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Don't trust your network to open source

Two industry experts debate the wisdom of choosing open source software over commercial products

Face-off By Roger Greene, Ipswitch, Network World
March 05, 2007 12:08 AM ET
Roger Greene

Network World - The basic premise behind open source is simple: When programmers can read, redistribute and modify the source code for software, the software evolves. In theory, open source sounds like an IT dream -- and in some instances it is. However, in the commercial marketplace, where your network is the lifeblood of your enterprise, and predictability and profitability are vital, open source is often unpredictable -- and that can keep your IT staff up at night.

There are three common myths about open source:

* Open source is free. As we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Obtaining open source code from the Internet and then molding it to fit your environment often is not a good use of your time. If you obtain open source code from a vendor, you can be sure that you'll pay hefty service fees for customization -- otherwise, how could the vendor stay in business? I'd rather pay an upfront fee for software that does what I need and doesn't have any high-cost labor attached to it.

Face-off:You can trust your network to open source

* Bug fixes are faster and less expensive in an open source environment. The open source community claims bugs can be fixed faster for open source software than commercial software because hundreds, if not thousands, of people are looking at the code daily and can help with fixes. The problem is that, contrary to popular perception, those thousands of developers aren't sitting at home contributing labor for free. Most of them are employed by Sun, IBM and other large companies to work on the specific open source products that mesh with their strategic interests -- which are usually large enterprise applications. Even when those individuals generously offer their time for free, can you really afford to wait for one to agree with you on the urgency of action if your network is down?

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