A lack of support for best-of-breed open source software and a lack of easy to use Linux desktop software pose significant barriers to adoption of those technologies, says Ron Cope, CTO of OpenLogic Inc., a Broomfield, Colo.-based open source migration and development software and services provider.
In this SearchEnterpriseLinux.com interview, Cope sounded off on both of these issues and offers tips on how to start making the most of open source applications.
At LinuxWorld Conference & Expo San Francisco this week, OpenLogic is demonstrating two new products, BlueGlue 3.2 and the free BlueGlue starter edition based on Eclipse and 20 popular Eclipse plug-ins. BlueGlue software helps businesses install, configure, test and maintain open source applications.
What do you see as their biggest barriers to deploying mission-critical open source software?
Cope: The biggest barrier corporate IT shops have in deploying mission-critical open source is the lack of supported choice. That is to say it's relatively easy to go with a single vendor that provides everything, like IBM, and take one of each thing they sell, but it's more difficult to avoid vendor lock-in, choose what's best for them, and still get support.
For example, almost every shop is unique in that there's always those one or two extra open source pieces they want to use that make them different from other shops, or they choose to assemble a stack that doesn't quite fit any particular vendor's sweet spot. As the one-size-fits-all approach clearly doesn't work, they need to have vendors work across boundaries and support, such as Apache with JBoss with PostgreSQL.
How would you say that Linux on the server stacks up against Windows today?
Cope: I would say that Linux is more stable, but Windows still has the advantage of easy-to-use GUI's, documentation, and availability of training and certification. Over time, Linux will continue to make in-roads as each of these areas is addressed while maintaining a lower TCO.
What the status of the Linux vs. Windows desktop rivalry?
Cope: Windows on the desktop will remain dominant for quite some time because it's the incumbent with an enormous installed base; it's relatively pretty, relatively easy to use and the installed base knows it very well; and it's tightly integrated and functions as a fairly cohesive whole in most cases.
Linux costs less and offers much more choice, but the average desktop user needs a cohesive package that runs all their current applications as is without requiring them to learn a new paradigm.
It's an uphill battle for Linux, but it can be won if vendors unite around enough common standards to make the total user experience at least as good as what Windows users currently expect.
How has the open source development model and process stabilized in recent years?
Cope: The open source development model and process has matured tremendously over the last few years, to the point of surpassing many enterprise software development practices.
The open source concept of agile development in-the-large has led to very high quality, a focus on only the features users really care about and the ability to rapidly deliver, adjust, and update software. This maturity means that enterprises can safely use the most common features of the most popular open source projects.
Some CIOs have told us that they don't think open source applications are mature or robust enough for enterprise usage? Other than MySQL, what apps can show them otherwise? What types of apps are not ready for prime time?
Cope: Certain 'point solutions' -- such as MySQL, Apache, JBoss and others -- are mature enough for enterprise usage today. As open source continues to mature, more projects will join this list at an ever-increasing rate.
However, one of the critical issues around open source is the difficulty in integrating the various pieces to form a cohesive and manageable whole. Outside of Linux, there aren't many solutions that address entire stacks of software; this is especially true for projects in the software development lifecycle like IDEs, source code control tools, and bug trackers. At present, applications that have many dependencies and/or significant integration points with existing enterprise software such as Oracle may not be quite ready for prime time.
Could you explain how BlueGlue OSIM Suite can benefit new users of open source software?
Cope: BlueGlue takes the pain out of finding, installing, and running open source software, especially for software developers.
Our knowledgebase contains hundreds of open source projects, dependency relationships, resource requirements, configuration parameters, integration points, and conflict detection/resolution entries to make sure our users can simply point-and-click their way to a fully-functioning and tested environment in a matter of minutes.
Users new to open source can read, search, and surf their way through the knowledgebase to decide which projects are best for them then install them in a few minutes using our simple graphical user interface. If they change their minds, it's a few more clicks to uninstall the projects and choose something else.
BlueGlue makes it easy to experiment with open source in a safe and easy-to-use environment.
What should CIOs be doing and know today about the open source software movement?
Cope: CIOs need to start using open source now, even if it's just for departmental applications at first, so they can work through the special opportunities and challenges that come with open source before tackling future enterprise-wide deployments in a rush.
CIOs should know that open source means freedom, flexibility, cost savings, and issues that come with freedom, flexibility, and cost savings. In other words, while open source is initially very cheap and easy, it takes careful planning and the recognition that open source requires the same installation, configuration, integration work, support, training, and documentation as commercial products before it's ready for the enterprise.
Could you offer some tips for migrating to an open source application?
Cope: It's important to recognize that open source can save an organization lots of time and money, but that there's no such thing as a zero-cost implementation.
Do your homework on the myriad of choices offered by the open source world, and don't be afraid to mix and match well-supported projects that implement open standards to create a solution optimized for your unique environment and needs.
Prudent enterprises will research projects to determine which are the most popular, well-supported, frequently updated, appropriately documented, and easiest to integrate before committing resources.
Choose vendors that can help guide the process without pushing you into any particular stack, proprietary framework or support contract. This will make the entire process go much smoother and won't lead to lock-in or regrets down the road.