Above the Radar

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2002-07-08 Print this article Print

Above the Radar

Certainly, the role open-source software plays at Edmunds.com has changed dramatically over the years. Six years ago, Apache was deployed under the management radar by the IT department. Today, Cate said, executives at the company assume open-source products and tools have been considered alongside proprietary products. In addition to Apache, the company uses open-source products such as Webalizer for Web statistics and analysis, IP Audit for internal traffic monitoring and reporting, and Snort for intrusion detection. While Oracle Corp.s Oracle is used as the companys primary database, Cate also has brought in a MySQL database, which is used to hold records from Edmunds Web site. The database currently manages 500,000 records.

Cate acknowledged that much of the success platforms such as MySQL and Apache have had at Edmunds has to do with the time and resources the company has dedicated to the open-source community.

Not all organizations are up to the level of care and feeding that open-source software requires, however. At Sutter Health, in Modesto, Calif., Nelson Ramos, vice president and CIO, said that while the quality of more recent open-source products cant be ignored, he lacks the time, staff and support infrastructure to thoroughly evaluate them.

"I have to rely, or some say compromise, on the consistency offered by commercially mainstream products," said Ramos, also a member of eWeeks Corporate Partner advisory board. "Although open source appears to be free, we still have reservations about its ability to meet our needs and actually lower our costs."

Indeed, experts stress, in addition to scrutinizing industry support for open-source products, IT managers need to perform their own total-cost-of-ownership evaluations—based on pilot tests—and not rely on generic, published reports. While open-source software may seem less expensive to deploy because of its low or nonexistent license fees, IT managers often forget to include the cost of retraining support staff and users, third-party support and services, and licensing fees from distribution vendors such as Red Hat Inc. and SuSE Linux AG.

"Although open source can save you money, you rarely save as much as you think you will," said Chad Robinson, an analyst at research company Robert Frances Group, in Westport, Conn. "Open-source software is definitely worth pursuing, but you have to make sure its worth the effort. In the end, only companies with realistic expectations of the cost savings will truly reap the benefits."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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