Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Managing Open Source Sprawl

Open source software has real grassroots appeal. By definition, it is easily acquired, allowing IT Departments to quickly deploy it within their ICT ecosystem. However, open source's ease of acquisition and often absence of formal procurement presents its own challenges.

Enterprises--especially those with talented, enterprising developers in house--may be surprised to learn how many open source components exist within their IT infrastructure. Surprise is not a good thing when it comes to technology.

Open source management is essential to maximize the benefits of open source. In this respect, it is not so different from other software. Both open source and proprietary software will be (and likely are) part of your organization's ICT ecosystem. Both must be managed, like any asset.

However, open source management is different than other source management. Its decentralized nature elevates certain risks:

* Use (and benefits of in house customization) of an open source product may not be evenly distributed within an organization.
* Security patches may not be uniformly adopted.
* Licensing issues may be overlooked.
* Interoperability gaps may not be identified.
* Improvements by the open source community may get missed.

There are products commercially available to help enterprises manage open source assets, as reported here. But it is impossible to purchase or outsource effective management. Good management starts at home. Enterprises need to establish their own rules and processes to manage open source software. Commercial partners and products can help, but they are no substitute for an enterprise's own management efforts.

Categories: opensource, management

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