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By Darrell Dunn  |  Posted 08-01-2007 Print


Open source deployments let enterprise IT staffs work in concert with vendors and related communities, resulting in speedier implementation and problem resolution and continuing support.

Warner Music Group is constantly acquiring new talent to add to its roster of some of the best-known recording labels such as Asylum, Atlantic, Elektra, Reprise and Rhino, and artists such as Eric Clapton, Green Day, Linkin Park, Madonna, Neil Young and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Warner IT staff faces the challenge of helping administer and provide development services to more than 200 individual Web sites.

Controlling the myriad sites became increasingly difficult using a proprietary licensed asset management system Warner had acquired in 2001, says Sanjay Sen, Warner's senior director of digital properties.

Within of two years of deployment, Sen had found the software provider too rigid and unresponsive to meet the dynamic requirements of online entertainment and e-commerce. Warner software architects felt that fixing the system would require rewriting the vendor's code. Requests for changes in the licensed software would take months to be implemented, he says, slowing Warner's ability to add and create new Web sites. Sen was stung that Warner was paying what he considered a premium price in licensing fees, and maintenance and support services, for a platform that wasn't getting the job done.

In 2001, when Warner bought the original asset management software, Sen didn't consider open source a viable alternative because he felt the community then was not mature and had limited resources. But in 2004, after hearing open source success stories from colleagues, he decided to attempt a transition to JBoss. The JBoss platform provided an ability to scale quickly, cost "significantly" less than the conventional software, and placed the advancement of the software in the hands of Warner's own IT staff, Sen says.

Using JBoss and the Spring Framework—an open source system for assembling components using configuration files—Warner has put together a content management system that more than adequately handles the load of the various labels and artists. The new platform has made it simpler to add features such as advertising links and launch new services with mobile providers, such as the February agreement with Telenor, one of Europe's largest telecommunications companies, to offer a variety of Warner content on its mobile network.

The JBoss application server was used to create business services, such as user registration and polls, that all Warner Web sites can access. Warner's Digital Properties Division developed a number of common Web site services that the developers could drag and drop into their sites.

Without software licensing fees, capital costs have been reduced, but it's the community support Sen believes will be key to even longer-term success. "Within an hour you can be talking to people with a similar problem, or maybe someone who has solved the problem," he says. "If you're trying to do something, then there is probably someone else trying to do it as well, and you can get their help and support."

Warner added security features to the JBoss content management platform modifying the existing open source code. After online discussions with open source contributors, the Warner IT staff identified a Spring-based authentication and access control framework called Acegi Security that it integrated into the content management platform with little effort.

Warner IT keeps prioritized lists of end user concerns and requests, reevaluating monthly and making changes, fixes or enhancements to the platform, at times tapping into the open source community for advice. "For areas where you need to be on the cutting edge and are working with emerging technology, the trend has to be to using open source," Sen says. "It's particularly important for efforts that are Web-related and where there is already a sense of community and collaboration."

That's because the open source community demonstrates a level of technology sophistication and a willingness to experiment, something missing in many traditional businesses. This gives companies such as Warner the opportunity to learn the latest in open source developments and embrace the evolving nature of open source software.

Most enterprises are unlikely to rip out productive licensed software, but for new installations, and where the cost and manageability of conventional software have become prohibitive, open source solutions are destined to rise in favor. Open source's ability to hold down costs compared with licensed software, and the capabilities it enables through its growing community, will continue to drive adoption.

Ask your CTO:

Can greater use of open source software and participation in open source communities by our IT staff provide tangible benefits?

Ask your marketing/sales staff:

What opportunities do we miss because of the time it takes IT to make changes and fixes?

Please send questions or comments on this story to editors@cioinsight-ziffdavis.com.


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