Gartner Open Source Summit Day 3

The third and final day of the Gartner Open Source Summit included Tony Wasserman talking about Best Practices for Open Source Evaluation and Adoption.

Wasserman works with Carnegie Mellon West, and is the Executive Director of the Center for Open Source Investigation.

He covered a lot of the basics of what organizations need to keep in mind as they evaluate open source projects, and some resources (the Business Readiness Rating, for example) they can use to support those adoption plans.

His basic principles for evaluating software:

  • Does the software do what I need it to do?
  • Are there good sources of documentation and support?
  • Is the software being maintained and updated?
  • What do others think about the quality and performance of the software?

Good advice for open and closed source alike. People often get caught up in the details and intricacies of licensing options and miss the basics. Not that you don’t need to think about licensing, but you can’t let a focus on the fact that you’re looking at open source software distract you from the core questions you already know how to evaluate.

Another panel I saw was “Commercial Open Source: Beginning of the End or End of the Beginning?” by Brian Prentice.

He put the recent controversies this summer of SugarCRM’s attribution license and the CPAL in the context of a longer term divide between competing interests within the open source world – pointing to VC’s funding commercial open source companies, who hope to control the costs of sales and marketing by using open source as a distribution model but feeling the need to hold back some intellectual property to create a sellable asset.

He described the challenges inherent in the “functionally delineated” model, where there is a community edition which is free and an enterprise edition which is not. Users and organizations adopting this style of commercial open source must be careful to recognize the details of what is and is not included in the solution they’ve adopted. (Just as in a functionally delineated closed source model with different versions of a product each version must be clearly differentiated).

Alfresco, on the other hand, was signaled out as a counter-example, or at least another way of doing commercial open source, since the community and enterprise editions are functionally identical, with the difference being support and services. (Disclosure: Optaros is an Alfresco Platinum Partner).

I suppose you could say that what we’re seeing is a period of experimentation as companies which would otherwise have been traditional proprietary companies trying to learn from and benefit from the open source ecosystem. It’s neither the end of the beginning nor the beginning of the end, just another chapter in the ongoing saga.