Open Source

Open Source Software generally refers to software when the source code to the software is made available to the general public to examine, use and modify free of charge. Many people associate Open Source Software with Free Software. While the meanings of these terms are similar, the term “Free Software” can be confusing. When people hear “Free Software”, they often think “free” as in “free beer” instead if its intended meaning which is “free” as in “free speech”. The term Open Source Software better conveys the intended meaning and, for this reason, is being used more often than the term Free Software.

One of the most common questions people ask about is Open Source Software, is “how can anyone make any money?” This question reflects people’s confusion of the term Free Software and Open Source Software. Just because software source code is available to examine, use and modify for free, doesn’t mean that companies can’t also charge for higher levels of functionality, support or other services associated with the software. The most obvious example of this is Linux. While Linux is Open Source software, companies like IBM, Red Hat and Canonical have created very profitable businesses selling and supporting Linux and Linux related hardware and software. These companies make money for the simple reason that most companies who use Linux want to focus on their business – not supporting and servicing their Linux systems. As a result, they are very willing to pay another company to provide this support. To use an analogy, it is no secret how to build a car – it is just cheaper and easier for most of us to buy one than it is to build one. In many IT organizations, there is still a strong resistance to Open Source Software.

Often this resistance is the result of one following concerns:

  • Using Open Source Software is risky. Put another way, “no one ever got fired for buying SAP or Oracle”.
  • Real companies don’t use Open Source Software.

Both of these concerns are based in myths. Find out more about the Myths and Reality of Open Source Software. Once IT organizations get over their concerns about using Open Source Software, they can start to understand the many benefits to using Open Source. Briefly, these benefits include:

  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership
  • Lower Start-up Cost
  • Greater Degree of Control
  • Elimination of Vendor Lock In
  • Improved Support

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