OSS Myths Debunked!

rsmart’s John Robinson has heard every bit of misinformation that could unsettle an IT executive faced with the choice, “Open source, or proprietary?” Here, from the open source pro are his top 10 myths to challenge.

With more than 35 years in the education market and a focus on higher education, John Robinson is an internationally known technology visionary. Before forming the rsmart (www.rsmart.com) group in 1997, Robinson co-founded Information Associates and held executive posts at IBM, SCT, and Westinghouse. His other contributions have included technology leadership for the National Articulation and Transfer Network (NATN), along with numerous consulting roles at high- profile organizations such as Oracle and Miami University of Ohio, and joint ventures with IBM, DEC, and the Maricopa Community Colleges (FL). Today, Robinson guides the rsmart group as company chairman, overseeing the company’s open source strategy. His true passion? Robinson says he welcomes the always-present challenge of helping the education community find technology solutions that meet today’s ever-changing and growing needs.

10 - Open source software (OSS) is developed by longhaired hippies.

  • No: Open source is mainstream; respected CIOs and developers endorse it.
  • OSS is subject to stringent development methodologies and discipline.
  • Open source exhibits levels of innovation/stability not seen elsewhere.

9 - Open source carries a greater risk of abandonment/obsolescence.

  • In reality, maintenance/evolution of the software is distributed rather than centralized, engaging the diverse skills and talents of many.
  • Peer review reinforces the need to follow accepted standards and practices.

8 - Open source software is less secure than proprietary software.

  • Not true: The same principle that makes the Internet fault-tolerant applies.
  • Several studies have concluded that OSS is more secure than proprietary.

7 - Proprietary software is higher quality than open source software.

  • Wrong. Open source code is seen by more eyes than proprietary.
  • Just as the peer review process leads to high-quality scholarly and scientific work, peer scrutiny produces high-quality open source software.

6 - Open source is great for research and experimentation, but only proprietary software is appropriate for the enterprise.

  • Surprise: Open source apps are running in most enterprise environments.
  • More than 64 percent of Internet Web sites run Apache Web server, and MySQL has 4 million installations.
  • IBM has redefined itself as an open source service provider, and HP reported 2003 sales of $2B linked to Linux.

5 - Anything with “open” in its name is the same as “open source.”

  • Wrong again. Open source d'es not refer to open standards, although open standards may be used to develop open source applications.
  • “Open systems” and “open APIs” are not synonyms for “open source.”
  • “Open source” d'es apply to software that is distributed with its source code—along with freedom to run, modify, and distribute open copies.

4 - OSS often requires an army of programmers, making open source appropriate only for large institutions with lots of funding.

  • The open source community provides a high level of mutual support.
  • Because issues of ownership don’t get in the way, institutions can more easily pool resources to develop enhancements and distribute costs.

3 - Open source is a “go it alone” strategy.

  • Actually, OSS projects are based on collaboration and strong peer support.
  • Commercial support of OSS adds another level of assurance.
  • The community drives innovations and advances in the software
    by contributing local enhancements back to the project.

2 - Open code is unnecessary: Most institutions don’t need to view or change source code anyway.

  • Access to the source code is really about freedom and control.
  • Without access, you must depend on the manufacturer.

1 - Open source software is free.

  • OSS is generally license-fee-free, but it is not free of all investment.
  • Both proprietary and open source software require a complement of implementation and support.
  • With open source, more IT dollars can go to faculty/staff development, integration, customization, and other activities that create value.

To submit a Campus Technology ‘Top 10 Countdown,’ send your countdown and brief background/bio summary to mgrush@101com.com.

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