Clearly, there are a number of potential benefits to be had, but CIOs also need to be aware of the challenges common to many open-source implementations. According to Forrester's 2007 report, the top two concerns about adoption of Linux and all other distributions are security and the availability of service and support.
Some CIOs are convinced that open source doesn't have professional support options. However, Zachary says this belief is diminishing as more vendors offer service-level agreements around the most popular open-source components.
Navica's Golden thinks concerns about support are overblown. "Most organizations that use open source find that support and maintenance issues are not significant, and, in fact, may be less than issues experienced with proprietary vendors," he says.
It's important to build open-source software skills and recognize the difference between community-oriented IT products and vendor-centric products. Golden says that cultural issues tend to be sticking points, as organizations have to deal with the inherent cultural change of procuring software via the open-source community, compared with purchasing commercial offerings.
Education is a major issue for most companies considering open source, particularly for IT, legal and procurement departments. "Some legal departments have been adverse to open-source licenses, especially the general public license or copyleft-type licenses [a practice of modifying software copyrights] because they are worried about the intellectual property implications," says Zachary of The 451 Group.
In addition, some procurement departments have been confused by the distinct nature of "purchasing" open source in terms of services and not licensing maintenance as has traditionally been done with proprietary software vendors.
"As enterprises gain comfort with open source over time, these issues become less of a barrier for adoption," Zachary says.
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