Open Source Gets IT Scrutiny

As platforms like Linux contend for mission-critical status, they must pass rigorous evaluations.

Once smuggled through back doors into the stolid world of corporate computing, open-source software is now beginning to get the full red carpet treatment at enterprises such as Visa International Inc. and Inc.

As open-source platforms including the Apache Web server and the Linux operating system make their way through the front doors of enterprises, however, theyre increasingly being put through the same rigorous evaluation methods that corporations have used for years to select technology standards from among proprietary options. This means open-source software must pass muster in terms of scalability, reliability and security. And organizations are paying particular attention to support availability and total cost of ownership when evaluating open-source software (see story, "Six Questions to Ask About Open Source").

"We definitely look at open source more critically," said Jack Cate, senior systems administrator at automotive Web site, in Santa Monica, Calif. started out using Apache and has since increased the number of open-source tools it uses.

"Well put out feelers to other cohorts in the industry to get a feel for what software theyre using, what theyre doing with it and whether the program is well-regarded in the open-source community," Cate said. "Were looking for software that holds up like Apache, which we consider to be the Swiss Army knife of the industry."

The need to cut software licensing costs and the backing of Linux from major players in the industry are two factors driving open-source softwares appearance in large-enterprise computing environments, experts say. Continuing to push the trend along is the steady appearance of more enterprise applications running on Linux-based open-source operating systems, as well as the popularity of the Apache Web server, which in May ran on 56 percent of all Web servers on the Internet, according to Web survey company Netcraft Ltd., of Bath, England.

While enterprises arent ripping out proprietary applications to run open-source software, they are increasingly considering open source as an option when bringing in new software or upgrading versions.