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Is Open Source Right for You?

Open-source software/solution (OSS) has become mainstream, even among large-enterprise players who would have shied away from it in the past. But is open source right for you? (Well, it depends…is your organization are more of a “do-it-yourselfer” or a “call-the-contractor”?)

Use of OSS has increased significantly over the past several years. Some large, closed-source vendors like IBM and Microsoft have made substantial investments in this space, indicating that OSS is not only here to stay, but will almost certainly become part of the mainstream fabric of IT.

OSS leverages a community of contributors to maintain and enhance the product and is typically either free or significantly less expensive than closed-source alternatives. There are many benefits that come with OSS, including:

  • Little to no acquisition cost
  • Ability to modify the product directly
  • Independence from a vendor and being tied to their roadmap
  • Security that is typically on par or better than closed-source options
  • More innovative and forward-thinking solutions than might be available in closed source

However, OSS also comes with some baggage that you will need to be ready for, including:

  • Installing and configuring the product can be more difficult and time consuming and can require more expertise than closed source
  • Support can be more difficult to come by
  • Typically, any modifications you make to the product must be made freely available to others as part of the license agreement (this can create IP issues if you are using OSS as part of a propriety product you sell)

Our Take

Committing to OSS requires both desire and ability to take on more work and deeper understanding of the product than closed-source alternatives. When considering whether OSS is right for your organization, consider the following home renovation analogy:

  • If your organization is used to working like a “do-it-yourselfer” when it comes to your technology (think: does their own plumbing, electrical, drywall, etc.), then OSS will probably work for you.
  • If on the other hand, your organization works more like a “call-the-contractor” type (think: would rather call a plumber than try to unplug a drain), then closed solutions are a better bet.

To help you make this decision, Info-Tech provides tools to help you assess your readiness for OSS. As well, Info-Tech provides unbiased software reviews for both open- and closed-source solutions in many product spaces (e.g. Talend and MuleSoft in the data integration tool space).