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The open source all-stars

The leaders in the open source movement

By Dave Kearns, Network World
March 22, 2004 12:07 AM ET
Kearns

The current stars of the open source movement are five packages, four of which so often go together that they have their own acronym - LAMP. That stands for Linux (operating system), Apache (Web server), MySQL (database server) and PHP (scripting language).

In fact, Apache, MySQL and PHP are all available for your Windows server - maybe that could be called "WAMP." But both MySQL and PHP can work with Microsoft's Internet Information Server, so that could be "WIMP" (well, that might not catch on too quickly - there would be too many jokes about "wimpy servers"!). My point is that there are choices you can make. You aren't locked in to using Linux if you want Apache, nor are you locked into Apache if you want MySQL. And that's the real beauty of the open source movement - lots and lots of choices with few locked-in decisions.

What that means for you is that you can get back to the way people used to choose their computer packages. First, you decide what objective you want to accomplish. Next, you pick the software application or service that best achieves that objective. Finally, you choose the platform that best supports the application or service. While issues of cost (especially total cost of ownership), support (what is your in-house expertise?) and interoperability (will all of your enterprise apps and services "play nice" together?) can be part of the equation, it still should come down to delivering your objectives with the best package of systems you can put together.

There are other open source packages that could help you achieve your objectives and which are available for multiple operating system platforms (including Windows, Linux and Unix). Among those are:
* OpenLDAP (http://www.openldap.org), the directory service.
* Sendmail (http://www.sendmail.org), the SMTP e-mail package.
* Rsync (http://samba.anu.edu.au/rsync/ do NOT go to rsync.org, you have been warned!), the mirroring/backup/file copy package.
* PostgreSQL (http://www.postgresql.org), another SQL database server.

And many more, lots of which can be found (or found out about) at SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net/), self-described as "...the largest repository of open source code and applications available on the Internet."

At the beginning of this newsletter, I talked about five current open source "stars," but only detailed four of them. The fifth is the flagship of a different method of arriving at open source packages. Traditionally, (and all the software I've named so far follow this method) an open source package is one person's idea, perhaps one person and a handful of friends. The package is built up over time as more people contribute bits and pieces to the final product. But there is a different method that has both supporters and detractors, and which is best exemplified by the fifth "star," OpenOffice. Other examples include Netscape and Fedora (formerly the free version of Red Hat Linux).  These are examples of packages that were intended to be commercial products but were, essentially, abandoned when they couldn't create an ROI.

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