When your organization is planning and developing a new software system, one of the big technology questions that comes up is whether to use open source or commercial software.
While Synopsys notes that nearly all the software they’ve audited contains at least some open source components, a heavy reliance on open source software throughout your technology stack can impact the success of your project – and not in a good way. Keep reading to learn about things you should be considering when designing your solution.
Open source projects often concentrate on the technology without planning how end-users will use it or solve problems. It’s up to your in-house development team or systems integrator to spend time wiring many pieces together to make it all work for your organization. The more components that need to be integrated, the longer it tends to take for your users to get the application they need.
While it may be relatively quick and easy to download some open source components and develop a prototype, getting a system into production is a whole different ballgame. For example, you need to ensure that the system can scale to meet real-life needs, and adhere to your organization’s governance and security policies. We’ve seen numerous situations where a system that looks great in a demo situation can’t get authorized for production use – which means you’re back to the drawing board.
When you’re evaluating your options, ask these questions:
There’s an old adage that says “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If you think open source software is the answer to keeping your costs down – because it’s “free” – you should dig a little deeper. In his post “5 Open Source Myths,” my colleague Matt Allen breaks down common misunderstandings about open source costs and licensing in myths #2 and #3.
You also need to be thinking about total cost of ownership for your solution – both the initial development as well as ongoing maintenance. The choice of open source software often backfires when enterprise architects and development managers investigate the real costs of trying to build – and maintain – custom software solutions from disparate libraries of software components. These costs often run hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
When you’re evaluating the cost of a solution, ask these questions:
Assuming your in-house development team or systems integrator has addressed the above questions to your satisfaction, there are still a few more things you should be asking.
Every organization wants to save money, and the temptation to build a custom system from free code appeals to budget-conscious developers. (They often forget that their time is not free.) However, the risks, hidden development costs and time needed to implement functional systems, debug and test the software – and maintain the solution over time – makes building an open source IT system a risky venture.
Consider the advantages of licensing ready-to-use commercial software to streamline operations, save money and upgrade IT capabilities to meet the challenges of rapidly evolving technologies. MarkLogic has spent years testing and debugging code so that clients enjoy functional software that system administrators, executives and users love – and which gets your solution deployed in much less time than alternative approaches. Choosing to implement MarkLogic’s multi-model Data Hub Platform solves the logistical problems IT developers face when trying to build their own systems from a suite of open source components.
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