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By Darrell Dunn  |  Posted 08-01-2007 Print


Lower cost leads businesses to open source, but freedom of choice and the ability to harness a community of developers makes converts. CIOs find open source platforms adaptable to their business objectives and a vehicle for accelerating innovation.

As its online presence and readership grew, the Christian Science Monitor's IT department two years ago began exploring options for adapting content from its print publication for its Internet site. The Monitor had embarked on a shift to open source, particularly software associated with operating the Web site, employing the Apache Web server, JBoss application server, Liferay portal and MySQL database.

CTO Terry Barbounis had been watching the progress of a new open source content management system maker called Alfresco, created by Documentum co-founder John Newton and Business Objects former COO John Powell.

After Newton visited the Monitor's development staff at their Boston offices, the media company adopted Alfresco. Its use lets the Monitor achieve "a new level of convergence" between print and online, with print-generated content easily transferable to the Web site, Barbounis says.

But integration and management of open source software requires expertise and time resources not readily available in his own IT staff, Barbounis says. The Monitor relies on a third-party system integrator and the open source community to customize its Alfresco deployment. "We're not really interested in going under the covers and changing source code, but we believe that with the community around open source we can be innovative without having to have the size of staff that a larger organization could afford," Barbounis says.

Working with that broader open source community, the Monitor IT staff developed a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol plug-in component to solve a problem getting Alfresco to operate with its portal, which uses Liferay open source software. The code was contributed to the community and adopted by Alfresco, which used it in its product until developing its own LDAP.

An Alfresco platinum subscription costs $20,000 per CPU a year, and the Monitor spent about a third the cost of a licensed platform in the first year of deployment, including new servers to handle the installation, and Barbounis estimates subsequent savings will be around 50 percent a year. Part of those savings, however, will be used to pay for high-level support.

Ask your business unit managers:

How well does our existing software adapt to changing business requirements, and how quickly can the IT staff resolve issues?

Ask your CFO:

Can we justify expanding the IT staff to accommodate increased open source efforts by reducing fees spent on software licenses?

Next page: Open Source Implementation


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