New Roles for Open Source

When eWEEK Labs analysts want to puncture a software vendor's exaggerated claims, they often ask if the next release will cure world hunger.

When eWEEK Labs analysts want to puncture a software vendors exaggerated claims, they often ask if the next release will cure world hunger. Ironically, open-source advocates are skirting the edge of that very claim: Freeing up money spent on software licensing fees in Brazil could double the budget for fighting that countrys hunger problem, said open-source advocate John Perry Barlow at last months World Social Forum conference in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.

In this report, eWEEK Labs offers three perspectives on the technology portfolio thats needed for such a strategic open-source initiative. In "Open-Source Model Opens Up Options," we look at the tools—both open-source and otherwise—for building and operating modern, robust applications on open-source platforms such as Linux or on the more comprehensive, open-source stack dubbed LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/ Python/Perl).

In "Java is Well-Suited for Open-Source Projects," we look at the open-source role of Java, often the choice of those who seek minimal deployment cost to accompany an open-source platforms low cost of acquisition.

Finally, in "Open-Source Building Blocks Available," we examine open-source application building blocks that provide tall shoulders on which to stand.

Enterprise needs can be met only with the aid of an arsenal of development tools. A bare operating system is just a place to take a long time to build a second-rate solution. Anything better requires productive code-writing environments, rigorous code-testing workbenches, streamlined deployment and operations aids, comprehensive security and performance verification suites, and enterprise-scale building blocks such as CRM (customer relationship management) frameworks. Those who defend proprietary solutions are likely to emphasize their widely perceived advantage in these critical areas.

Developers needs are being addressed by a positive feedback process. Perhaps more than any other professional group, developers are perfectly positioned to see whats needed and to create it for one another by using the same skills they apply to producing applications for end users. Every improvement to open-source tools enhances developers ability to build something better still.

Barlow and others are shifting the open-source debate from the workshops of IT technocrats into the more exposed arena of public policy, getting the attention of proprietary-software leaders such as Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates—who recently requested a meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva.

But open source doesnt actually have to cure world hunger to be a compelling alternative. All it really has to do is improve IT efficiencies—and keep competitors from eating your lunch.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis com.


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