Open source deserves a place in every IT portfolio

Von Siobhan McBride

Organizations refusing to include open source in their IT portfolio need to rethink their strategy, according to Gartner research vice president Dion Wiggins.

"I"ve seen too many companies have a total ban on open source, or no policy surrounding it, and a uniform "no we"re not doing open source ever" which is just foolish," Wiggins said.

So, does open source deserve a place in your IT portfolio? According to Wiggins there is a place for it somewhere.

The problem is, he said, too many organizations still carry misconceptions about open source, or make mistakes when managing it.

"There should be no such thing as on open source strategy, it shouldn"t be isolated," Wiggins said.

"I see too many organizations creating a separate group to look over open source. The same thing happened with the Internet; companies were creating a separate group for the Web and e-commerce, when it really should have been integrated into the whole IT strategy."

Wiggins also took aim at the "myths" surrounding open source: the first being that open source is against commerce. "We hear this on a regular basis, that it"s software communism," Wiggins said.

"It couldn"t be further from the truth; all open source ventures have a commercial aspect as well." Another myth dispelled was the apparent lack of support for the software.

"This is important to address. A couple of years ago this might have been the case, but now companies like IBM will happily take as many checks as you want to write to support your open source project," Wiggins said.

As for the idea that open source is a passing fad because people will not work for nothing, Wiggins said most open source projects have commercial backing.

"It"s not just free software for anyone who wants it," he said.

"The primary driver for open source is cost, that"s the initial reason, but it shouldn"t be the long-term reason," Wiggins said.

"You have to remember there will be things like audit fees and skills transfer and training, these things cost money.

"Don"t push for it on cost alone, there are many more benefits."