantages, including cost savings and the availability of a professional support organization.

Customizing the Code

One attraction of OSS is the ability to customize the code to fit your particular circumstances, as well as the ability for a community of developers to continually enhance the code. The Motley Fool’s developers “contribute fixes to the Solr project so that everyone benefits,” says Conner.

“We have made minor changes to the code just to hook e-mail into our OpenLDAP directory services for single sign-ons and for other integration purposes,” notes Emerson of the City of Ventura. “It works well. For example, we will be integrating the OSS project.net with our payroll and project accounting system. Code changes cannot be done with proprietary software, but these changes can significantly improve information flow.”

Stonegate also made changes to the code. “We used an older plug-in for iPhone support, took that code and updated it, and submitted it back to them,” says Jackson. ”We’ve helped debug things that were getting in our way with their data-integration piece and submitted that back. We want to be a customer, not a development partner, but, if we can, we add a formula for a library, provide tutorials, documentation or do something small.”

Bryan Weis, the chief architect for Lehigh County in Pennsylvania, makes use of DotNetNuke, an open-source Web content-management solution. “We have utilized the platform’s extension capabilities to integrate the out-of-box authentication module with our custom-developed single sign-on environment,” Weis explains. “Because the platform is based on .NET architecture and Microsoft SQL server, it was easy to extend the model to support our needs.

“Because it is open source, we could review the native code to simplify the development process. Our developers especially liked the ability to get under the covers for experimentation and customization. We can now offer a single look and feel for all our Websites.”

Speaking of enhancements, one thing to look for is the update cycle in your OSS project. Some are on very aggressive cycles, with updates every month or two. “DotNetNuke started regular release cycles on a monthly basis about six months ago,” Weis says. “I don’t know of anyone that has such an aggressive release schedule, which is clearly a benefit to users.”

Open-source software has finally come of age, and we can expect to see more of this technology being used in a wider variety of situations across IT shops in the future.

This article was originally published on 2010-10-15
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