Is Open Source Dying?

Eweek has a great title, Is Open Source Dying? that's sure to get lots of people clicking. But the article's title should really read Is Open Source Hard To Implement For Government Institutions? They are the only examples provided in this article of organizations having trouble implementing open source.

I expect that large organizations will continue to have trouble implementing open source technologies. The basic problem is that many of these technologies require some real hands on expertise to install, configure and troubleshoot. My experience is that technologies such as Linux, MySQL, and Tomcat include enough documentation and installation scripting to get a system administrator 95% of the way to a stable production environment. But finishing off the last 5% is often less than trivial and can often require some research and tinkering.

A large organization can (and should) purchase support contracts from open source vendors to get help. But I expect that this only goes so far and like the article suggests, even big name service contractors like IBM have financial incentives to push organizations to commercial software. And so does EWeek, afterall, Microsoft, Oracle, and other commercial vendors pay a lot more in advertising than open source vendors.

Is open source dying? I think not - even for large organizations. Everyone is looking for a technology edge on their competition, so one question is, does open source make bleeding edge technologies available to their users faster? I think so. Just look at the number of open source AJAX frameworks and their maturity levels then compare them to the more recent commercial offerings from Microsoft, Adobe, and others. Another question - can large organizations see cost savings by adopting selective open source technologies and deploying them to the most appropriate areas? Absolutely. You can't tell me that everyone in an organization needs Microsoft Office and can't be trained to use a product like OpenOffice.

But the author does conclude the following:

Does that mean open source is dying? Of course not. But the open-source community needs to get over its overweening sense of superiority and messianic inevitability;
Also as important - corporations and their CIO's need to be realistic about open source rollouts. The price of open source is expertise, and you will need some internal experts when you choose to promote one of these technologies into a production environment. You will need time to prototype and experiment. You probably still need support contracts. You should characterize and ideally quantify the ROI. Apply your best practices on selecting and deploying open source technologies as you would a commercial technology.

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