Open-Source Software, Now

The time has come for the enterprise to consider open-source software. OSS, like Apache Web servers, Asterisk IP telephone switches, Linux desktops and others, can be less expensive to maintain and easier to support and scale. It can also provide a level of professional quality that, in some cases, can exceed purchased proprietary code. But before you switch to OSS, consider these issues.

A big reason to go with OSS is to save money. John Emerson, the IT manager of the City of Ventura, Calif., says that the processes for evaluating and selecting these products is deeply ingrained in their corporate strategy as part of a general initiative to be cost-effective and to keep productivity high.

“We couldn’t have afforded the same capability from proprietary software vendors,” he says. “Cost savings have been in the 80 percent range, including retraining.”

Keeping costs down was also the motivation for The Motley Fool Website, which features a huge collection of content focusing on stock investing and other financial information. The company had been using the Google Search Appliance, but as its demands increased, the company was faced with a massive 10-times cost upgrade to continue with Google.

“Our document count was rapidly growing because of the activity on our hosted discussion forums, and we needed a newer and less expensive model,” recalls Tom Conner, vice president of Software Development. The Fool switched to the OSS Solr search project and cut costs by 90 percent.

One of the most successful OSS examples is Linux. But if you’re going to move to Linux desktops, begin with new hires.

Tony Maro, CIO of Evrichart, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., makes use of many different OSS products—from Linux desktops to the Asterisk phone system to OpenVPN for his remote network access. Evrichart’s business, which involves scanning and keeping track of massive numbers of medical records, originally ran on various Windows servers and desktops, but there were performance and reliability issues. The company had a developer build a scanner driver from scratch for Linux and contributed it to the SANE (Scanner Access Now Easy) project.

“If you start from the beginning with open-source software, you never have to worry about making someone switch their desktop later—it just becomes natural to use that environment,” says Maro. “We found that when you give a new employee a Linux computer and training in how to use it, there’s never resistance because a new employee is expecting to learn new things.” Maro made deploying his

Linux desktops easier by us-ing OSS from Puppet Labs to automate the configuration and policy-enforcement tasks. “It’s all pretty much hands-off at this point,” he adds. “A junior support tech can in-stall and completely configure a Linux desktop with about five minutes of training.”